Urban + Environmental Policy + Planning
US News and World Report says urban planner one of the 50 top careers of 2010 and the coming decade
4/5/2010 2:13:00 PM

Urban Planner - As one of the 50 best careers of 2010, this should have strong growth over the next decade

By U.S. News Staff

The rundown:

Building a new park is no walk in the park. You'll need to study how the land is currently used, hold public hearings to get community input, and forecast how many people will use the park. Then, factor in zoning and environmental regulations, where sewer systems and fire hydrants will go, and staying within the city's budget. The same goes for building a new housing development or school. If all goes well, urban planners change the face of the city or at least make sure that its water and electricity continue to hum behind the scenes. But you'll need to be a bit of a diplomat to get all the stakeholders to agree to your plan.

The outlook:

An expanding population has created the need for additional transportation systems, affordable housing, and schools in many parts of the country. The urban and regional planning field is expected to grow 19 percent from 38,400 jobs in 2008 to 45,700 jobs by 2018. Most of the new jobs will be with state and local governments.

Upward mobility:

Experienced public-sector planners can transfer to larger cities with more complex problems or move into related occupations, such as director of community or economic development. Some urban planners also go on to work in the private sector designing corporate campuses or outfitting firms with seamless security systems.

Activity level:

Urban planners travel frequently to inspect land under consideration for new building projects or regulation. A considerable amount of time is also spent using a computer to analyze data and projecting outcomes under various scenarios. Reports and proposals must be presented to legislative committees and elected officials. Anticipate evening and weekend public hearings about how shared spaces should be used.

Stress level:

Urban planners often have tight deadlines and work schedules. They may also face acute pressure from citizens groups or politicians who strongly favor or oppose specific building projects. Be prepared to explain and defend your ideas and negotiate compromises.

Education and preparation:

Most positions require a master's degree in urban planning. Those with additional computer skills, particularly GIS software, will have an advantage in the job market. Certification through the American Institute of Certified Planners may be helpful for promotion.


Urban and regional planners earn a median salary of $59,810. Those working for local governments make less on average ($58,260), than, say, those working for architectural or engineering firms ($63,770). The top 10 percent of planners make more than $91,520 annually.

Urban Planner - One of the 50 best careers of 2010