With the United Nations forecasting that 60% of people will be living in urban areas by 2030, this provides not only challenges but also opportunities for sustainable development. We, in the Turks and Caicos, are not exempt from these opportunities as our islands and population is growing and will likely continue to grow. This means that now, more than ever, the demand for Urban Planning and sustainable urban design is also growing. If you are passionate about the natural resources of the TCI and concerned about how the built environment influences it, then look no further because Urban Development may just be for you.
What is Urban Development?
Urban Development is a process concerned with the development and design of land use and the built environment, including air, water, and the infrastructure passing into and out of urban areas – such as transportation, communications, and distribution networks. There is a focus not just on developing the places we live, but on doing so in a way that makes these places safer, healthier, and more sustainable.
Careers in Urban Development
This discipline encompasses more than just town planners. Here is a list of some careers in Urban Development:
- Urban designer – in this role you would create practical and visually pleasing places, including buildings, open spaces, and landscapes.
- Urban/Town planner – you would be involved in the management and development of cities, towns, villages and the countryside to balance the conflicting demands of housing, industrial development, agriculture, recreation, transport and the environment. This is done to allow appropriate development to take place.
- Transport planner – they work on policies, projects and plans relating to all kinds of transport systems including roads and the use of cars, lorries and buses; pedestrian systems for walking or cycling; or air travel.
- Zoning inspector – they are responsible for interpreting and enforcing property zoning regulations and requirements on behalf of the regional planning, zoning, and land use departments.
- Housing officer – this role requires you to manage housing and related services on behalf of housing associations, local authorities, charities and private sector organisations.
- Project manager – you would play the lead role in planning, executing, monitoring, controlling and closing projects.
- Cartographer – you would be involved with the scientific, technological and artistic aspects of developing maps, diagrams, charts and spreadsheets. To develop maps, you must compile, structure and present complex geographical information and data in the appropriate format.
- Building inspector – in this role you would ensure that building construction meets local and national building codes and regulations, zoning regulations, and contract specifications.
- Environmental and natural resource planner – this combines the protection of environmental resources with community goals which might include economic development, improved government efficiency and enhanced quality of life.
There are also some related careers that would benefit from knowledge in urban development such as economists, sustainability consultants, planning & development surveyors, architects and environmental managers.
While many of the careers in this field are not linked to a self-named degree, it would be sufficient to study related subjects to get recruited. As a general path, a bachelor’s/undergraduate degree in Urban Development or Urban Planning would be an excellent option for the majority of careers in this field as it provides a good breadth of knowledge that can be transferred across related careers.
Using the list above, besides urban development, a degree in civil engineering, construction management or geography could be obtained to become an urban designer.
To pursue a career in town/urban planning, you must ensure that your degree (either undergraduate, postgraduate or both) is accredited by the relevant body in your region of choice – this would be the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) for the UK and the Planning Accreditation Board (PAB) for the USA. The Caribbean does not have its own accrediting body to oversee this area, but it is still necessary that you study at an accredited institution if you are planning to work in the Caribbean in this field. If you are happy to leave the accredited course for your postgraduate study, then some related undergraduate degrees that would be useful are ecology & environment, geography, engineering or urban studies/built environment.
See the accrediting bodies above for a list of universities that offer accredited courses in both regions.
A bachelor’s degree in logistics, civil engineering, planning, economics, geography, public policy, or another related field is often necessary to become a transport planner; while building construction, urban planning or architecture would be required for a career as a zoning inspector.
A career as a housing officer may require a degree in areas such as business and management, property management, facilities management, sociology, or urban studies; whereas a project management degree would be perfect for a career in project management.
To pursue a career as a cartographer, a degree in geology, geographic information systems, geomatics or cartography would be prudent choices while a degree in building construction, architecture or engineering are good options for prospective building inspectors. Lastly, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in fields such as environmental science, natural resource management, forestry or land management would typically serve as excellent preparation for a career as an environmental and natural resource planner.
Other skills and competencies that would benefit you in this field include:
- Communication skills
- Excellent attention to detail
- Analytical and problem-solving skills
- Creative thinking
- Good technical and (where relevant) artistic skills
- Environmental awareness
- An interest in the built environment
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How to Stand Out
Certifications are a great way to distinguish yourself from others. There are several you can choose from to enhance your career in Urban Development. Some of these are certifications in project management, urban planning, sustainable planning, environmental management, natural resource management, and urban design. You can obtain certificates in any of these areas as well as others to complement your degree and skills and to help you progress professionally.
Get Hands-On Experience
Work experience is always an excellent way to not only set yourself apart but also to give you a head start in the industry. For this reason, we highly recommend taking advantage of available volunteering and/or internship opportunities wherever possible. This can be at local consultancy companies such as BCQS International or Future Build Consultancy (which both offer project management and construction management services) or with local land surveyors. Here is the most recent list of authorised land surveyors compiled by the Turks and Caicos Islands Government which you can use for contacting firms regarding work experience. Alternatively, you may consider contacting the Survey & Mapping Department to seek volunteering experience with government surveyors.
The government’s Planning Department is another great option worth considering for work experience as this department is responsible for managing the development and sustainability of the TCI – you can find them here.
While it is difficult to get hands-on practice in this field at home, you can still get theoretical or virtual practice. You can get your hands on design magazines to stay abreast on urban development news and trends in different areas. Some such magazines include Monu Magazine, an international magazine which covers topics that are important to the future of cities and urban regions or Building which is a Canadian building and urban development magazine covering aspects of design, urban planning, sustainability and more. You can subscribe to each (or either) of these to receive publications as they become available or you can simply visit their websites and social media pages regularly to read the latest information.
For a more simple start, you can get practice by taking part in the National Physical Sustainable Development Plan that is currently being carried out by the Planning Department. Accessing it here will allow you to take the surveys and contribute to the development of the TCI via the next 10-year plan. Get a feel of development plans by perusing the draft plan here.
If you have already taken the plan or you are not looking to start a subscription, you may find the links at the bottom of this post useful in getting started. Alternatively, feel free to browse our other career topics if you are still undecided or send us a message if you would like more personalised advice. An excellent way to help you stand out regardless of your industry or career is to have a professional and tailored CV/resume so feel free to contact us to help you make your recipe for success once you are ready to take the next step in your career.
Fun fact – the Greek philosopher Hippodamus (5th century BC) is regarded as the first town planner and ‘inventor’ of the orthogonal urban layout.
Learn how to pursue a career in Urban Development within these regions
Resources: Use the links below to sign up for the free courses at Coursera and get a certificate upon completion (NB. there is a small fee to obtain the certificates). You can also watch the video lecture on urban and regional planning.
Developing sustainable cities course at Coursera: https://www.coursera.org/learn/gte-sustainable-cities
Project Management for Career Development at Coursera: https://www.coursera.org/specializations/project-management-success