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Average Salary
$57,900
Average Salary
Job Growth Rate
11%
Job Growth Rate
Job Openings
5,986
Job Openings

Urban Planner Careers

If you consider yourself to be a good planner, then you might be considering becoming an urban planner. But what is that exactly? An urban planner creates land-use plans and programs to establish communities, help existing communities expand and revitalize old facilities.

Generally, they only work full-time. But there is an occasional meeting after work that they'll need to attend. And as for education, you'll want to earn a master's degree from an accredited program. Of course, that's only if you want to qualify for the majority of positions. Which we think you'll probably want to.

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.

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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Average Salary
$57,900
Average Salary
Job Growth Rate
11%
Job Growth Rate
Job Openings
5,986
Job Openings

Urban Planner Career Paths

Top Careers Before Urban Planner

Planner
7.9 %

Top Careers After Urban Planner

Urban Planner Jobs You Might Like

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Average Salary for an Urban Planner

Urban Planners in America make an average salary of $57,900 per year or $28 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $77,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $43,000 per year.
Average Salary
$57,900
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Best Paying Cities

City
ascdesc
Average Salarydesc
San Francisco, CA
Salary Range65k - 103k$83k$82,710
Washington, DC
Salary Range63k - 95k$78k$78,259
Portland, OR
Salary Range62k - 92k$76k$75,942
Anchorage, AK
Salary Range70k - 77k$74k$74,002
Seattle, WA
Salary Range59k - 86k$72k$72,123
Baltimore, MD
Salary Range53k - 80k$65k$65,336
$37k
$103k

Recently Added Salaries

Job TitleCompanyascdescCompanyascdescStart DateascdescSalaryascdesc
Urban Planner and Designer
Urban Planner and Designer
Kittelson & Associates, Inc.
Kittelson & Associates, Inc.
03/26/2021
03/26/2021
$103,83203/26/2021
$103,832
Parks Urban Trails Planner-Department of Parks and Recreation
Parks Urban Trails Planner-Department of Parks and Recreation
City of Denver
City of Denver
03/23/2021
03/23/2021
$73,15703/23/2021
$73,157
Urban Planner/Designer
Urban Planner/Designer
Tom Leader Studio Incorporated
Tom Leader Studio Incorporated
03/08/2021
03/08/2021
$75,95203/08/2021
$75,952
Urban Design Planner II
Urban Design Planner II
HNTB Corporation
HNTB Corporation
03/03/2021
03/03/2021
$66,06103/03/2021
$66,061
Urban Design Planner II
Urban Design Planner II
HNTB Corporation
HNTB Corporation
02/16/2021
02/16/2021
$66,06102/16/2021
$66,061
See More Recent Salaries

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Urban Planner Demographics

Gender

male

59.6 %

female

31.5 %

unknown

9.0 %

Ethnicity

White

75.8 %

Hispanic or Latino

9.5 %

Asian

7.2 %

Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

45.2 %

French

16.1 %

Portuguese

9.7 %
See More Demographics

Urban Planner Education

Majors

Degrees

Bachelors

61.0 %

Masters

28.4 %

Certificate

5.5 %

Top Colleges for Urban Planners

1. University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA • Private

In-State Tuition
$55,584
Enrollment
10,764

2. University of Southern California

Los Angeles, CA • Private

In-State Tuition
$56,225
Enrollment
19,548

3. Columbia University in the City of New York

New York, NY • Private

In-State Tuition
$59,430
Enrollment
8,216

4. University of Washington

Seattle, WA • Public

In-State Tuition
$11,207
Enrollment
30,905

5. University of Texas at Austin

Austin, TX • Public

In-State Tuition
$10,610
Enrollment
40,329

6. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cambridge, MA • Private

In-State Tuition
$51,832
Enrollment
4,550

7. University of California, Berkeley

Berkeley, CA • Public

In-State Tuition
$14,184
Enrollment
30,845

8. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, NC • Public

In-State Tuition
$8,987
Enrollment
18,946

9. Carnegie Mellon University

Pittsburgh, PA • Private

In-State Tuition
$55,465
Enrollment
6,483

10. Georgia Institute of Technology

Atlanta, GA • Public

In-State Tuition
$12,424
Enrollment
15,201
See More Education Info

Online Courses For Urban Planner That You May Like

e-Learning Course on Urban Rail Development
edX (Global)

Rising urban populations are putting pressure on urban transportation systems, which must expand to meet growing mobility and accessibility needs in cities around the world. To serve this increasing demand for mobility without the congestion, air pollution, road safety, and social exclusion associated with motorization, many cities are looking to rapid transit systems to provide high-capacity and high-quality transportation that is economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable. When...

What do Architects and Urban Planners do?
edX (Global)

Are you interested in studying architecture or urban planning? This course will help you understand what spatial design professionals really do, so you can decide if this is the right profession for you. First, we’ll learn about the built environment, and the kinds of challenges and opportunities that architects and planners grapple with. Then we’ll discuss five short examples based on real projects. In each example, we will focus on the role played by different spatial design professionals,...

Innovative Governance of Large Urban Systems
coursera

Learn about the three phases of the urban value chain: planning, governance and regeneration. With lecturers from all around the world and concrete case studies, this course will give you a comprehensive overview about the "Innovative Governance of Large Urban Systems". This course has assembled some of the most relevant experiences and knowledge from our Innovative Governance of Large Urban Systems (IGLUS) Executive Master's program, which has been offered by EPFL during the past 5 years. IGLUS...

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Top Skills For an Urban Planner

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 11.4% of urban planners listed gis on their resume, but soft skills such as analytical skills and communication skills are important as well.

Best States For an Urban Planner

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as an urban planner. The best states for people in this position are Oregon, California, Alaska, and North Dakota. Urban planners make the most in Oregon with an average salary of $76,522. Whereas in California and Alaska, they would average $75,045 and $73,900, respectively. While urban planners would only make an average of $73,700 in North Dakota, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. California

Total Urban Planner Jobs:
831
Highest 10% Earn:
$115,000
Location Quotient:
1.47
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. District of Columbia

Total Urban Planner Jobs:
43
Highest 10% Earn:
$114,000
Location Quotient:
1.33
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Oregon

Total Urban Planner Jobs:
81
Highest 10% Earn:
$112,000
Location Quotient:
1.01
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
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Top Urban Planner Employers

1. AECOM
4.6
Avg. Salary: 
$55,612
Urban Planners Hired: 
19+
2. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
4.5
Avg. Salary: 
$65,046
Urban Planners Hired: 
18+
3. Kittelson & Associates
3.8
Avg. Salary: 
$74,193
Urban Planners Hired: 
16+
4. Jacobs Engineering Group
4.8
Avg. Salary: 
$54,652
Urban Planners Hired: 
14+
5. City Of Atlanta Employee Benefits Office
4.4
Avg. Salary: 
$64,339
Urban Planners Hired: 
13+
6. HNTB
4.8
Avg. Salary: 
$55,871
Urban Planners Hired: 
11+