Environmental Planning Career Options and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an environmental planner. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about job duties and outlook to find out if this is the career for you.

Environmental planners hold bachelor's or master's degrees and and may pursue certifications in environmental planning. Planners require skills in environmental design, economics and social awareness. These professionals are often employed by city and state governments, although some may find work with private corporations or consulting firms.

Essential Requirements

Environmental planning positions are available in both the public and private sectors. As populations continue to grow, local and state governments need to follow developing laws and by restrictions concerning the environment in urban expansion. Environmental planners ensure regulatory compliance for projected land use regarding its impact on the environment.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Other Requirements Certification options are available
Projected Growth (2014-2024)* 6% (for urban and regional planners)
Median Salary (2015)* $68,220

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics'

Environmental Planning Career Options

Environmental planning, sometimes known as natural resource planning or environmental management, involves making development decisions that take into account environmental, social, political and economic factors. Environmental planners are often responsible for maintaining compliance with environmental land use regulations. For example, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency mandates specific guidelines businesses and governments must follow during development planning. Environmental planners also consider sustainability and protection of ecosystems in areas of interest for new or repurposed building.

City and state governments employ many environmental planners in a number of agencies, such as parks services and transportation departments. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that approximately 66% of urban and regional planners worked for local government agencies in 2014 (www.bls.gov). However, positions are also available within corporations, consulting firms, nonprofit organizations and academia. Those in environmental planning could focus on limited geographic areas, such as beaches or cities, or they might specialize in a specific issue, such as water quality, land use or transportation.

Requirements of Environmental Planners

Environmental planners usually must hold at least a bachelor's degree. Many colleges and universities offer degree programs in environmental planning, as well as similar programs in environmental policy or engineering, natural resource management and environmental sciences. A master's degree might be required or strongly recommended for some advanced environmental planner positions.

While a bachelor's degree might qualify graduates for certain entry-level jobs, such as planning assistant or engineer, experience in the field is typically required for planning jobs. Many employers prefer those with at least two years in the field. Additionally, knowledge and experience with NEPA regulations, as well as any state and local environmental laws and restrictions, are significant considerations for employment.

Licensure and Certification

Planners can distinguish themselves through certification. Credentialing organizations, such as the American Institute of Certified Planners or the National Association of Environmental Professionals, offer members and highly experienced professionals specialized certification in environmental planning. Although certification is not mandatory, it can assist in career advancement. State licensure is not typically mandated for the position, though a few states might require planners to be licensed or registered.

Career Outlook and Salary Information

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't publish data specifically for environmental planners, it does publish data for urban and regional planners. According to the BLS, the number of jobs for urban and regional planners will increase at an average rate of 6% from 2014-2024(www.bls.gov). These professionals earned a median annual wage of $68,220 in 2015, per the BLS.

Environmental planners work in many sectors, including economics, social, urban and environmental. Some states may require planners to earn licenses and optional certifications can be beneficial for advancement in this field. The job outlook is average for this field.

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