The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that urban planners are responsible for the development of usage plans for community land and resources. Most work for local governments and hold a minimum of a bachelor's degree from an accredited planning program.
The American Planning Association notes that a typical day for a planner involves extensive collaboration with others. This collaboration might include staff meetings with engineers, architects and developers, or making presentations to a city council or neighborhood association. Planners need to be organized to keep track of all facets of a project from concept to completion. The APA notes that planners also need strong problem-solving, analytical and communication skills.
According to the APA, common specialties in planning include urban design, housing, historic preservation and community development. While most planners switch specializations, some stay in one specialty area for their entire career, and specialty training begins for many planners at the graduate school level.
While a bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement for work in the field, the BLS notes that most urban planners hold a master's degree from one of the 67 accredited graduate programs in the United States. Master's degrees are a prerequisite for advancing in the field, and students can specialize in areas such as environmental planning, code enforcement or community development.
Certification is not required for urban planners in most states. However, the American Institute of Certified Planners grants voluntary certification to candidates who meet education and experience requirements and pass a certification exam. The exam covers the history of planning, plan making and implementation, areas of practice (urban, suburban and rural) and the AICP code of ethics. Earning certification from the AICP can be beneficial in being promoted in the field.
According to the BLS, job opportunities are best for planners with master's degrees. New positions will be most plentiful in affluent areas that are expanding in response to population growth and need planners to conceptualize new housing developments. In May 2008, the median annual salary for urban planners was $59,810, according to the BLS.
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