Role of Urban Planners

If you can visualise land development, can think in terms of spatial relationships and communicate effectively, consider a career in urban planning. An urban planner plays an important role in developing comprehensive plans for land use in settings such as cities, towns, counties and metropolitan areas. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the need for urban planners is projected to increase by 19 per cent through 2018.


An urban planner, also called an urban regional planner, creates both short-term and long-term designs for the best use of land located in the urban core, rural communities and suburbs. He works with people like civic leaders, developers and government officials to design plans. An urban planner can specialise in different areas of planning, such as community, transportation and redevelopment.


The planner travels to sites to conduct field investigation and studies the way the land is currently used. She conducts meetings with citizens to hear their input. An urban planner compiles data that includes social, economic and physical factors involving the potential land use. Once the research is completed, she prepares for clients feasibility reports which include information on the current location and growth capacity of areas such as schools, streets, water and sewer lines and recreational sites. In the final reports, the urban planner identifies necessary changes before implementing any land developments and the final cost of the proposed development plans.


According to the BLS, you need a bachelor’s degree in areas such as environmental design, urban planning or economics to obtain an entry-level job in urban planning, but advancement opportunities are limited without an advanced degree. For instance, state, federal and local governments, according to the BLS, require a master’s degree from an accredited college or university in urban planning, urban design, geography or regional planning.

Licensure and Registration

Most states don't require an urban planner to obtain licensure to work. According to the BLS, as of 2009 only the state of New Jersey requires an urban planner to obtain licensure. A planner must pass two sections of the New Jersey licensure examination. One section tests his knowledge of planning. The second section tests a planner’s knowledge of New Jersey planning laws. Michigan doesn't require a planner to obtain a license, but it does require a planner to register as a community planner. The Michigan registration is based on an urban planner’s experience and national and state examination, according to the BLS.


Certifications are not required, but can enhance an urban planner's credentials. The American Planning Association offers certification to an urban planner who passes an examination and has professional experience. Typically, an urban planner works 40 hours a week, which can include weekends and evenings to attend meetings with citizens to hear their input. In 2009, the median salary for an urban planner was £40,183 a year, according to the O-Net Center website.

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