What Careers are Available with a Master’s Degree in Urban Planning?

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urban planningIf you're considering careers with a master's in urban planning, the primary role that this degree will prepare you for is as an urban and regional planner. Read on to learn more about the day-to-day activities involved in a career in urban planning, as well as the salary, education and experience, and job outlook for this role.

What Do Urban and Regional Planners Do?

Approximately two-thirds of urban and regional planners work for local governments, with the goal of developing plans and programs for the use of public land. This planning process involves meeting with city and local officials, as well as residents, to determine community needs. Planners analyze studies, reports, and data; review site plans and proposals; present projects to stakeholder groups; manage ongoing projects; and maintain adherence to relevant zoning codes and other laws. Some planners specialize in key areas, such as land use and development, code enforcement, traffic and transportation, environment and natural resources, economic development, and urban design. While this role is typically full time, some evening and weekend work may be required in order to meet construction deadlines and work effectively with community and resident groups; some travel may also be required.

How Do You Become an Urban Planner?

To become an urban and regional planner, you'll need a master's degree in urban planning from an accredited program. The first step in this process is to first earn a bachelor's degree in a related field; many who go on to graduate study in urban planning have an undergraduate background in economics, geography, history, political science, or environmental design. In addition to educational requirements, urban planning jobs often require one to two years of work experience, which is often met through internships and work study as part of the master's curriculum. In most states, urban planners do not need to be licensed, though voluntary certification is available through the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP). Urban planners must have keen analytical and decision making skills, as they are charged with making plans that have a large impact on community life and finances. Communications, management, and writing skills are also critical to this role.

How Much Do Urban Planners Earn, and What Is the Job Outlook for this Role?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, urban and regional planners earn an average annual salary of $65,230. The highest paid jobs can be found in architectural and engineering services, followed by management and consulting, state government, and local government. Growth for this role is expected to be around 10 percent between now and 2022, with an estimated 4,000 new urban planning jobs projected. This increase will largely be driven by increased population growth.

If you are looking for a career that combines analytical and organizational skills while helping communities, urban planning is worth considering. Visiting local master's programs and shadowing urban planners in your community are both great ways to find out if this career is right for you.