A safe and pleasant place for residents to live doesn’t just happen. Building a city that runs effectively and efficiently takes careful planning. Urban planners are a special type of professional who help design and implement programs that improve daily life for everyone in their communities. Urban planning is a diverse, fast-paced career. Some planners specialize in areas such as transportation, land use, housing, community development, or environmental design. But, many planners have jobs that combine all of these areas. A typical workday for an urban planner might involve meeting with engineers and architects to discuss building projects, analyzing demographic and economic data, writing reports that propose new ways to address problems related to growth, and then presenting proposals to elected officials, residents and local businesses.
Don’t let the word “urban” fool you. In addition to working for cities, planners also work for suburban towns, rural areas, and for county governments. Other planners work for real estate, law, and consulting firms, or for non-profit organizations. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are over 38,000 Urban and Regional Planners in the U.S. Planning is an ideal career for students who have strong interests in politics, economics, and social justice because planners can make a real difference in all three areas. Students thinking about a career in urban planning should also enjoy developing solutions to complex problems, analyzing data, and working with others.
What education do you need to become an urban planner? At present, fifteen colleges offer undergraduate majors in Urban and Regional Planning that have been accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board (PAB). These pre-professional programs qualify graduates to work as junior or assistant Planners. However, since a Master’s is required for many planning jobs, you can also major in other subjects. Popular undergraduate majors for applicants to Planning Master’s programs include Urban Studies, Political Science, Economics, and Environmental Studies. There are currently over 70 Master’s Programs in Urban and Regional Planning with PAB-accreditation. Some universities with accredited programs offer combined degrees that allow students to complete both a Bachelor’s and Master’s in an accelerated time frame. Many Planners also choose to earn a professional certificate from the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) to add to their credentials.
Want to learn more? The American Planning Association offers a guide to Planning careers at https://www.planning.org/choosingplanning/. The Association of Colleges and Schools of Planning (ACSP) offers a searchable database of accredited programs in Urban and Regional Planning at http://www.acsp.org/.