Bureau of Labor Statistics

Urban and Regional Planners

urban and regional planners image
Urban and regional planners often present projects to communities and planning officials.
Quick Facts: Urban and Regional Planners
2020 Median Pay $75,950 per year
$36.52 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Master's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2020 39,100
Job Outlook, 2020-30 7% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2020-30 2,700

Summary

What Urban and Regional Planners Do

Urban and regional planners develop land use plans and programs that help create communities, accommodate population growth, and revitalize physical facilities.

Work Environment

Most urban and regional planners work full time during normal business hours, and some may work evenings or weekends to attend meetings with officials, planning commissions, and neighborhood groups.

How to Become an Urban or Regional Planner

Urban and regional planners need a master’s degree from an accredited planning program to qualify for most positions.

Pay

The median annual wage for urban and regional planners was $75,950 in May 2020.

Job Outlook

Employment of urban and regional planners is projected to grow 7 percent from 2020 to 2030, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 3,700 openings for urban and regional planners are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for urban and regional planners.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of urban and regional planners with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about urban and regional planners by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Urban and Regional Planners Do

Urban and regional planners
Urban and regional planners review site plans submitted by developers.

Urban and regional planners develop land use plans and programs that help create communities, accommodate population growth, and revitalize physical facilities in towns, cities, counties, and metropolitan areas.

Duties

Urban and regional planners typically do the following:

  • Meet with public officials, developers, and the public regarding development plans and land use
  • Administer government plans or policies affecting land use
  • Gather and analyze data from market research, censuses, and economic and environmental studies
  • Conduct field investigations to analyze factors affecting community development and decline, including land use
  • Review site plans submitted by developers
  • Assess the feasibility of proposals and identify needed changes
  • Recommend whether proposals should be approved or denied
  • Present projects to communities, planning officials, and planning commissions
  • Stay current on zoning and building codes, environmental regulations, and other legal issues

Urban and regional planners identify community needs and develop short- and long-term solutions to improve and revitalize communities and areas. As an area grows or changes, planners help communities manage the related economic, social, and environmental issues, such as planning new parks, sheltering the homeless, and making the region more attractive to businesses.

When beginning a project, planners often work with public officials, community members, and other groups to identify community issues and goals. Through research, data analysis, and collaboration with interest groups, they formulate strategies to address issues and to meet goals. Planners may also help carry out community plans by overseeing projects, enforcing zoning regulations, and organizing the work of the groups involved.

Urban and regional planners use a variety of tools and technology in their work. They commonly use statistical software, data visualization and presentation programs, financial spreadsheets, and other database and software programs. Geographic Information System (GIS) software is used to integrate data, such as for population density, with digital maps.

Urban and regional planners may specialize in areas such as transportation planning, community development, historic preservation, or urban design, among other fields of interest.

Planners often collaborate with public officials, civil engineers, environmental engineers, architects, lawyers, and real estate developers.

Work Environment

Urban and regional planners
Urban and regional planners may travel to development sites.

Urban and regional planners held about 39,100 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of urban and regional planners were as follows:

Local government, excluding education and hospitals 70%
Architectural, engineering, and related services 11
Management, scientific, and technical consulting services 3
Federal government 2

Planners work throughout the country, but most work in large metropolitan areas.

Urban and regional planners may travel to inspect proposed changes and their impacts on land conditions, the environment, and land use.

Work Schedules

Most urban and regional planners work full time during normal business hours, and some may work evenings or weekends to attend meetings with officials, planning commissions, and neighborhood groups. Some planners work more than 40 hours per week.

How to Become an Urban or Regional Planner

Urban and regional planners
Urban and regional planners must be effective communicators when they meet with public officials, developers, and the public regarding development plans and land use.

Urban and regional planners need a master’s degree from an accredited planning program to qualify for most positions.

Education

Urban and regional planners typically need a master's degree from an urban or regional planning program accredited by an organization such as the Planning Accreditation Board (PAB). Master's degree programs accept students with a wide range of undergraduate backgrounds, including economics, geography, political science, or a related field, such as architecture.

Most master’s programs have students spending considerable time in seminars, workshops, and laboratory courses, in which they learn to analyze and solve planning problems. Although most master’s programs have a similar core curriculum, there is some variability in the courses they offer and the issues they focus on. For example, programs located in agricultural states may focus on rural planning, and programs located in larger cities may focus on urban revitalization.

Bachelor’s degree holders may qualify for jobs as assistant or junior planners.

