Urban and regional planner salary & career outlook

If you ever played the computer game SimCity and felt some admiration or even envy toward people who get to plan and create actual cities, then maybe you should look into being an urban or regional planner.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), urban and regional planners "develop plans and programs for the use of land" that help "create communities, accommodate population growth, and revitalize physical facilities in towns, cities, counties, and metropolitan areas." This includes analyzing factors affecting land use, meeting with developers, staying current on zoning codes, and much more.

Becoming an urban or regional planner, according to the BLS, often requires a master's degree from an accredited planning program and the following qualities: analytical skills, communication skills, decision-making skills, management skills and writing skills.

You may be able to land a job as an urban or regional planner by attending one of the many excellent urban planner schools.

Urban and regional planners salary

A career as an urban or regional planner can be quite sustainable.

According to the BLS, as of May 2012 the mean annual wage for urban and regional planners in America was $67,950, with the lowest-paying 10 percent earning an annual wage of $41,490 and those in the 90th percentile making an annual wage of $97,630.

Industry can make a financial difference. The top-paying industries for urban and regional planners in America as of May 2012 were:

  • Federal executive branch -- OES Designation ($90,890 annual mean wage)
  • Management of companies and enterprises ($89,320 annual mean wage)
  • Architectural,engineering and related services ($76,220 annual mean wage)

Location often matters in this field, since it determines which projects you'll work on. The top-paying states in America for urban and regional planners as of May 2012 were:

  • District of Columbia ($102,190 annual mean wage)
  • California ($80,750 annual mean wage)
  • Nevada ($79,950 annual mean wage)

The top-paying metropolitan areas in America for urban and regional planners as of May 2012 were:

  • Boulder, CO ($137,140 annual mean wage)
  • Napa, CA ($106,140 annual mean wage)
  • San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA ($88,930 annual mean wage)

Job outlook for urban and regional planners

Urban and regional planning is a growing field, for the most part.

According to the BLS, employment of urban and regional planners in the United States is projected to grow by 10 percent between 2012 and 2022, which is about as fast as all other occupations. That comes out to about 4,000 new jobs.

The projected growth can be explained by population growth and environmental concerns. Planners will also be needed to make changes to existing plans, in addition to addressing problems associated with population growth, population diversity, environmental degradation and resource scarcity, the BLS reports.

However, employment of planners in local or state governments is expected to suffer, due to cancelled and deferred projects caused by budget cuts.

Although it's difficult to gauge where geographically the growth of regional and urban planners will occur the most, by looking at where it occurred the most in the past, we may be able to get an idea of where it may grow in the future. The BLS notes that American states with the highest employment level of urban and regional planners as of May 2012 were:

  • California
  • Washington
  • Florida

The metropolitan areas in America with the highest employment level of urban and regional planners, as of May 2012 according to the BLS, were:

  • Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA Metropolitan Division
  • Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA Metropolitan Division
  • Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Division

Urban and regional planners are able to make decisions that improve towns and cities across the country. How fulfilling would that be? Research urban planner schools and decide if it's an interesting career field for you.


Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Urban and Regional Planners, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes193051.htm

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Urban and Regional Planners, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/urban-and-regional-planners.htm#tab-4