How Can I Become a Transportation Planner?

Research what it takes to become a transportation planner. Learn about job duties, education requirements, job outlook and salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Logistics & Transportation Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Transportation Planner Do?

A transportation planner is an urban or regional planner who specializes in the creation of efficient transportation systems. For instance, depending on the needs of the area, they may plan out roads, footpaths, bike paths or public bus systems. Prior to a project, they meet with government officials and the public to get an idea of the community's needs, as well as local land use regulations. From there, they design and model potential solutions based on current transportation patterns and future expectations. Once the plan has been approved by the community, transportation planners assist with its implementation.

Look at the chart below for a quick overview of this profession.

Degree Required Master's degree
Education Field of Study Urban planning, geography
Key Responsibilities Design and create public and private transportation systems, assess transportation needs of a designated area
Certification Required Certification is required in New Jersey; optional in all other states
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 Is Transportation Planning?

Transportation planning involves the design, location, implementation and maintenance of public and private transportation facilities. The list includes roads, streets, highways, freeways, footpaths and bike paths. The public transportation category includes bus, train, and subway lines. The goal of transportation planning is to create a smooth system for the movement of vehicular and public networks. As a professional transportation planner, you will find divergent positions available to you in the transportation industry.

What Education Do I Need?

If you have earned a high school diploma, the common way to eventually become a transportation planner is to enroll in bachelor's degree program in urban planning. Within many of these programs, you may choose to focus on transportation design. In addition to transportation planning, you'll take courses in community development, land use planning and quantitative planning techniques. If you want to continue your education beyond a bachelor's, you might consider enrolling in a graduate school program in urban design, transportation planning or a related field.

How Can I Get Certified?

If you want to increase your desirability with potential employers and further your education, the American Planning Association (APA) offers an official transportation planning certification program (www.apa-tpd.org). In order to become certified by the APA, you must join the APA, prove that you meet their minimum requirements for education, training and experience, and pass a written exam. In order to ensure that you continue your education and professional development, you may also be a part of the APA's Certification Maintenance program. An Advanced Specialty Certification program is also available from the APA, allowing you to focus on your chosen area of transportation design expertise.

What Is the Job Market Like?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected an increase of 6% in the number of urban and regional planner positions between 2014 and 2024. In May 2015, the BLS stated that the median annual wage for all urban and regional planners was $68,220.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

As an urban and regional planner, you could specialize in a different type of planning. For instance, as an urban design planner, you would design buildings, roads and community areas in cities in order to maximize functionality, while also addressing aesthetic concerns. Another option is a job as an environmental planner in which you would try to find ways to mitigate environmental damage caused by development projects. For any kind of planning job, you need to have a master's degree.

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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