Beginning Your Career in Planning

The pre-professional Planning program is intended to provide the knowledge and skills for entry-level positions in urban, rural, environmental, regional and private-sector planning. It also is designed to prepare students for graduate-level education in these or other related professions, including law.

Planning is a relatively new field of study, having emerged only in the past seventy years in response to pressing environmental, economic and social concerns. From its early focus on city beautification, the field has broadened considerably and now addresses such diverse issues as earthquake and flood hazard avoidance, growth management, housing for low income and elderly persons, transit system development,  farmland preservation, environmental impact assessment, job creation, community-wide energy conservation, commercial district revitalization and historic preservation, to name just a few. Planners are called upon to creatively solve current problems, to anticipate future problems and develop effective methods to help avoid them, and to assist communities in achieving their desired goals for the future.

Sonoma State University’s Professional Planning Program

Students who select the professionally-oriented and California State University-approved Planning Emphasis in the Department of Environmental Studies and Planning fulfill General Education requirements during the first two years. It is common for many students to change majors and enter the Planning program at the Junior level. A typical situation is a student who enrolls at SSU or at a junior college in another major “discovers” Planning as a possible interesting career and major during his or her Freshman or Sophomore years, and transfers into the program. Students entering the program early in their college careers may take some of the required introductory planning courses during their Freshman or Sophomore years. Those transferring from within SSU or from other universities or junior colleges after their sophomore year usually can complete the scheduled sequence of courses in two years, or may require additional time as work schedules or other commitments dictate. Many of the planning courses are offered late in the day or at night.

The Planning program contains six unique elements which add to the student's personal and professional development. The first is an environmental perspective which focuses on a general understanding of environmental systems and the effects of human activities on such systems. The second is a solid grounding in land use and environmental law. Third, the program stresses practical problem-solving skills which are useful in a wide variety of career directions. Fourth, all Planning students complete a year-long Comprehensive Planning Workshop sequence during their Senior years. The ENSP 411A-B courses simulate as closely as possible the type of research, plan making, proposal implementation and public presentation experience which many will encounter early in their professional careers. This sequence serves as a focus for application of knowledge acquired in other planning courses. Fifth, all planning students participate in a Senior Seminar prior to graduation, to help them prepare for the job market.  Finally, most students complete an internship with a local public planning agency or private consulting firm working under the supervision of a professional planner. Internship placement provides students with a unique learning experience in a professional setting.