Environmental Designer: Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become an environmental designer. Learn about job duties, education requirements, salary, and licensure requirements to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Building Information Modeling degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Environmental Designer?

Environmental designers, sometimes referred to as urban planners, determine the best use of land and prepare it for the future. They do this by researching zoning laws and related restrictions pertaining to the land. They are then in charge of ensuring the plans fit within those restrictions, as well as investigating certain aspects of the area to ensure that the business being built will be successful. After gathering all this information, they suggest whether to approve or deny a building proposal. The following chart provides an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Degree Required Master's degree is common; some positions only require a bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Environmental Design, Urban or Regional Planning
Key Responsibilities Analyzing current trends, land use planning, proposing solutions for environmental sustainability
Licensure/Certification Licensure usually not required; voluntary certification by the AICP available
Job Growth (2014-2024) 6% (for all urban and regional planners)*
Average Salary (2015) $70,680 (for all urban and regional planners)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Job Duties Will I Have?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the bulk of environmental designers and urban planners are employed by local governments. Day-to-day duties will vary because environmental design involves multiple areas of focus, including the management of natural resources and land, environmental policy concerns and community development. However, most planners work in the field to observe potential work sites and meet with community members. Your specific responsibilities could also include:

  • Analyzing and reporting on current trends
  • Making decisions on prospective sections of land
  • Recommending placement of new buildings
  • Developing new transportation networks
  • Proposing solutions for environmental sustainability

What Education Do I Need?

In order to become an environmental designer, you'll need a bachelor's degree from a Planning Accreditation Board-accredited program. However, obtaining a master's degree will open the door to advancement and higher-level career opportunities. Several U.S. colleges and universities offer accredited degree programs in environmental design, urban planning or landscape architecture, and many offer concentrations in community development, the environment, housing and transportation.

You may also pursue certification through the American Institute of Certified Planners once you have completed the necessary education and professional work experience. Additionally, the BLS reported that in 2009, New Jersey was the only state requiring licensure for planners, but Michigan requires special registration for those holding the title of 'community planner.'

How Much Could I Earn?

Compensation for environmental designers and urban planners can depend on industry and location. The BLS reported that the average yearly salary of all urban and regional planners in May 2015 was $70,680. However, additional schooling and certification could provide more room for growth and wage increases. Additionally, the BLS predicted a 6% rise in employment opportunities for all urban and regional planners from 2014 to 2024, which is about average compared to all occupations.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Other occupations that are in the field of urban planning may not require a master's degree, such as civil engineering, landscape architecture, or cartography, which all only require a bachelor's degree. Civil engineers are responsible for creating, building, and maintaining public and private infrastructure from roads and bridges to airports and buildings. Landscape architects focus on outdoor areas and public spaces, such as designing and building recreational parks, or certain areas of campuses. Cartographers are in charge of organizing and analyzing various aspects of geographical data for the purpose of making or updating maps.

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