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Urban and Regional Planners - What They Do


How to Advance (Advancement)
The American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP), a professional institute within the American Planning Association, grants certification to individuals who have the appropriate combination of education and professional experience and pass an examination. Professional development activities are required to maintain certification, which can be very helpful for promotion.

After a few years of experience, planners may advance to assignments requiring a high degree of independent judgment, such as designing the physical layout of a large development or recommending policy and budget options. Some public sector planners are promoted to community planning director and spend a great deal of time meeting with officials, speaking to civic groups, and supervising a staff. Further advancement occurs through a transfer to a larger jurisdiction with more complex problems and greater responsibilities or into related occupations, such as director of community or economic development.

Employment
Urban and regional planners held about 38,400 jobs in 2008. About 66 percent were employed by local governments. Companies involved with architectural, engineering, and related services, as well as management, scientific, and technical consulting services, employ an increasing proportion of planners in the private sector.

Job Outlook
Faster than average employment growth is projected for urban and regional planners. Most new jobs will be in affluent, rapidly expanding communities. Job prospects will be best for those with a master's degree; bachelor's degree holders with additional skills in GIS or mapping may find entry level positions, but advancement opportunities are limited.

Job Growth
Employment of urban and regional planners is expected to grow 19 percent from 2008 to 2018, faster than the average for all occupations. Employment growth will be driven by the need for State and local governments to provide public services such as regulation of commercial development, the environment, transportation, housing, and land use and development for an expanding population. Nongovernmental initiatives dealing with historic preservation and redevelopment will also create employment growth.

The fastest job growth for urban and regional planners will occur in the private sector, primarily in the professional, scientific, and technical services industries. Specifically, planners will be employed by architecture and engineering firms to assist private developers and builders with broader issues, such as those related to storm water management, permits, and environmental regulation, to more specific ones, such as helping to design security measures for a building that are effective but also subtle and able to blend in with the surrounding area.

Many additional jobs for urban and regional planners will be in local government, as planners will be needed to address an array of problems associated with population growth, especially in affluent, rapidly expanding communities. For example, new housing developments require roads, sewer systems, fire stations, schools, libraries, and recreation facilities that must be planned for within budgetary constraints.

Besides opportunities from employment growth, job openings will arise from the need to replace experienced planners who transfer to other occupations, retire, or leave the labor force for other reasons. Graduates with a master's degree from an accredited program should have much better job opportunities than those with only a bachelor's degree. Additionally, AICP certified planners should have the best opportunities for advancement. Computers and software—especially GIS software—are increasingly being used in planning; therefore, candidates with strong computer skills and GIS experience will have an advantage in the job market.

Earnings
Median annual wages of urban and regional planners were $59,810 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $47,050 and $75,630. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $37,960, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $91,520.

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Academic Programs of Interest

Geography
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Land use planning is the term used for a branch of public policy which encompasses various disciplines which seek to order and regulate the use of land in an efficient and ethical way. At its most basic level land use planning is likely to involve zoning and transport infrastructure planning. In most ...more
Urban Planning
Urban, city, or town planning is the discipline of land use planning which explores several aspects of the built and social environments of municipalities and communities. Other professions deal in more detail with a smaller scale of development, namely architecture, landscape architecture and urban ...more
Urban Studies
Urban Studies is the scientific discipline that studies all aspects of cities, their suburbs, and other urban areas. This includes urban economics, urban planning, urban architecture, urban ecology, urban transportation systems, urban politics, and urban social relations. This can be contrasted with ...more