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Urban Planning Certification and Training

Urban planners need a bachelor's degree for entry-level assistant work, though a master's degree is the standard requirement. Read on for information on what you can learn in an urban planning degree program, professional credentials and employment prospects.

What Type of Training Do I Need to Work in Urban Planning?

Urban planners are professionals that help develop communities and city spaces, taking into account social and economic factors, land use policies and environmental issues. They also consider the future needs of the area population and come up with locations for schools, roads and other structures. Urban planners are sometimes referred to as city or community planners.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most urban planners have a master's degree accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board (www.bls.gov). As of 2016, 71 accredited master's degree programs were offered in planning, whereas only 15 accredited bachelor's programs were available. The BLS notes that a bachelor's degree may be sufficient for gaining entry-level planning positions, but that advancement can be difficult without work experience.

Field Overview The use of social and economic factors, as well as policies and environmental issues, to develop city spaces; typically requires a master's degree
Common Topics Factors that affect city planning, history and theory of planning, planning analysis, spatial patterns, planning law
Licensure Requirements (2016)Only New Jersey requires licensure
Job Outlook (2014-2024)13% growth (urban and regional planners)
Median Annual Salary (2018)$73,050 (urban and regional planners)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will I Learn in a Master's Degree Program?

A variety of accredited urban planning master's degree programs are available, including degrees in urban and regional planning, urban planning and policy, and city and regional planning. Regardless of the title, these programs generally share similar curriculum. Your core courses will focus on the economic, social and political factors that affect city planning. You'll take courses in the history and theory of planning, planning analysis, planning law and spatial patterns.

Most master's degree programs in urban planning require you to select a concentration, which might focus on community development, transportation, housing and real estate, international development or environmental planning. Joint degree programs are also available that allow you to pursue a master's degree in urban planning, while also earning a degree in law, social work, health management and policy or civil and environmental engineering.

What About Licensing and Certification?

As of 2016, only one state regulates the field of urban and regional planning, according to the BLS. New Jersey requires its planners to gain licensure. This credential is based on the passing of examinations.

According to the BLS, urban planners with the right combination of work experience and education can seek certification through the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP), a division of the American Planning Association. They will be required to pass an exam, and maintaining certification involves additional requirements.

How Much Can I Earn?

Urban planners are employed by local governments and in the private sector. They may work for engineering or architecture firms, or as consultants. The BLS notes that employment in urban and regional planning is expected to grow at an average rate of 13% between 2016 and 2026. Factors that affect employment growth include population growth, the economy and environmental concerns, according to the BLS. In 2018, the median annual salary for urban and regional planners was $73,050, also per the BLS.