How to Become an Urban Planner

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Urban planning is an essential field that designates land use for a variety of construction projects. Urban planners are highly trained and skilled professionals that develop plans for land use and the growth and renovation of a variety of communities.


Hey, I'm Joshua T. Osborne

In 2015, I said goodbye to 16-hour days and hauling boxes up and down stairs for a living (I was a mover). I became a full-time entrepreneur, and I made my money by helping business owners make money.

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What does an urban planner do?

Urban planners create long and short term plans to help solve economic, social, and environment issues. They suggest locations for roads, schools, buildings, and other structures and recommend zoning regulations. They predict the future needs of the residents to make decisions regarding the best use of the land and resources. They create plans for new construction and assist in the development of resources by studying the current use of land. They also gather data on the types of industries currently in the community, employment and economic trends, and population traits. Some urban planners help with the location of new landfills, pollution control, forest conservation, and wetland preservation. Others help with planning new parks and making the area more attractive to new businesses.

What kind of training does an urban planner need?

Urban planners need at least a bachelor degree, but most employers prefer applicants with a master degree in urban planning or related field. Students typically complete courses in architecture, economics, finance, law, demography, management, health administration, and various courses in planning. Some programs require students to work part time in planning offices. Many urban planners specialize in a specific area such as land use or code enforcement, community development and redevelopment, transportation planning, urban design, environmental and natural resources planning, and economic planning and development. Many also gain voluntary certification to remain competitive in the field.

What are the prospects for a career as an urban planner?

Employment of urban planners is expected to grow faster than average for all professions, increasing 15% from 2006 to 2016 (1). The growing population and increased need for public services will drive job growth.

Job prospects are expected to be good especially for urban planners with advanced education and strong computer skills. Many job openings will also arise from the need to replace urban planners that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do urban planners make?

As of November 2009, the middle 50% of urban planners earn annual salaries between $38,883 and $46,961. The top 10% earn annual salaries of more than $52,210 (2).

A career as an urban planner is an excellent choice for individuals with a strong interest in planning land use activities for large urban areas. Urban planners must have excellent judgment and be able to visualize their designs and plans. They must be flexible and be able to consider many different viewpoints to make the best recommendations. They must also have excellent communication and be able to effectively work independently as well as part of a team. Urban planners must able to work under stress and pressure to meet strict deadlines.

Joshua T Osborne

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