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Become An Urban Planner

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Working As An Urban Planner

  • Developing Objectives and Strategies
  • Communicating with Persons Outside Organization
  • Getting Information
  • Performing for or Working Directly with the Public
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Deal with People

  • Mostly Sitting

  • $81,000

    Average Salary

What Does An Urban Planner Do

Urban and regional planners develop land use plans and programs that help create communities, accommodate population growth, and revitalize physical facilities in towns, cities, counties, and metropolitan areas.

Duties

Urban and regional planners typically do the following:

  • Meet with public officials, developers, and the public regarding development plans and land use
  • Administer government plans or policies affecting land use, the environment, zoning, historic buildings, public utilities, community facilities, housing, community design, and transportation
  • Gather and analyze market research data, censuses, and economic and environmental studies
  • Conduct field investigations to analyze factors affecting community development and decline, including land use
  • Review site plans submitted by developers
  • Assess the feasibility of proposals and identify needed changes
  • Recommend whether proposals should be approved or denied
  • Present projects to communities, planning officials, and planning commissions
  • Stay current on zoning or building codes, environmental regulations, and other legal issues

Urban and regional planners identify community needs and develop short- and long-term solutions to develop and revitalize communities and areas. For example, planners examine ideas for proposed facilities, such as schools, to ensure that these facilities will meet the needs of a changing population.

As an area grows or changes, planners help communities manage the related economic, social, and environmental issues, such as planning a new park, sheltering the homeless, and making the region more attractive to businesses.

Some planners work on broad, community-wide projects; others focus on specific issues. Ultimately, planners advocate the best use of a community’s land and resources for residential, commercial, industrial, educational, and recreational purposes.

When beginning a project, planners work with public officials, community members, and other groups to identify community issues and goals. Using research and data analysis, and collaborating with interest groups, they formulate strategies to address issues and to meet goals.

Planners also may help carry out community plans by overseeing projects and organizing the work of the groups involved. Projects may range from a policy recommendation for a specific initiative to a long-term, comprehensive area plan.

Urban and regional planners use a variety of tools and technology in their work, including geographic information systems (GIS) that analyze and manipulate data. GIS is used to integrate data with digital maps. For example, planners use GIS to overlay a land map with population density indicators. They also use statistical software, visualization and presentation programs, financial spreadsheets, and other database and software programs.

The following are examples of types of urban and regional planners:

Land use and code enforcement planners are concerned with the way land is used and whether development plans comply with codes, which are the standards and laws of a jurisdiction. These planners work to carry out effective planning and zoning policies and ordinances. For example, a planner may develop a policy to encourage development in an underutilized location and to discourage development in an environmentally sensitive area.

Transportation planners develop transportation plans and programs for an area. They identify transportation needs and issues, assess the impact of transportation services or systems, and anticipate and address future transportation patterns. For example, as growth outside the city creates more jobs, the need for public transportation to get workers to those jobs increases. Transportation planners develop and model possible solutions and explain the possibilities to planning boards and the public.

Environmental and natural resources planners attempt to mitigate the harmful effects of development on the environment. They may focus on conserving resources, preventing destruction of ecosystems, or cleaning polluted areas.

Economic development planners focus on the economic activities of an area. They may work to expand or diversify commercial activity, attract businesses, create jobs, or build housing.

Urban design planners strive to make building architecture, streets, and public spaces look and function in accordance with an area’s development and design goals. They combine planning with aspects of architecture and landscape architecture. Urban design planners focus on issues such as city layout, street design, and building and landscape patterns.

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How To Become An Urban Planner

Urban and regional planners need a master’s degree from an accredited planning program to qualify for most positions.

Education

Most urban and regional planners have a master’s degree from an accredited urban or regional planning program. In 2015, there were 72 programs accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board that offered a master’s degree in planning.

Many master’s programs accept students with a wide range of undergraduate backgrounds. However, many candidates who enter master’s degree programs have a bachelor’s degree in economics, geography, political science, or environmental design.

Most master’s programs include spending considerable time in seminars, workshops, and laboratory courses, in which students learn to analyze and solve planning problems. Although most master’s programs have a similar core curriculum, they often differ in the courses they offer and the issues on which they focus. For example, programs located in agricultural states may focus on rural planning, and programs located in an area with high population density may focus on urban revitalization.

