Environmental Planner: Career and Salary Facts

Explore the career requirements for environmental planners. Get the facts about job duties, training requirements and salary potential to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Land Use Planning degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Environmental Planner?

Environmental planners screen environmental resources to diminish health hazards and maximize safety. Their duties sometimes overlap with those of environmental engineers, such as communicating the prognoses of the of the environment and creating projects to remedy these effects. They are also responsible for assessing whether or not certain areas are in need of such restorative measures. Check out the chart below for a glimpse of the requirements necessary for a career in this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree, master's degree for some positions
Education Field of Study Environmental planning, urban planning, environmental engineering
Key Responsibilities Analyzing natural resources to determine environmental risk, creating plans and budgets for addressing environmental risks discovered
Licensure and/or Certification Planning certification available from the AICP
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 6%* (all urban and regional planners)
Median Salary (2015) $52,847** (environmental planners)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

What Will I Do as an Environmental Planner?

As an environmental planner, you'll likely test and analyze various natural resources to determine any environmental risk. Then you'll develop plans to diminish, improve or eliminate any environmental risks found in your analysis. You may also create budgets or develop schedules for the execution of these projects. Some environmental planners oversee the physical work that goes into putting environmental improvement plans into motion.

Your areas of focus will depend on where you work, but may include drinking water, soil, garbage dumps, wastewater facilities, sewers and landfills. You may also use remote sensing devices like Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to scan for potential environmental hazards underground or in other hard-to-detect areas.

Where Can I Work?

As an environmental planner, you may work either for a private company or for a municipality. In the private sector, you may find employment with an engineering or architectural firm where you might consult on environmental projects. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), government agencies are the most common employer of environmental planners (www.bls.gov). In these positions, you'll monitor and plan environmental improvements and ensure that any new building projects conform to environmental regulations. While much of your work may be done in an office, duties like site inspections require you to be outdoors.

What Training and Credentials Do I Need?

The BLS states that a bachelor's degree in engineering, environmental engineering or civil engineering is usually required for entry-level environmental engineering jobs, which can include both environmental planning and related fields like design. Urban and regional planners working with governmental agencies generally require a master's degree. Whether or not you'll need state licensure depends on whether or not you're an environmental planner or environmental engineer. The BLS reports that all states require licensure for engineers whose duties affect public health; it also classifies planning as one of an environmental engineer's job duties.

Licensure regulations vary depending on state, but you'll typically need a combination of education and experience before taking an environmental engineering proficiency exam. The bureau notes that most states don't require licensure for urban and regional planners. The American Institute of Certified Planners offers a voluntary credential as a Certified Environmental Planner.

How Much Can I Earn?

As of October 2016, PayScale.com reported that the median salary for environmental planners was $52,847. According to the BLS, urban and regional planners in general earned a median salary of $68,220 as of May 2015.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you are interested in a career in a similar field, you could consider being a geographer, cartographer or photogrammetrist, which only require a bachelor's degree. As a geographer, you would study data related to the physical aspects of the land, as well as population and trends in living and politics, such as effects on the economy in particular regions or health. As a cartographer, you would utilize data to make visual depictions of the land or an aspect of the Earth, and would create or update maps. As a photogrammetrist, you would be responsible for organizing satellite photos to analyze data and create topographic information to contribute to maps.

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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