Urban and regional planning is a growing field affected by the increased concerns over the impact of new residential and commercial developments on the environment, and urban revitalization taking place throughout the United States. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Urban and regional planners earned an annual median salary of $63,040 in 2010. Employment is expected to increase by 16 percent, adding 6,500 new jobs between 2010 and 2020.
Career Spotlight: Urban and Regional Planner
Annual Median Salary: $63, 040
Prospects for growth: 16% over the next 10 years
Mission: Provide the vision to optimize the development of public spaces to offer efficient use of buildings, transportation, public areas and co-existence of residential and business establishments.
Urban and regional planners work in a diverse field that requires a varied skill-set, including an aptitude for math and maps, in addition to excellent communication skills. Planners work closely with government officials and individuals to create and plan communities or large-scale commercial and residential developments.
According to the BLS, more than 60 percent of all planners work for local government agencies. The other 40 percent of urban planners are employed by state government agencies, architectural firms, consulting groups, small businesses and private individuals. Community groups may consult with urban planners during negotiations with city and state government officials.
Professional urban planners are skilled at optimizing the use of public spaces while including options for vehicle, pedestrian and bicycle transportation. They often work with architects and landscape architects to incorporate environmentally friendly elements, such as energy saving LED light bulb or solar powered street lighting features in mixed communities that include residential and business zoning. Additionally, the need for a broad mix of transportation options has increased the need for urban planning. Their efforts allow for mixed business/residential communities that offer more walkways for pedestrians and paths for safe bicycle traffic. This can contribute to reduced traffic congestion, lower pollution and large energy savings for residents that do not need pay for gas for their own personal vehicle.
Sustainable development projects as well as revitalization projects employ the services of urban planners to rehabilitate urban areas, while addressing environmental issues and increasing aesthetics and function.
Urban planners generally complete a master’s degree in Urban Planning to gain entry into the field. The interdisciplinary degree may include courses in urban design, economics and urban planning theory, in addition to coursework in legal and ethical studies relative to urban and regional planning. Students often have the option of choosing a concentration within Urban Planning, such as Community Development, Historic Preservation or Urban Design.
Degree granting institutions should be accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board (PAB), the exclusive accrediting agency for Urban Planning education. The PAB recognizes 15 programs awarding bachelor degrees in Urban Planning and 72 graduate programs. Graduates from accredited programs are eligible for certification after successfully passing the AICP (American Institute of Certified Planners) exam.
As communities become more concerned about the environmental, social and economic impact of urban blight, the need for Urban Planners will grow. If you’re a person that has the ability to envision an organized and flourishing town center, from an area that has by neglected for decades, then a career in Urban Planing might be for you. With a desirable salary and promising growth projections, Urban Planning looks like a surefire opportunity for someone who has great vision and wants to improve the future cities of the world.
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