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Urban and Regional Planner Job Description, Career as an Urban and Regional Planner, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training Advanced degree

Salary Median—$53,450 per year

Employment Outlook Very good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Urban and regional planners determine the best uses of land and resources for homes, businesses, and recreation. They devise ways to renovate slums, expand cities, modernize transportation systems, and distribute public facilities such as schools and parks. They also find ways to attract industries to communities to create jobs. Urban planners design new communities and develop programs to revitalize and expand existing cities. Regional planners work on a much larger scale, studying the problems of states, multistate regions, and sometimes entire countries.

Planning generally begins with requests from city or state officials to develop new communities or renovate areas that are run down. Planners gather information about the economic and social climate, projected population growth or decline, and plans for industrial development. To get a cross section of public opinion, they meet with community groups, government agencies, and labor and business organizations. Future needs get as much attention as current problems. An expected increase in an area's population, for instance, will create a need for more electrical power. Planners determine how the necessary power can be generated without creating pollution or otherwise injuring the area.

Once the data are collected and studied, planners draw up proposals and submit them to planning commissions or other government officials. If the plans get approved, construction or renovation begins. Planners usually supervise the work through to completion. Projects may take many years to complete.

Most planners work for city, county, state, federal, or regional agencies. Some work for large construction companies and architectural firms. Others work as consultants or hold teaching or research positions. Planners also work for international organizations that plan projects in developing nations.

Education and Training Requirements

Most entry-level jobs in federal, state, and local government agencies require master's degrees in urban or regional planning. Some employers may consider applicants who studied related subjects, such as urban design and landscape architecture,

Urban planners design new communities and develop programs for improving cities. Regional planners do the same type of work on a much larger scale for states, regions, or even entire countries. (© Martha Tabor/Working Images Photographs. Reproduced by permission.)

or have equivalent work experience. Courses in architecture, public administration, landscape architecture, civil engineering, political science, economics, and geography offer good preparation.

With bachelor's degrees in architecture or engineering, students can usually earn master's degrees in one year. Many programs take two to three years to complete. Graduate students usually do part-time fieldwork in an office or agency, which may lead to job contacts for the future.

Getting the Job

Job seekers can apply directly to city, state, or federal agencies, which employ most urban and regional planners. They can also apply directly to private and international organizations and corporations. Applicants for government jobs must pass civil service tests and meet the necessary educational and experience requirements. School placement offices, state employment services, private employment agencies, professional associations and journals, newspaper classified ads, and job banks on the Internet are all sources of employment leads.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Recent graduates expand their skills on the job. Generally, they begin by working on small projects under the supervision of experienced workers. After several years of work, they can advance to project-director positions. Some choose to take on more challenging projects that offer them greater responsibility.

The job outlook for urban and regional planners is very good, with employment expected to grow faster than the average for all jobs through 2014. Because of budget constraints, state and local governments want to regulate housing, land use, and transportation as effectively and efficiently as possible. They have learned to hire the best planners to help them make decisions. Openings in private industry may grow more rapidly than those in government because they have different budgetary considerations. Opportunities will be best in more affluent, rapidly growing communities.

Working Conditions

Urban and regional planning can be highly rewarding work. Planners find satisfaction not only in knowing that they help others but also in seeing projects through from conception to physical reality. There are, however, some disadvantages. Lack of funds or disapproval from government officials can be discouraging. Planners must be able to handle detail as well as have the tenacity to advocate their ideas until problems are solved.

Planners work both indoors and outdoors. They generally work thirty-five to forty hours a week, although those in positions of greater responsibility may work many more hours. Consulting planners set their own hours.

Where to Go for More Information

American Planning Association
122 S. Michigan Ave., Ste. 1600
Chicago, IL 60603-6107
(312) 431-9100

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
451 Seventh St. SW
Washington, DC 20410
(202) 708-1112

Earnings and Benefits

Salaries vary widely with education, experience, and location. In 2004 the median salary of urban and regional planners was $53,450 per year. Consultants are paid by the hour according to their experience and reputation. Benefits generally include paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, and pension plans. Consultants have to arrange their own benefits.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesLaw and Public Service