Some planners have a background in a related field, such as public administration, architecture, or landscape architecture.

Aspiring planners with a bachelor’s degree can qualify for a small number of jobs as assistant or junior planners. There are currently 15 accredited bachelor’s degree programs in planning. Candidates with a bachelor’s degree typically need work experience in planning, public policy, or a related field.

Other Experience

Although not necessary for all positions, some entry-level positions require 1 to 2 years of work experience in a related field, such as architecture, public policy, or economic development. Many students gain experience through real-world planning projects or part-time internships while enrolled in a master’s planning program. Others enroll in full-time internships after completing their degree.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

As of 2015, New Jersey was the only state that required urban and regional planners to be licensed, although Michigan required registration to use the title “community planner.” More information can be requested from the regulatory boards of New Jersey and Michigan.

The American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) offers the professional AICP Certification for planners. To become certified, candidates must meet certain education and experience requirements and pass an exam. Certification must be maintained every 2 years. Although certification is not required for all planning positions, some organizations prefer to hire certified planners.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Urban and regional planners analyze information and data from a variety of sources, such as market research studies, censuses, and environmental impact studies. They use statistical techniques and technologies such as geographic information systems (GIS) in their analyses to determine the significance of the data.

Communication skills. Urban and regional planners must be able to communicate clearly and effectively because they often give presentations and meet with a wide variety of audiences, including public officials, interest groups, and community members.

Decisionmaking skills. Urban and regional planners must weigh all possible planning options and combine analysis, creativity, and realism to choose the appropriate action or plan.

Management skills. Urban and regional planners must be able to manage projects, which may include overseeing tasks, planning assignments, and making decisions.

Writing skills. Urban and regional planners need strong writing skills because they often prepare research reports, write grant proposals, and correspond with colleagues and stakeholders.

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Urban Planner Demographics

Gender

Male

55.1%

Female

29.7%

Unknown

15.2%
Ethnicity

White

51.2%

Hispanic or Latino

15.1%

Asian

13.9%

Black or African American

11.7%

Unknown

8.1%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

45.2%

French

16.1%

Portuguese

9.7%

German

6.5%

Italian

4.8%

Navajo

1.6%

Hebrew

1.6%

Albanian

1.6%

Dutch

1.6%

Japanese

1.6%

Norwegian

1.6%

Persian

1.6%

Arabic

1.6%

Thai

1.6%

Croatian

1.6%

Korean

1.6%
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Urban Planner Education

Schools

State University of New York Buffalo

8.3%

University of Cincinnati

8.3%

Georgia Institute of Technology -

7.3%

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

6.4%

Arizona State University

5.5%

University of Illinois at Chicago

5.5%

Iowa State University

5.5%

Columbia University

5.5%

California State Polytechnic University - Pomona

4.6%

American University

4.6%

University of Pennsylvania

4.6%

University of Virginia

4.6%

University of Washington

3.7%

Harvard University

3.7%

Ohio State University

3.7%

Texas State University

3.7%

Cairn University

3.7%

University of Southern California

3.7%

Morehouse College

3.7%

University of Texas at Austin

3.7%
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Majors

Urban Planning

49.0%

Architecture

7.0%

Geography

5.4%

Landscape Architecture

4.7%

Business

4.4%

Environmental Science

3.6%

Public Administration

3.6%

Economics

2.3%

Real Estate

2.3%

Environmental Design

2.3%

Project Management

1.8%

Political Science

1.8%

Real Estate Development

1.8%

Natural Resources Management

1.6%

Sustainability

1.6%

Law

1.6%

Construction Management

1.6%

Urban Studies

1.3%

Communication

1.3%

Computer Science

1.0%
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Degrees

Masters

55.2%

Bachelors

23.6%

Other

9.9%

Certificate

4.6%

Doctorate

4.6%

Associate

1.4%

Diploma

0.4%

License

0.2%
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Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary
Average Yearly Salary
$81,000
View Detailed Salary Report
$39,000
Min 10%
$81,000
Median 50%
$81,000
Median 50%
$81,000
Median 50%
$81,000
Median 50%
$81,000
Median 50%
$81,000
Median 50%
$81,000
Median 50%
$166,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Allstate
Highest Paying City
Denver, CO
Highest Paying State
North Dakota
Avg Experience Level
3.2 years
How much does an Urban Planner make at top companies?
The national average salary for an Urban Planner in the United States is $81,332 per year or $39 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $39,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $166,000.

