Urban and regional planners develop land use plans and programs that help create communities, accommodate population growth, and revitalize physical facilities.
What they do
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
- Gather and analyze data from market research, 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 and building codes, environmental regulations, and other legal issues
Urban and regional planners identify community needs and develop short- and long-term solutions to improve and revitalize communities and areas. As an area grows or changes, planners help communities manage the related economic, social, and environmental issues, such as planning new parks, sheltering the homeless, and making the region more attractive to businesses.
When beginning a project, planners often work with public officials, community members, and other groups to identify community issues and goals. Through research, data analysis, and collaboration with interest groups, they formulate strategies to address issues and to meet goals. Planners may also help carry out community plans by overseeing projects, enforcing zoning regulations, and organizing the work of the groups involved.
Urban and regional planners use a variety of tools and technology in their work. They commonly use statistical software, data visualization and presentation programs, financial spreadsheets, and other database and software programs. Geographic Information System (GIS) software is used to integrate data, such as for population density, with digital maps.
Urban and regional planners may specialize in areas such as transportation planning, community development, historic preservation, or urban design, among other fields of interest.
Planners often collaborate with public officials, civil engineers, environmental engineers, architects, lawyers and real estate developers
Planners work throughout the country, but most work in large metropolitan areas. Urban and regional planners may travel to inspect proposed changes and their impacts on land conditions, the environment, and land use.
How to become an Urban and Regional Planner
Urban and regional planners need a master’s degree from an accredited planning program to qualify for most positions.
Most urban and regional planners have a master’s degree from an accredited urban or regional planning program. In 2016, there were 71 programs accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board (PAB) that offered a master’s degree in planning.
Master’s degree programs accept students with a wide range of undergraduate backgrounds. However, many candidates who enter these programs have a bachelor’s degree in economics, geography, political science, or environmental design.
Most master’s programs have students spending considerable time in seminars, workshops, and laboratory courses, in which they learn to analyze and solve planning problems. Although most master’s programs have a similar core curriculum, there is some variability in the courses they offer and the issues they focus on. For example, programs located in agricultural states may focus on rural planning, and programs located in larger cities may focus on urban revitalization.
Bachelor’s degree holders can qualify for a small number of jobs as assistant or junior planners. In 2016, there were 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.
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 planning projects or part-time internships while enrolled in a master’s planning program. Others enroll in full-time internships after completing their degree.
As of 2016, New Jersey was the only state that required urban and regional planners to be licensed. More information is available from the regulatory board of New Jersey.
The American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) offers the AICP certification for planners. To become certified, candidates must meet certain education and experience requirements and pass an exam.
The median annual wage for urban and regional planners was $74,350 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $45,850, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $116,280.
Employment of urban and regional planners is projected to grow 11 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. Demographic, transportation, and environmental changes will drive employment growth for planners.
Within cities, urban planners will be needed to develop revitalization projects and address issues associated with population growth, environmental degradation, the movement of people and goods, and resource scarcity. Similarly, suburban areas and municipalities will need planners to address the challenges associated with population changes, including housing needs and transportation systems covering larger areas with less population density.
Planners will also be needed as new and existing communities require extensive development and improved infrastructure, including housing, roads, sewer systems, parks, and schools.
Similar Job Titles
City Planner, Community Development Planner, Community Planner, Development Technician, Housing Development Specialist, Neighborhood Planner, Planning Technician, Regional Planner, Urban Design Consultant, Zoning Technician
Logistics Analyst, Geographic Information Systems Technologist and Technician, Remote Sensing Scientist and Technologist, Geographer, Transportation Planner
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- American Correctional Association
- American Planning Association
- American Public Works Association
- American Society of Landscape Architects
- Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning
- Congress for the New Urbanism
- Institute of Transportation Engineers
- National Community Development Association
- National Trust for Historic Preservation
Magazines and Publications
From Manhattan’s sky-high grid to the tangled sprawl of Los Angeles, urban and regional planners play a key role in making sure cities become more connected communities rather than concrete jungles. Urban and regional planners develop plans for how land will be used, and oversee complex projects that help accommodate population growth while retaining—or revitalizing— functional communities. The zoning policies they administer have an impact not just on historic buildings, but also on the environment, housing, transportation, and more. Using statistical techniques, field investigations, and technology, urban and regional planners gather and analyze data to understand the current and future needs of their local area. They develop plans to address the needs they uncover… from planning new parks and schools to meet anticipated growth, or sheltering the homeless, to making changes that might attract business development. Urban and regional planners present their project proposals to communities, officials, and planning commissions. Their recommendations help guide decision makers to consider all the factors involved in a new project. Most urban and regional planners work for local government. They may work evenings or weekends to attend meetings with neighborhood groups, and frequently leave the office to inspect proposed development sites. Urban and regional planners need a master’s degree from an accredited planning program to qualify for most positions.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org