How to Become an Urban Planner

Urban Planner Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year $65,370
Avg. Pay / hour $31.43
Education 4+ Years
Job Outlook 12.8%

Urban Planners specialize in planning for a projected population occurring in cities, suburbs or rural areas.

This job is extremely important because these professionals use their knowledge to create plans that help prevent problems in the future caused by population growth.

Urban Planners create long term and short term plans revolving the use of land for cities, suburban and rural communities.

Typical areas that these professionals plan for include the following list:

  • Traffic congestion
  • Commercial development
  • Housing development
  • Environment
  • Transportation systems
  • Land use and development
  • Historic preservation
  • Redevelopment

By using an Urban Planner’s expertise a city can prepare for future growth to prevent traffic congestion, lower pollution and limit suburban sprawl in some circumstances.

Urban Planners expand on what already exists such as roads and housing developments and create plans that will benefit the growing population.

The majority of Urban Planners work for local or state governments.

These Urban Planners are typically called City Planners

Urban Planners provide services to the public and their work is needed by state and local governments in order to provide and regulate things such as commercial development, transportation systems and pollution control.

Continue reading below to learn information on how to become an Urban Planner , a general job description and salary and wage information.

Education Requirements to Become an Urban Planner

The minimum educational requirement in order to become an Urban Planner is a Bachelor’s degree.

However, a candidate with a Master’s degree will have plenty of more opportunities available to them because employers are more likely to hire those with an advanced degree.

The majority of state, local and federal government positions require a candidate to have a minimum of a Master’s degree for entry level positions.

Some helpful programs of study at the Bachelor’s level include Environmental Design, Economics, Geography or Political Science.

A handful of educational institutions offer a Bachelor’s in Urban Planning which may qualify them for some government entry level positions.

However, candidates with an advanced degree still have the competitive edge.

Candidates will also have a competitive edge if they seek certification.

The American Institute Certified Planners (AICP) administers the certification exam and requires candidates to fulfill educational and experience requirements.

Urban Planner Job Description

These professionals make plans for a city or community based on the information they have regarding the projected population growth.

Their goal is to help government officials improve community stressors such as environmental, social and economic problems.

They do this by suggesting future locations for schools, roads, shopping centers and other infrastructure and buildings.

They may also recommend zoning parameters for land being used for private property.

Urban Planners create problem solving plans that promote the most effective use of land.

The type of land they take into consideration includes property that has residential, business and government buildings.

Before a plan can be created and put into place, Urban Planners must take inventory of the current infrastructure and community design.

They will collect data regarding how the land is being used and for what purposes.

In the report, they will include information on the location of roads and highways and how many cars can be driven on them; the location of airports, sewer and water lines and how many people they can service; and information about building such as schools, libraries and other buildings.

Some Urban Planners may also be responsible for considering protecting natural resources and animal habitats under protection.

They will consider pollution and effective ways to reduce it as well as the preservation of wetlands, forests and other geological locations.

They will plan the locations of landfills and suggest ways to make the land striking.

Urban Planner Salary and Career Path

Faster than average growth is expected for professional Urban Planners.; according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary of urban planners is around $63,000.

This career has an estimated growth of approximately 19% will occur through the year 2018.

This growth is expected because of the projected population growth in many parts of the country including small cities.

Urban Planners help create plans that include making adjustments and changes for growing communities.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$107,330
New Hampshire$72,870
New Jersey$84,300
New Mexico$60,740
New York$92,660
North Carolina$69,060
North Dakota$79,740
Rhode Island$83,220
South Carolina$64,640
South Dakota$68,000
West Virginia$60,230
Puerto Rico$41,850

The top earning state in the field is District of Columbia, where the average salary is $107,330.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

District of Columbia - $107,330
California - $97,510
New York - $92,660
Washington - $92,580
Nevada - $92,280
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Urban and Regional Planners, OCC Code 19-3051, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does an urban planner do?

An urban planner is a professional who develops programs and plans for the use of land.

This type of planning may be used to accommodate growth, create communities, revitalize physical facilities in cities, counties, metropolitan areas, and so on.

The typical duties of an urban planner usually include gathering and analyzing all sorts of data (censuses, economic and environmental, studies…); meeting with developers, the public, and public officials regarding land use and development plans; reviewing site plans submitted by developers; conducting field investigations; presenting projects to planning commissions and officials; assessing the feasibility of proposals, etc.

The main aim of an urban planner is to identify the needs of the community and come up with a short- or long-term plan to create, grow, or revitalize an area or community.

How much do urban planners make?

On average, an urban planner can make a little more than $73.000 per year in the United States.

In case you decide to choose this career path, you can expect to earn anywhere between $45.000 and $114.000 annually.

The salary would certainly depend on a variety of factors – your education and experience level, the location, and so on.

Urban planners that work in the District of Columbia, California, and Nevada, for example, have the highest average salaries.

An entry-level urban planner can earn around $22 per hour, while a top-level specialist with plenty of experience can make $55 and more.

How much does it cost to become an urban planner?

In most cases, you would need to start with obtaining a bachelor’s degree in economics, geography, environmental design or a related field, in order to become a successful urban planner.

A year in a university can cost you anywhere between $8.000 and $45.000 (and more); the cost depends on a variety of factors (the books, supplies, and accommodation expenses are not included).

The majority of urban planners have a master’s degree (over $30.000).

Bear in mind that a lot of master’s programs have similar core curriculums, but the courses will differ; for example, agricultural states will, most likely, focus on rural planning.

What is the demand for urban planners?

The urban planner job market is expected to grow by 12.8% between 2016 and 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That is faster than the national average for all occupations in the United States.

This is a competitive field and the candidates that have a relevant master’s degree will have better job prospects.

The industry is mainly concentrated in Texas, Washington, and California.

How long does it take to become an urban planner?

You would need 4 years to obtain a bachelor’s degree in geography, economics or a related field, while a master’s degree will take you 2 years to acquire.

A background in architecture, public administration, or landscape architecture will certainly be helpful.

Any kind of on-the-job experience is incredibly important, so do seek internships, in case you have such an opportunity.

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *