City, or urban, planners are a key influence on the way urban environments look and function. They are responsible for assessing the best use of land and resources in an urban setting; how business, residential and recreational spaces are allocated and situated; for improving transportation systems; and for planning urban renewal schemes. City planners may work on improving existing conurbations, or designing new ones. They utilize population and consumption data to predict what a city will require in the future to meet the demands of its population. Employer type and location are primary factors influencing city planner salaries.
In May 2009, the Bureau of Labor Statistics gathered wage information from nearly 40,000 individuals working as city planners throughout the United States. It calculated that the average annual salary for the occupation was $64,680. This translates into a monthly pay check of $5,390, and an hourly pay rate of $31.10. Planners within the top 10 percent of earners received an average of over $94,800, while their counterparts in the lowest-earning 10 percent received, on average, less than $39,460.
Salary by Industry
The bureau also detailed how the industry sector in which a city planner works affects her salary. Most practitioners are employed by local government agencies. The bureau listed the average pay rate in this sector as $62,170. Within federal government agencies, the rate was $88,230 per year. Architectural, engineering and related services and management, scientific and technical consulting services paid comparable salaries — $72,910 and $71,390, respectively. Scientific research and development services were listed at $62,460, while planners working within electrical power generation, transmission and distribution received an average of $61,970.
Salary by Geography
The location in which a city planner works will also affect his salary level. Wage comparison website SalaryExpert.com surveyed salaries for the profession in some major American cities and found that levels were highest in Chicago — $93,164 — and Miami, Florida — $84,074. In contrast, Houston, Texas was listed at $62,803. The Bureau of Labor Statistics listed Nevada, California and Illinois as among the most lucrative states for a city planner to work in, with average pay rates of $78,820, $78,800 and $74,910, respectively. Vermont was listed at just $50,690.
Between the years of 2008 and 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment opportunities for city planners to increase by approximately 19 percent. This is a faster growth rate than that predicted for the country as a whole — between 7 and 13 percent over the same time period. An expanding population and migration to urban conglomerations will fuel this growth, and should mean salary levels for the profession remain high. City planners with advanced, postgraduate degrees are likely to achieve the best rates of pay.