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for regional occupational outlook information
Urban Planner Training and Qualifications
A master's degree from an accredited planning program provides the best
training for a wide range of planning positions. Experience and acquiring
certification lead to the best opportunities for advancement.
Education and training. Most entry-level
jobs in Federal, State, and local governments require a master's degree from an
accredited program in urban or regional planning or a related field, such as
urban design, environmental planning, or geography. Students are admitted to
master's degree programs in planning with a wide range of undergraduate
backgrounds, such as a bachelor's degree in economics, geography, political
science, or environmental design. Several schools offer a bachelor's degree in
urban planning, and graduates from these programs qualify for some entry-level
positions, but their advancement opportunities are often limited unless they
acquire an advanced degree.
In 2009, 67 colleges and universities offered an accredited master's degree
program, and 15 offered an accredited bachelor's degree program, in planning.
Accreditation for these programs is from the Planning Accreditation Board, which
consists of three sponsoring organizations: the American Institute of Certified
Planners, the American Planning Association, and the Association of Collegiate
Schools of Planning.
Most college and university planning departments offer specialization in
areas such as community development and redevelopment, land-use or code
enforcement, transportation planning, environmental and natural resources
planning, urban design, and economic planning and development.
Highly recommended also are courses in related disciplines, such as
architecture, law, earth sciences, demography, geography, economics, finance,
health administration, and management. Because familiarity with computer models
and statistical techniques is important, courses in statistics, computer
science, and GIS also are recommended or required.
Graduate students spend considerable time in seminars, workshops, and
laboratory courses, learning to analyze and solve planning problems. They are
often required to work in a planning office part time or during the summer.
Local government planning offices frequently offer students internships,
providing experience that proves invaluable in obtaining a full-time planning
position after graduation.
Licensure. As of 2009, New Jersey was the
only State that required planners to be licensed, although Michigan required
registration to use the title "community planner." Licensure in New Jersey is
based on two examinations—one testing general knowledge of planning and another
testing specific New Jersey planning laws. Registration as a community planner
in Michigan is based on professional experience and national and State
Other qualifications. Planners must be
able to think in terms of spatial relationships and visualize the effects of
their plans and designs. They should be flexible and be able to reconcile
different viewpoints and make constructive policy recommendations. The ability
to communicate effectively, both orally and in writing, is necessary for anyone
interested in this field.
Certification and advancement. The
American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP), a professional institute within
the American Planning Association, grants certification to individuals who have
the appropriate combination of education and professional experience and pass an
examination. Professional development activities are required to maintain
certification, which can be very helpful for promotion.
After a few years of experience, planners may advance to assignments
requiring a high degree of independent judgment, such as designing the physical
layout of a large development or recommending policy and budget options. Some
public sector planners are promoted to community planning director and spend a
great deal of time meeting with officials, speaking to civic groups, and
supervising a staff. Further advancement occurs through a transfer to a larger
jurisdiction with more complex problems and greater responsibilities or into
related occupations, such as director of community or economic development.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition
Find related resources below:
Urban Planner Job outlook
Urban Planner Income