Career overview: Urban and regional planner

  • Urban and regional planner oversee architects' drafts, making sure they meet urban or community expectations.
    Urban and regional planner oversee architects' drafts, making sure they meet urban or community expectations.

    Career overview: Urban and regional planner

    One career that is growing in demand is in urban and regional planning. Communities may need planners to handle projects resulting from population changes, environmental factors or other changes affecting the area. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, careers in urban and regional planning are expected to increase 13 percent through 2026, making it an extremely profitable job market for individuals who seek employment in this field.

    Day-to-day responsibilities
    Urban and regional planners’ work involves developing plans to improve communities. They use primarily data-driven strategies from market research and censuses to decide what needs to be done and how their team will go about completing this work.

    Urban and regional planners might specialize in certain divisions, such as transportation organization, urban development, historic preservation or other branches. Planners might assist in the production of new public parks, overseeing the development of public transportation systems, maintaining the district’s aesthetic appeal or finding solutions for homeless and poverty-stricken individuals in the area. They may participate in some public speaking when they present their ideas to communities or planning commissions

    Urban planners should be able to operate under a strict budget. When handling redevelopment projects, planners might look into the current state of neighborhoods and buildings to see what should be improved or replaced. They may work directly with economic consultants to strategize how a remodeling will benefit residents while staying within budget expectations. They also oversee the work of architects and ensure that their drafts meet zoning laws, environmental regulations and other legal expectations.

    Urban and regional planners typically work traditional 40-hour weeks, but may have to attend occasional evening or weekend meetings.

    Salary expectations
    The BLS breaks down median salaries for urban and regional planners by industry:

    • Federal government: $94,410
    • Architectural, engineering and related services: $75,850
    • Management, scientific and technical consulting services: $74,600
    • State government: $71,250
    • Local government: $69,850

    Across different industries, the median annual salary for urban and regional planners is $71,490.

    How to become an urban and regional planner
    Most individuals in this career have a master’s degree in urban or regional planning. These programs admit students from a variety of undergraduate backgrounds, not simply those with a bachelor’s degree in urban and regional planning. Many programs require graduate students to pursue an internship to gain work experience in city or community planning.

    When pursuing a graduate degree to become an urban or regional planner, you should make sure the Planning Accreditation Board approves your intended program. PAB currently accredits 72 graduate programs in North America. 70 of these universities are located in the U.S., one is in Puerto Rico and another is in Canada. Most of these programs cover all aspects of planning, but some are niche.

    • University of Georgia offers a Master of Environmental Planning + Design, which takes a more ecological approach than other programs.
    • Students interested in only studying urban planning can pursue a Master in City Planning at schools such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania.
    • Some programs, such as the Master of Community Planning at the University of Maryland, allow students to take courses in their desired specialization. The University of Maryland’s specializations include:
      • Community Development
      • Local and Community Economic Development
      • Housing
      • International Urban and Regional Development Planning
      • Land Use and Environmental Planning
      • Social Planning, Organization and Administration
      • Transportation Planning

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