City and regional planners coordinate and design projects that utilize a community's land and resources. Learn about job duties and the employment outlook as well as educational requirements and areas of study.
City and regional planners are an integral part of the development and growth of business and residential districts. City planners coordinate local resources and plan future development within communities, while regional planners may focus more on larger-scale development that spans metropolitan and outlying areas. As a city and regional planner, you'll design and coordinate new residential, commercial, recreational and other infrastructure projects from start to finish, while considering social, environmental and economic impacts. You must consider a community's needs and capacity when recommending new development or gentrification of existing infrastructure.
A diverse professional skill set is required to succeed in this field. Knowledge of demographic data, government systems and land use regulations are important. You must also understand building designs, codes and zoning laws for their municipality or region. You may incorporate sustainable practices to mitigate environmental impacts of development, such as controlling erosion and changes in water flows. You can also opt to learn how to map cities and analyze data using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software by completing online GIS courses.
Many of these necessary skills can be acquired through city and regional planning degree programs. Typical curriculum covers topics in planning analysis and methods, planning law, microeconomics and environmental sciences. You are likely to gain practical experience through studio courses and internships. Most programs culminate in a final research paper or planning project. To increase your employability, you may augment a degree with additional technical training through a GIS certificate program. The majority of graduates work for local governments, though opportunities exist in state and federal governments, the nonprofit sector and private architecture and engineering firms. Job titles vary and can include urban designer and residential planner, for instance.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), city and regional planners are projected to experience job growth of 10% over the 2012-2022 decade, with planners in possession of a master's degree from an accredited program and work experience expected to fare best (www.bls.gov). The BLS reported that the median annual salary of urban and regional planners was $65,650 as of May 2013.
The Planning Accreditation Board is the accrediting authority for city and regional planning degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels in the United States. Often part of architecture and design schools, city planning and regional planning degrees are available at the undergraduate and graduate levels. A bachelor's degree in planning can qualify you for entry-level positions; however, advancement may be prove difficult without additional training. A master's degree is the most common level of education and several options are available, including a Master of City and Regional Planning, Master in Urban Planning or Master of Science in City and Regional Planning. If you're interested in pursuing a career in research and teaching, you may need a Doctor of Philosophy in City and Regional Planning or a closely related field to do so. Most programs offer several specializations to suit students' personal interests, such as urban design, economic development and environmental management.
You may consider voluntary professional certification through the American Institute of Certified Planners (www.planning.org), which is open to individuals with certain levels of education and relevant work experience and who pass an exam. As of 2009, only two states mandate the planning profession through licensure or registration requirements, reported the BLS.