Urban Designer: Job Description and Info About a Career in Urban Design

Apr 10, 2019

Career Definition for an Urban Designer

Urban designers take into consideration a project's purpose, size, and geographic data in their design recommendations. Working with private companies or public agencies, urban designers may be responsible for surveying land for a new housing complex, expanding a medical facility or developing a subway system. Urban designers may also participate in educating civic leaders and the public about the details of the projects scheduled for their communities.

Required Education A bachelor's degree as a minimum; a master's degree is recommended
Job Duties Include surveying land; participating in educating civic leaders and the public about projects scheduled for their communities
Median Salary (2018)* $73,050 (all urban and regional planners)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 13% growth (all urban and regional planners)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

It's possible to become an urban designer with a 4-year, bachelor's degree from a college or university, but acquiring a master's degree is recommended. Coursework for a degree in urban design may include classes in the history of architecture, industrial design, animation software, and sociology. Some states may require a license to work as an urban designer.

Skills Required

Urban designers need visual conceptual skills and experience with sophisticated design software programs. Successful urban designers are flexible and skilled at responding to changes in design projects.

Career and Economic Outlook

Population growth and urban sprawl will continue to create career growth for urban designers. Job opportunities for urban and regional planners, which includes urban designers, are projected to grow about faster than average from 2016-2026, at a rate of 13%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported that the median salary for urban and regional planners was $73,050 in May 2018.

Alternate Career Options

Here are some examples of alternative career options:

Transportation Engineer

A transportation engineer typically coordinates the planning, construction, and maintenance of car, rail, air, and sea transportation infrastructure. Transportation engineers review project plans; address the effects of factors like materials costs, weather delays, and environmental concerns; and coordinate permit applications. This job requires a bachelor's degree in civil engineering for entry-level work and a master's degree or greater for advancement. Transportation engineers who provide public services must have a Professional Engineer credential which requires a minimum of education, work experience, and exam scores; additional licensing requirements may vary by state. The employment rate of civil engineers, including transportation engineers, is projected to be 11% from 2016-2026, per the BLS. The median pay was $86,640 in 2018, and the states where the greatest number of civil engineers worked were California, Texas, New York, Florida and Pennsylvania.


Geographers study the physical features of the earth within the context of human activity, like population, politics, economics, the environment, culture, and health care. Geographers collect images gleaned from satellites and field work along with qualitative and quantitative research to create specialized maps of use to governments, business, emergency response teams, and related organizations or services. While it's possible to get a job with a bachelor's degree, a master's degree in geography or a closely related field is a common requirement. Geographers who hold the voluntary GIS (geographic information systems) professional credential may have better job prospects. The BLS estimates that geographers can expect an increase in job growth of 7% from 2016-2026. Geographers earned a median pay of $80,300 in 2018, and most worked in Maryland, Texas, California, Colorado and Minnesota.

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