Difference Between Urban Planner & Architect

Urban planners and architects may work together at times. While architects focus on designing buildings, urban planners design communities. Continue reading to learn more about the similarities and differences in these professions.

Comparing Urban Planners to Architects

Architects and urban planners both play a part in determining how a community will look, but the specific focus of their work is different. While architects design buildings, urban planners determine where buildings will go and how land will be used to meet community needs.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary* (2016) Job Outlook* (2014-2024)
Urban Planner Master's Degree $70,020 (for urban and regional planners) 6% (for urban and regional planners)
Architect Bachelor's Degree $76,930 7%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Urban Planners vs. Architects

There are times that urban planners and architects may work together to finalize plans for a building that's going to be constructed. While architects design building plans, urban planners are responsible for recommending how land will be used and what types of things are needed to meet the needs of a community. Architects and urban planners both need to be familiar with building codes and land use regulations to ensure that their work complies with all applicable regulations. While an architect may be focused on one building project at a time, an urban planner may be considering that project as well as several other projects, including how outdoor areas will be developed. Architects focus on a specific client's needs, while urban planners must consider the needs of the community as a whole.

Urban Planner

To prepare for a career as an urban planner it's common to major in disciplines such as environmental design or geography. After earning a bachelor's degree, aspiring planners must complete a master's degree in urban or regional planning. Urban planners determine how land will be developed in urban areas to accommodate the city's needs based on population growth. Urban planners typically work regular daytime hours, although they may need to attend some evening or weekend meetings, and they do need to travel to the locations they are considering for development projects. The majority of urban planners work for local governments, although they may also find work with architectural or engineering firms.

Job responsibilities of an urban planner include:

  • Meeting with community members to discuss development proposals
  • Addressing concerns from the community
  • Assessing development proposals
  • Reviewing relevant bylaws and regulations that may affect how land is developed
  • Assessing the long-term needs of an area and prioritizing development needs


Some architects are self-employed, but the majority work for architectural or engineering firms. They are responsible for designing structures that will be constructed. Architects spend a lot of time working regular daytime hours in offices, although they do need to travel to the location where a structure they designed is being built to ensure that their design plan is followed. They need to have a bachelor's degree in architecture, and must also complete an internship and pass a national exam to work as an architect. Architects use their creative talents when developing design plans but they also need strong analytical skills, because they must consider building codes, clients' needs and budgets when working on their designs.

Job responsibilities of an architect include:

  • Meeting with potential clients to discuss their projects and needs
  • Developing a proposed budget for the project
  • Drafting sketches of what the building would look like
  • Preparing blueprints
  • Checking on the construction crew's progress
  • Finalizing contracts with construction crews

Related Careers

Landscape architects design outdoor spaces, and this career may appeal to those who are interested in urban planning because it also focuses on how to use land spaces to meet community or client needs. Anyone interested in a career in architecture may also be interested in considering civil engineering, because civil engineers also design structures and oversee their construction.

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