Urban Planner: Employment & Career Info

Urban planners require significant formal education. Learn about the degree programs, job duties, salary and job growth projections to see if this is the right career for you.

Want to help shape the cities of tomorrow using technology, forecasting, data, and analysis? Urban planners assist governments and businesses in determining how best to use and develop land in order to meet the present and future needs of people living in urban areas. A master's degree opens the door to more senior jobs in this field.

Essential Information

Urban planners work in both the private and public sectors helping governments and business clients make the best use of their property and other resources. They utilize technology to help them create plans for development and meet with clients to develop ideas. These professionals generally need to complete graduate degree programs in urban planning or related fields.

Required Education Master's degree in urban planning or related field
Projected Job Growth 6% from 2014-2024*
Median Salary $68,220 (2015)*

Sources: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Urban Planner Employment Information

Urban planners are responsible for the creation of social, economic and environmental blueprints that make optimum use of land and other resources. These professionals research available resources and potential projects in order to make recommendations to construction project leaders, engineers, lawmakers and government officials. Urban planners may use tools ranging from databases of future populations forecasts to geographical information systems (GIS) in their research and analysis.

Career Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for urban and regional planners is expected to grow 6% for the years 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). Growth will be driven by changes in population and the resulting revitalization and infrastructure projects. The BLS notes that job seekers who are willing to relocate will have the best opportunities. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for urban and regional planners in May 2015 was $68,220. The highest-paid workers earned over $102,200 annually as of 2015.

Educational Information

Although college graduates may enter the field with bachelor's degrees, the BLS notes that advancement opportunities for these professionals may be limited. As such, aspiring urban planners may enroll in master's degree programs to gain additional training and increase their job opportunities. In these 2-year programs, students complete core requirements in the first year and focus on their concentration area in the second. Core coursework generally covers planning methods, theory and statistical or economic analysis.

Urban planning concentrations may include GIS, transportation planning and environmental planning, among others. Accordingly, course topics vary from spatial analysis to sustainable transportation design. Programs may allow students to choose a thesis option, in which students write thesis proposals, conduct research and present their findings on a topic in urban planning.

Urban planners work collaboratively with governments, developers, and engineers to create the best possible plan for land and resource use within cities. You might plan transportation systems, assess environmental impacts, or analyze population data and forecast changes. If you want access to the most interesting and challenging work in urban planning, it's best to complete a master's degree with a concentration in the topic that most interests you.

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