Real Urban Planner Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Urban Planner Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum, Inc. San Francisco, CA Feb 21, 2011 $120,994
Urban Planner (Senior Planner) Parsons Brinckerhoff, Inc. New York, NY Aug 22, 2016 $85,010
Urban Planner 3 Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. Austin, TX Mar 10, 2011 $83,529
Urban Planner Anastasio Architects PC New York, NY Jul 31, 2015 $83,480
Urban Planner Accountnet, Inc. Suwanee, GA Apr 08, 2011 $80,000
Urban Planner Accountnet, Inc. Suwanee, GA Mar 28, 2011 $80,000
Urban Planner Accountnet, Inc. Suwanee, GA Sep 14, 2011 $80,000
Urban Planner Ida-Joy Holdings Ltd. Denver, CO Sep 11, 2011 $80,000 -
$120,000
Urban Planner (Financial Manager) Accountnet, Inc. Suwanee, GA May 26, 2011 $80,000
Urban Planner Elkus Manfredi Architects, Ltd. Boston, MA Aug 30, 2016 $80,000
Urban Planner (Financial Manager) Accountnet, Inc. Suwanee, GA Apr 09, 2011 $80,000
Urban Planner Accountnet, Inc. Suwanee, GA Sep 15, 2011 $80,000
Urban Planner (Administrator III) Maryland State Highway Administration Baltimore, MD Jun 19, 2012 $64,129
Urban Planner SDS Brooklyn LLC New York, NY Sep 12, 2015 $63,690
Urban Planner Policy Analyst New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, Inc. New York, NY Dec 15, 2011 $63,361
Urban Planner RTKL Associates Inc. Los Angeles, CA Jan 08, 2011 $61,506
Urban Planner 3 Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. Vienna, VA Oct 01, 2011 $60,861 -
$92,335
Planner II-Urban Design City of Surprise Surprise, AZ Jul 07, 2014 $60,830 -
$91,244
Planner II-Urban Design City of Surprise Surprise, AZ Sep 01, 2013 $60,830 -
$91,244
Urban Planner Entech Engineering PC New York, NY Jul 09, 2016 $56,349 -
$58,436
Urban Planner/Urban Designer Civicmoxie, LLC Brookline, MA Jun 09, 2016 $56,160
Urban Planner SWD II LLC Port Chester, NY Jul 09, 2016 $55,827
Urban Planner Schenne & Associates Buffalo, NY Dec 09, 2016 $55,640
Urban Planner RGA Landscape Architects, Inc. Palm Desert, CA Sep 17, 2013 $55,432
Urban Planner RTKL Associates Inc. Washington, DC Oct 06, 2011 $55,058
Urban Planner NBBJ Architecture, PLLC New York, NY May 01, 2012 $55,000

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Top Skills for An Urban Planner

  1. Business Development
  2. Master Plan
  3. GIS
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • General business development: proposal writing, client relationships, representing firm at professional conferences and trade shows
  • Focused on urban revitalization and long-range master planning for municipal, institutional and corporate clients.
  • Designed GIS databases and applications management of environmental issues regarding land development planning.
  • Provided transportation planning, in-house design to rehab stations, Engineering and Project Management of multiple station types and technical services.
  • Codify plan recommendations into zoning regulations & urban design guidelines; & advocate for implementation.

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Top 10 Best States for Urban Planners

  1. Nevada
  2. Oregon
  3. District of Columbia
  4. Virginia
  5. Maryland
  6. Washington
  7. Alaska
  8. Massachusetts
  9. Rhode Island
  10. Colorado
  • (26 jobs)
  • (60 jobs)
  • (17 jobs)
  • (138 jobs)
  • (101 jobs)
  • (83 jobs)
  • (5 jobs)
  • (51 jobs)
  • (6 jobs)
  • (76 jobs)

Top Urban Planner Employers

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Jobs From Top Urban Planner Employers

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