Career and Job Search Guide

Urban Regional Planner

Urban Regional Planner Urban and regional planners are responsible for developing short- and long-term plans for to support the growth and revitalization of urban, suburban, and rural communities and for district where they are located. Urban and regional planners help local officials address economic, social, and environmental problems and concerns by recommending locations for the development of schools, roads, and other important infrastructure and developing zoning regulations for private property. In performing their duties planners are required to forecast the future needs of the entire population within and surrounding the area where they are locateed. Urban and regional planners are frequently referred to as community or city planners.

Planners are also responsible for recommending the best use of a community's land and resources for commercial, residential, institutional, and recreational purposes. They must address environmental, social health, and economic issues of a community as its population grows and evolves. Planners may develop plans to support the construction of new public housing, schools, or other types of community infrastructure. Occationally planners also in the decision making process relating to the development of resources and conservation of ecologically sensitive regions. Some planners are involved in community related environmental issues including wetland preservation, pollution control, forest conservation, and the determining where to locate new landfills. Planners also may help law makers develop legislation on social, environmental, and economic issues, such as sheltering the homeless, planning a new park, or developing a region so that it will be more attractive to businesses.

In order prepare plans for community development projects, planners have to research and report the current use of land for business, residential, and community purposes. The reports they prepare typically will include information on the location and capacity of highways, streets, airports, sewer and water lines, libraries, schools, and recreational and cultural sites. Planners also responsible for producign data and providing reports on the types of industries in a community, population characteristics, demographics and economic and employment trends. Using the information they're able to find, along with input from citizens, planners make every effort to maximize the use of land for the development buildings and other public facilities and infrastructure. Finally, urban and regional planners prepare reports to demonstrate how their programs can be carried out and what they will cost to implement.

It is not uncommon for urban and regional planners to work with civic leaders, land developers, and public officials and at times are required to serve as mediators in community disputes, presenting alternatives that are acceptable to parties involved in the dispute. Planners may also be involved with community relations programs, present at civic meetings, and appear before legislative committees to explain their proposals.

Education and Training

The majority of entry-level urban and regional planner jobs in Federal, State, and local governments require a master's degree from an accredited college providing programs in urban or regional planning or a related field, such as environmental planning, urban design, or geography. Students can be admitted to master's degree programs in urban and regional planning having earned a bachelor's degree in wide range of disciplines, such as economics, political science, geography, or environmental design. Several schools offer a bachelor's degree in urban planning, and student show graduate from these bachelor degree programs qualify for some entry-level positions, but their career advancement opportunities are often limited unless they go on to earn an advanced degree.

Most college and university planning departments offer degree specializations in areas such as land-use or code enforcement, community development and redevelopment, urban design, transportation planning, environmental and natural resources planning, and economic planning and development.

Taking courses in related disciplines, including architecture, earth sciences, law, demography, geography, finance, economics, health administration, and business management is also highly recommended. And since familiarity with statistical techniques and computer models is important, courses in computer science, statistics, and GIS are also recommended.


Median annual wages of urban and regional planners was approximately $60,000 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $48,000 and $76,000 a year. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $38,000 a year, and the highest 10 percent of urban and regional planners earned in excess than $91,000 annually. Median annual wages in the industries employing the largest numbers of urban and regional planners in May 2008 were:
  • Architectural, engineering, and related services $63,770
  • Scientific research and development services 60,750
  • Management, scientific, and technical consulting services 59,160
  • Local government 58,260
  • Colleges, universities, and professional schools 57,520