Urban Planner Salary & Job Expectations by Experience Level

Brandi Glass
January 35 min read
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Urban planners are integral members of the community who help keep cities and their neighborhoods safe and fit for residency. They are responsible for developing plans for public spaces like libraries, schools, and parks. Proper land use is the specialty of urban planners.

Read on if you want to enter this field and learn about urban planner salary averages. We’ll cover the basics of the position, go over the typical urban planner average salary ranges, and list the pros and cons of this exciting position.

What Are Urban Planners and What Do They Do?

Urban planners are professionals who pinpoint community needs and create solutions to revitalize, grow, and manage their communities. For example, urban planners check feasibility when officials want to add a new building, such as a school, to a community. Urban planners manage projects’ environmental, financial, and social impacts on their communities and identify issues with ever-changing populations.

Some of the duties of urban planners include:

  • Meeting with officials, public representatives, and developers to organize proper land usage
  • Performing research and feasibility studies on proposed development plans
  • Analyzing environmental and economic reports to gauge their impact on the population
  • Rejecting and approving proposals
  • Staying updated on building codes, restrictions, and environmental regulations

Not all urban planners take on the same responsibilities. Some work on a community-wide scale, while others specialize in specific matters.

What is the Typical Urban Planner Average Salary?

Urban planners can look forward to excellent salaries and a high quality of life. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an urban planner salary average amounts to $78,500 a year. The field will continue to grow at a rate of 4% in the upcoming decade, with 3,800 job openings yearly.

Payscale places the average urban planner salary at $60,000 per year, potentially making up to $89,000 for the highest earners.

Your salary depends on your overall responsibilities, place of residence and work, and your employer. However, it is a lucrative job that allows you to earn a decent wage, and demand does not seem to slow down soon. Moreover, the longer you stay in your career and build experience, the likelier you are to progress to higher positions down the line.

Do You Need a College Degree to Work as an Urban Planner?

Yes, you do need a college degree to work as an urban planner. Although an undergraduate degree is a minimum requirement, you can earn more if you have a master’s degree or higher in urban planning. Because the position combines solid analytical, organization, and communication skills, you must have the proper education to do your job well and minimize errors.

Some degree options that you can choose to get into urban planning include:

  • Urban or regional planning
  • Urban design
  • Environmental planning or studies
  • Geography

The more academic knowledge and expertise you have, the higher your chance of scoring a fantastic career opportunity after graduation.

What are the Benefits of Working as an Urban Planner?

If you like organization and planning, this is the perfect career opportunity. Some of the positive aspects of working as an urban planner include the following:

  • Building constructive relationships with electorates and constituents
  • Building a solid understanding of public systems and connections
  • Improving the communities and neighborhoods of your city
  • Inspiring positive change
  • Improving public infrastructure
  • Having multiple opportunities to work on exciting and challenging projects

The demand for urban planners in the private and public sectors is high, allowing you more flexibility in your place of work.

Are There Downsides to Working as an Urban Planner?

As with all jobs, there are some disadvantages to working as an urban planner. One of the most glaring is that it involves politics. In some instances, you may have to take on projects that align with economic and political goals instead of ones that align with your personal ones.

Moreover, this position is still mainly limited to the government sector instead of the private one. This means more challenges and expectations to do things a certain way that may be restrictive in the long run.

How Can You Progress in an Urban Planning Career?

Fortunately, an urban planning degree and experience in your field will lead you to multiple career opportunities later. Some examples of these include:

  • Building Inspector
  • Conservation Officer
  • Urban Designing
  • Sustainability Consulting
  • Environmental Specialist or Manager
  • Risk Assessor
  • City Planning

The longer you work, the more opportunities you have to broaden your reach or specialize in your preferred niche. You may even progress to senior positions within your department and oversee other urban planners if you have a good reputation.

Your career also allows you to meet with key stakeholders who can help you progress career-wise. You may perform a fair amount of networking that enables you to improve your position as you gain experience in the field.

Is There High Demand For This Position in the US?

The demand for urban planners in the United States is experiencing moderate growth, as per the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Although you should not expect it to skyrocket shortly, cities, including their populations, continue to grow and change. What may not be in high demand currently may change dramatically within the next decade.

Can Anyone Become an Urban Planner?

Urban planning is not for everyone. While it can be fast-paced and involve heavy communication, research, and analysis, you may face stagnation and not have many projects to manage. If you are still on the fence about this position, ask someone working as an urban planner.

You can also research what companies seek in a potential employee online. Look at your daily responsibilities and tasks and gauge whether you see yourself doing them for the foreseeable future. Continuing on this path is a good idea if the position excites you. If you don’t see yourself working in this position for long, investing your time and money in a field that interests you would be wiser.

How Can I Apply for Urban Planning Positions?

The next step is applying for online jobs if you have a suitable degree and are ready to start your urban planning career. Fortunately, with a quick Google search, you can find hundreds of available positions and apply to those that suit your skills and expertise. Another way to find a job is to source from your network pool. If you know someone who works as an urban planner, ask them if they are happy in their position, and perhaps you may receive a referral.

However, even if you have a wealth of experience in the field, you still need a solid resume to apply to these positions. Although your resume may seem sufficient, you may not know that it is not passing through Applicant Tracking Systems due to formatting issues.

Rocket Resume is your all-in-one resource to generate an excellent urban planner resume in minutes. All you need to do is choose the format that suits you best, input the information through the website, and your resume will be ready in minutes.

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