Land use planning and management involves making decisions and solving problems related to natural and built environments. Continue reading to learn more about this unique field, including educational requirements, career options, earnings and voluntary certifications.
The field of land use planning and management focuses on the development and preservation of communities in rural and urban environments. Land use planners and managers develop strategies to promote economic development while using sustainable solutions that preserve environmental resources and overall quality of life. They may work in the field gathering data, in offices writing environmental impact statements or with community organizations and developers resolving conflicts. You'll need good problem solving skills, knowledge of government systems and computer software proficiencies to succeed in this field.
Relevant degree programs can be found at both the undergraduate and graduate levels and can help you prepare for a variety of career paths. In a land use planning and management program, you'll pursue topics in environmental science, hydrology, transportation and research; training in the use of geographic information science (GIS) and a study of natural disasters might also be included.
Graduates of land use planning and management programs can work at all levels of government, in the nonprofit sector and with private enterprises, such as real estate companies and consulting firms. Many graduates pursue careers in public policy administration, community planning, natural resource management and environmental conservation. An advanced degree program will prepare you for a career in research, higher education or high-level policy development. Sample job titles can include natural resource manager, regional planner or environmental planner.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has projected an average growth in jobs for urban and regional planners from 2012-2022. Those with master's degrees and specialized skills, like experience with GIS, may have the best prospects. As reported by the BLS in May 2013, the median annual salary for regional and urban planners was $65,650. In addition, the American Planning Association's (APA) 2014 salary survey reported that full-time planners had a median annual income of $74,000, with earnings varying widely by state (www.planning.org).
Land use planning and management is generally offered as a concentration within graduate-level urban and regional planning programs. However, bachelor's degree programs in planning are available in many U.S. schools and can help you prepare for an entry-level job in the public, nonprofit and private sectors. In preparation for a graduate studies, you could also pursue an undergraduate degree in a closely related field, such as geography, natural resource management or architecture. The Planning Accreditation Board is the accrediting authority for undergraduate and master's degree programs in the United States.
According to the APA, the industry standard for obtaining a planning position is a master's degree in a relevant field of study (www.planning.org). Advanced degree options include a Master of Science in Planning, Master of Urban Planning or Master of City and Regional Planning, with many schools offering specializations in land use planning or management. Doctoral degree programs in land use planning and management are typically designed for careers in academia, research or policy. Online urban planning certificates are also available to distance learners.
In addition to a degree, many planners earn certification through the American Institute of Certified Planners, which involves meeting the organization's education and experience requirements, passing an exam and pursuing continuing education. The APA also offers continuing education opportunities for professionals in the field, including training workshops, self-directed studies and lectures (www.planning.org).