City Planner: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become a city planner. Learn about degree requirements, job duties, salary and employment outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Land Use Planning degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a City Planner?

City planners determine how a city's land will be used. They consider the needs of housing and transportation programs and must also factor in natural resource sustainability. Their plans are used to help accommodate population growth or changes in the demands of the population. Some of the tasks they perform include meeting with developers and city officials to discuss proposals. They also have to consider zoning regulations, environmental regulations, building codes and other factors that may affect proposals, such as the location of historic buildings or transportation needs. When proposals are submitted they also review the sites and the plans to decide if the proposal should be approved.

Degree Required Master's degree
Education Field of Study City planning, urban planning
Key Responsibilities Visit construction sites to review development; meet with city officials and developers regarding available land use; research census data, environmental studies and market data
Licensure/Certification Some states require licensure for city planners; certification is optional
Job Growth (2014-2024) 6% (for all urban and regional planners)*
Median Salary (2015) $68,220 (for all urban and regional planners)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Kind of Training Is Required to Become a City Planner?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), city planners typically need a master's degree in urban planning or a similar area (www.bls.gov). The BLS also notes, however, that a bachelor's degree may be acceptable for some entry-level positions. The Planning Accreditation Board (PAB) has approved numerous bachelor's and master's degree programs in city, urban or regional planning and related areas. The PAB is sponsored by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (www.acsp.org).

City planning bachelor's degree programs will teach you basic concepts in the usage, development and allocation of city resources like land, housing and economics. You'll also learn community leadership skills and become educated in the administration of city programs, such as trash pickup, law enforcement, public health, social welfare and transportation. Many accredited bachelor's degree programs also require an internship or service learning experience in an urban environment.

Urban planning master's degree programs often focus more on the legal, logistic or practical issues in planning, developing and maintaining a given piece of land within a city or town. You'll learn to conduct the appropriate research and analysis to determine the best uses for public space. You'll become educated in the budgeting, zoning and building code issues needed to develop real estate or sustain natural community resources. You may also learn about common problems affecting urban areas, such as poverty or funding shortages, and the social welfare programs that can fix them.

What Are the Typical Job Responsibilities?

The job duties of a city planner can be diverse and varied. In a given day, you might interact with elected officials, police officers, real estate contractors, public works employees and the residents of the city by which you're employed. A large chunk of your typical workday may involve researching various topics. You may analyze the best use of land, the most economical contractors for a real estate project, the need for a homeless shelter or the yearly cost of public transportation. You'll also be largely responsible for administering these programs, which requires strong communication skills for interactions with the officials who help carry them out and the residents that they benefit.

How Much Can I Expect to Earn?

According to the BLS, the median yearly salary for urban and regional planners was $68,220 as of May 2015. The BLS also noted that in 2015, urban and regional planners employed by the federal government earned an average income of $93,970 per year, and those working in the electric power industry made $78,890 per year on average.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Architects and civil engineers are professionals who may work closely with city planners, and they have some aspects of their work that are similar. Architects and civil engineers need a bachelor's degree to prepare for their careers. Architects develop building design plans, while civil engineers develop plans for roads, dams, bridges and other structures. Like city planners, architects and civil engineers should be familiar with building code regulations and environmental factors that need to be considered in their design plans. They must also consider safety factors when developing their proposals.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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