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Strategic Planner

Education and Training: Master’s degree preferred
Average Salary: $59,800
Job Outlook: Good

A strategic planner, also known as an urban planner, can often be employed by a local government or an architectural firm. These people are in high demand, as cities look for ways to revitalize, especially downtown areas, and to use their land for the best possible purposes. Strategic planners work to allot community resources, particularly land, to be used for different purposes, including new subdivisions and other housing options, new businesses, and new areas for people to relax and enjoy themselves.

Strategic planners help with long-term community goals by looking at what already exists and what needs to happen to help a community reach its goals. They understand reports on street and highway capacity, water and sewer lines, existing community properties like schools and libraries, existing parks and housing areas, available airports in the area, demographic data, and economic and employment trends. Taking all this together, a strategic planner will help a community come up with a strategy for utilizing its resources well so that it can grow in better ways in the future.

Education and Training Requirements

Even entry-level jobs in strategic planning require a Master’s degree in planning-related fields, including environmental planning, geography, or urban design. Undergraduate students can take classes in political science, environmental design, economics, geography, architecture, and a wide variety of other areas to prepare for graduate level work and eventual strategic planning positions.

The American Institute of Certified Planners offers certification that can make future strategic planners more competitive in the job market or help current planners understand their jobs even more. Some training is done on the job, as beginning strategic planners often work with those who are more experienced and start by planning smaller projects.

Getting the Job

The majority of strategic planners work for local and regional government organizations and should apply directly to these organizations after getting a master’s degree. While getting an education, strategic planners could benefit from internship experience, which will set them apart from the crowd when job searching later on.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development

The demand for strategic planners in urban and regional environments is expected to grow at a faster than average rate, though competition for these jobs may be keen.

As they gain experience, strategic planners may move up to more advanced planning projects that involve more independent thinking or larger budgets. Often, planners move into other related jobs, like economic development or community director.

Working Conditions and Environment

The job of an urban strategic planner can be a somewhat stressful one, since this is usually a deadline-based job and since there is often political pressure from different parties to make certain decisions. Most planners work during the regular work week, but also go to meetings with citizen’s groups or locals during the evenings and weekends.

This job often involves travel within a limited community area, since much of the decision making takes place on site. Most planners have an office where they keep records and may use computer programs, such as GIS, to create their plans.

Salary and Benefits

The average income for strategic planners is $59,800, though they can earn anywhere from $37,000 to $91,000 per year. Most are employed by local governments and make close to this average salary, but the average salary for those employed by architectural and engineering services is a bit higher – around $63,700 per year.

These full time jobs typically come with health and paid time off benefits.

Where to Go for More Information

American Planning Association
205 N Michigan Ave., Ste. 1200
Chicago, IL 60601
(312) 431-9100

Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning
6311 Mallard Trace
Tallahassee, FL 32312
(850) 385-2054

International Society of City and Regional Planners
PO Box 983
2501 CZ The Hague
The Netherlands
+(31-70) 346-2654

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