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Regional Planner: Salary and Career Facts

With a career in regional planning, you would be involved in decisions that affect land use. Read on to learn about degree programs that can prepare you to become a regional planner, as well as job duties, certification options and earning potential for this career.

What Is a Regional Planner?

Regional planners determine the best way to develop land in order to accommodate factors like population growth, land use regulations, environmental regulations and historic buildings or sites. They consider the needs of the community including roads, infrastructure and residential neighborhoods. Regional planners will meet with city officials and others involved in the proposal design to determine the best course of action to accommodate the community needs while adhering to all regulations. They have to consider the short-term needs of the community, as well as the long-term needs.

Below is a chart with more information about this career.

Degree Required Master's degree
Key Skills Collecting and analyzing data; performing field investigations; presenting projects to community; staying current on codes and regulations
Key Responsibilities Understanding community structure and concerns; working with local officials; drafting proposals
Licensure or Certification AICP certification recommended
Job Growth (2018-2028) 11% growth (urban and regional planners)*
Median Salary (2018) $73,050 (urban and regional planners)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Degrees in Regional Planning Are Available?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that to get an entry-level job as a regional planner a master's degree is typically required, though some colleges do offer bachelor's degrees in urban and regional planning (www.bls.gov). At the graduate level, there are two common degree options, the Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) and the Master of City and Regional Planning (MCRP). Both options usually take two years to complete.

In the MURP program, you can choose between environmental planning or urban revitalization and public planning. Some schools offer accelerated master's degree programs for individuals with bachelor's degrees in planning, which can be completed in one year.

In this degree program you may take classes in planning law, where you would analyze land use law in public and private development. Other common classes include geographic information systems (GIS) in urban and regional planning, and an overview of the types of planning, including a look at the participants in the planning process. You may be required to complete an internship or thesis project.

The MCRP includes the study of land use and site planning, research and methods in planning and planning theory. You may be required to complete lab-style classes throughout the 2-year program to increase your technical skills. Other common classes include experiential learning or an internship. You may choose an area of emphasis in this program. Some choices include community development, transportation and land use, sustainable land use and environmental planning. You will have the option to complete a thesis, take a comprehensive exam or complete a terminal project that explores a specific topic in the field of planning.

What Might My Duties Be?

The Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) notes that the field of regional planning includes professionals involved in land use, economic development, transportation and environmental planning (www.acsp.org). Your duties may vary, depending on your specialty.

As a regional planner, you would work on issues of land use, environmental concerns, designing communities and developing economic opportunities. You would be involved in developing long and short-term guides for a community's growth, working with elected and appointed leaders and members of the public to ensure that everyone has a say in the potential plans for their community. The BLS states that other duties a planner may have include work on legislation on issues concerning the economy and the environment.

How Much Can I Earn?

According to the BLS, the field of urban and regional planning is expected to grow by 11% from 2018-2028, and if you have a master's degree it may prove easier to find a job than if you just have a bachelor's degree. The BLS states that there were 37,840 individuals working as planners in 2018. The online salary database Payscale.com reported in December 2019 that urban and regional planners earned an annual median salary of $56,417.

Is Professional Certification Required?

Certification is not required, although it could be an advantage when you are looking for advancement, according to the BLS. The American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP), the professional institute of the American Planning Association (APA), offers twice-yearly testing for certification, as well as specialty certifications in transportation and environmental planning (www.planning.org).

To take the AICP certification exam, you must have either a bachelor's or master's degree in planning or another subject and between 2-4 years of work experience. Or, if you have no college degree, you may be able to take the exam if you have eight or more years of work experience, according to the AICP. You must also be a member of the American Planning Association (APA).

According to AICP, you must have eight years experience in transportation planning and be a member of the APA to earn specialty certification in transportation planning. The requirement to become a certified environmental planner is similar; eight years of experience in environmental planning. To maintain AICP certification, a planner must complete 32 hours of continuing education credits every two years.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Architects, landscape architects and civil engineers are all professionals that regional planners may work with, and there are aspects of their careers that are similar. Architects develop plans for buildings, which include residential housing and commercial properties. When a regional planner is determining how a new community will be developed they may consider plans made by architects. Landscape architects develop designs for outdoor spaces; in the event that a regional planner is working on proposals for community parks they may work with landscape architects to determine the best use of available space. Regional planners may also work with civil engineers, because they design highways, roads, bridges and other structures that may be incorporated as part of a development plan. Architects, landscape architects and civil engineers all need to be aware of environmental regulations and land use regulations, and they all need to have a bachelor's degree.