Other Experience

Although not necessary for all positions, some entry-level positions require 1 to 2 years of work experience in a related field, such as architecture, public policy, or economic development. Many students gain experience through real planning projects or part-time internships while enrolled in a master’s planning program. Others enroll in full-time internships after completing their degree.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

As of 2016, New Jersey was the only state that required urban and regional planners to be licensed. More information is available from the regulatory board of New Jersey.

The American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) offers the AICP certification for planners. To become certified, candidates must meet certain education and experience requirements and pass an exam.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Urban and regional planners analyze information and data from a variety of sources, such as market research studies, censuses, and environmental impact studies. They use statistical techniques and technologies such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in their analyses to determine the significance of the data.

Communication skills. Urban and regional planners must be able to communicate clearly and effectively because they interact with colleagues and stakeholders, prepare research reports, give presentations, and meet with a wide variety of audiences, including public officials, interest groups, and community members.

Decisionmaking skills. Urban and regional planners must weigh all possible planning options and combine analysis, creativity, and realism to choose the appropriate action or plan.

Leadership skills. Urban and regional planners must be able to manage projects, which may include overseeing tasks and planning assignments.

Pay

Urban and Regional Planners

Median annual wages, May 2020

Social scientists and related workers

$82,280

Urban and regional planners

$75,950

Total, all occupations

$41,950

 

The median annual wage for urban and regional planners was $75,950 in May 2020. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $46,830, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $118,280.

In May 2020, the median annual wages for urban and regional planners in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Federal government $102,390
Architectural, engineering, and related services 81,110
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 74,530
Management, scientific, and technical consulting services 69,100

Most urban and regional planners work full time during normal business hours, and some may work evenings or weekends to attend meetings with officials, planning commissions, and neighborhood groups. Some planners work more than 40 hours per week.

Job Outlook

Urban and Regional Planners

Percent change in employment, projected 2020-30

Total, all occupations

8%

Urban and regional planners

7%

Social scientists and related workers

7%

 

Employment of urban and regional planners is projected to grow 7 percent from 2020 to 2030, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 3,700 openings for urban and regional planners are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Demographic, transportation, and environmental changes will drive employment growth for planners.

Within cities, urban planners will be needed to develop revitalization projects and address issues associated with population growth, environmental degradation, the movement of people and goods, and resource scarcity. Similarly, suburban areas and municipalities will need planners to address the challenges associated with population changes, including housing needs and transportation systems covering larger areas with less population density.

Planners will also be needed as new and existing communities require extensive development and improved infrastructure, including housing, roads, sewer systems, parks, and schools.

However, federal, state, and local government budgets may affect the employment of planners in government, because development projects are contingent on available funds.

Employment projections data for urban and regional planners, 2020-30

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Occupational Title

Urban and regional planners

SOC Code19-3051
Employment, 202039,100
Projected Employment, 203041,800
Percent Change, 2020-307
Numeric Change, 2020-302,700
Employment by IndustryGet data

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of urban and regional planners.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2020 MEDIAN PAY
Architects Architects

Architects plan and design houses, factories, office buildings, and other structures.

Bachelor's degree $82,320
Cartographers and photogrammetrists Cartographers and Photogrammetrists

Cartographers and photogrammetrists collect, measure, and interpret geographic information in order to create and update maps and charts for regional planning, education, and other purposes.

Bachelor's degree $68,380
Civil engineers Civil Engineers

Civil engineers design, build, and supervise infrastructure projects and systems. 

Bachelor's degree $88,570
Economists Economists

Economists collect and analyze data, research trends, and evaluate economic issues for resources, goods, and services.

Master's degree $108,350
Geographers Geographers

Geographers study the Earth and the distribution of its land, features, and inhabitants.

Bachelor's degree $85,430
Landscape architects Landscape Architects

Landscape architects design parks and other outdoor spaces.

Bachelor's degree $70,630
Market research analysts Market Research Analysts

Market research analysts study market conditions to examine potential sales of a product or service.

Bachelor's degree $65,810
Surveyors Surveyors

Surveyors make precise measurements to determine property boundaries.

Bachelor's degree $65,590
Survey researchers Survey Researchers

Survey researchers design and conduct surveys and analyze data.

Master's degree $59,870
Political scientists Political Scientists

Political scientists study the origin, development, and operation of political systems.

Master's degree $125,350

Contacts for More Info

Last Modified Date: Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Urban and Regional Planners,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/urban-and-regional-planners.htm (visited October 05, 2021).

Telephone: 1-202-691-5700 www.bls.gov/ooh Contact OOH

View this page on regular www.bls.gov

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