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What degree do I need to become an Urban Planner?

urban_planningAn Urban Planner, sometimes also known as a Regional Planner, is who we can thank or curse for the layout of land in any given city, town, or sometimes even particular shopping malls. Their planning and developing carefully consider population growth and an emphasis on creating a sense of community. They are often on planning committees for revitalization projects in metropolitan areas.

Education

A master’s degree in Urban Planning from an accredited program is generally required for this position. Currently there are 72 universities that offer an accredited master’s degree program in planning. Hopeful candidates should have an undergraduate degree in one of the following majors:

  • Economics
  • Geography
  • Political Science
  • Environmental Design
  • Public Administration
  • Architecture
  • Landscape Architecture

Certification

Although not required in most states, The American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP), offers a professional AICP certification for planners meeting education, experience and exam requirements. Certification must be maintained every 2 years. Certification will definite give Planners leverage when seeking employment.

Job Expectations

Urban Planners need to be social types; you’re working with public officials, government agencies, private developers, and of course the general public. They are often called in to identify community needs and then to develop short as well as long term plans that relate to that particular community. Sometimes Planners have to work with controversial issues such as sheltering the homeless or planning a tax-funded city park. There are several types of Planners; each has a focus, although of course there is overlap in these job descriptions:

Transportation Planners obviously develop transportation plans. New light rail proposed in your city? You can guess there are Transportation Planners working on that project.

Land and Code Enforcement Planners encourage development with land that is underused. An emphasis of concern is zoning policies and ordinances when developing the land. Imagine the controversy over building a brand new Walmart on an unmarked African American cemetery.

Environmental Planners are deeply concerned with the dangerous effects of developing on the environment. They want to prevent destruction of ecosystems and contract pollution.

Economic Development Planners are concerned with creating jobs, revitalizing blighted cities and building housing.

Urban Design Planners are focused on combining landscape architecture, design and function usually for a cities public spaces.

Planners need to be comfortable with digital technology as they will be knee deep in data. Analytical skills are a must for an Urban Planner as they take that raw data and apply it to the needs of their project. Planners manage economic, social and environmental issues so they must be well versed in their community needs so that they may formulate strategies while meeting with other professionals.

Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment is set to grow by 10 percent from 2012 to 2022. Population growth and environmental concerns will actually create a greater need for future Planners in our cities, suburbs and even small towns. The increased emphasis on sustainability will find developers seeking out the expertise of Planners to collaborate on land use projects.

Also according to the BLS, the median wage for Urban and Regional Planners was $65,230 in May of 2013. Most Planners work standard business hours however are needed to attend occasional night and/or weekend meetings with officials, planning commissions or neighborhood groups.

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