What is an Urban Planner?

Urban PlannerWith professional expertise in developing plans for the use of land area, an urban planner is responsible for creating, growing, and revitalizing community areas. As a direct result of increased population growth, cultural diversity, natural resource scarcity, and environmental degradation, more urban planners will be needed to address these challenges in communities throughout the nation. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the employment for urban planners will grow as fast as average at 10%, thus creating around 4,000 new jobs by 2022. If you are interested in joining the team to build better communities with extensive land development, read on to learn more about the job description for an urban planner.

What Urban Planners Do

With the goal of advocating the best use of a community’s land resources for residential, commercial, educational, or recreational means, urban planners are given the duty of developing the short and long-term plans for meeting community needs. When starting a project, urban planners will work alongside elected officials, engineers, architects, and the general public to identify community issues that must be met. Using market research data analysis, urban planners then formulate various strategies and design proposals to meet community goals. After proposals are approved, urban planners are then responsible for carrying out these plans, overseeing building projects, organizing work, ensuring compliance with environmental regulations, and keeping track of a project’s finances.

Where Urban Planners Work

Of the 38,700 urban planners currently employed throughout the United States, it is estimated that approximately 65% of these professionals are working for local government agencies. In addition, urban planners can find employment opportunities for state or federal governments, non-profit organizations, architectural firms, real estate developers, or engineering consulting firms. Since planners often face pressure from politicians, balance conflicting interests, manage complex projects, and work with strict deadlines, the profession can be stressful. Although most urban planners work full-time during normal business hours, some many need to attend meetings in evenings or on weekends. Instead of stuck in an office, urban planners spend a great deal traveling to building sites to analyze land conditions.

How to Become an Urban Planner

The first step towards reaching your professional aspirations as an urban planner is to receive a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution with a major in economics, geography, public administration, architecture, environmental design, political science, or another related field. In order to qualify for professional positions, you will then need to pursue a master’s degree within an accredited urban planning program. In addition to classroom work, most master’s programs require the completion of workshops, laboratory courses, seminars, planning projects, and part-time internships to gain solid experience. Although New Jersey is the only state that currently requires urban planners to be licensed, it is recommended that you increase job prospects by pursuing professional certification through the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP).

Related Resource: Environmental Research Analyst

Overall, urban planners are highly trained professionals who are responsible for proposing plans to meet community needs of a changing population for the development of schools, parks, businesses, shelters, hotels, commercial centers, and more. If you have strong analytical, decision making, writing, leadership, organizational, and communication skills, you are strongly encouraged to consider becoming an urban planner to help revitalize whole communities into more efficient spaces to meet the general public’s evolving needs in the 21st century.