Home page

Urban and Regional Planners

At a Glance

  • Plan for improvement of urban, suburban, and rural areas
  • Often work with local elected officials
  • Develop plans and presentations
  • Most work more than 40 hours a week
  • Have a master's degree

Career summary

Urban and regional planners conduct studies and develop proposals for land use. They plan for the overall growth and improvement of urban, suburban, and rural areas.

Urban and regional planners may also be called economic planners, land use planners, or community, city, or county planners.

Urban and regional planners identify community land needs and develop short-term and long-term proposals for meeting those needs. To gather information, planners:

After gathering information, planners assess the feasibility of proposals. They recommend whether proposals should be approved or denied.

Typically, planners decide whether parts of a city should be used for residential, commercial, or industrial use. They may propose land be set aside in its natural state to create parks or protect water quality.

Planners consider many factors such as cost and sustainability. Because laws and regulations are always changing, they need to stay up to date on changes to building and zoning codes. They also need to be aware of federal laws that concern public safety, environmental issues, and transportation budgets.

Planners may specialize in one of the following areas:

Related careers

This career is part of the Government and Public Administration cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to urban and regional planners.

Common work activities

Urban and regional planners perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, urban and regional planners:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Urban and regional planners frequently:

It is important for urban and regional planners to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for urban and regional planners to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Urban and regional planners need to:


Reason and problem solve

Use math and science

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Work with things

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as an urban and regional planner, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Most urban and regional planners have a master's degree. Several areas of study provide good training for this field. Most planners study urban and regional planning but others study urban design or geography. Some planners have a degree in architecture and a bachelor's degree in urban planning. Others have a master's degree in planning and many years of work in the field.

As a student in urban planning, you should take courses in law, land use, and economics. As a graduate student you can focus in areas such as historic preservation, housing, and economic development.

On-the-job training

Some students complete an internship while in school. This is important work experience for finding a job. Look for an internship position at a local government planning office.

As a new urban and regional planner, you often receive some training on the job. In general, training lasts up to three months. One thing you learn during training is your region's land-use laws.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from your state's graduation requirements.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Most employers consider a master's degree in planning the most desirable background for urban and regional planners. However, a bachelor's degree and two years of experience in city planning, architecture, landscape architecture, or engineering may qualify for some beginning positions. In small agencies, employers may prefer those with a broad background. In larger agencies, employers may look for planners who specialize in a particular area, such as transportation or economic development. Government urban and regional planners are hired from a register of qualified applicants. A competitive examination may be required to be placed on the register. Employers look for applicants who can work as part of a team.

Experienced workers who seek jobs in other communities may have to compete for entry-level positions. Certification of workers by the American Institute of Certified Planners (external link) (AICP) is helpful. The AICP, part of the American Planning Association, certifies individuals who meet experience and education requirements and pass an examination. Contact the AICP for details through the American Planning Association.


Cartographic skills are helpful. An understanding of real estate rules and regulations can be beneficial. Attend public meetings related to land-use planning issues or volunteer at your local zoning board. Learn how to settle planning related problems by general agreement. Completing an internship or apprenticeship can often be critical to finding an entry-level position.

#Checked HP section 1/28/10 lh & 5/6/11, 5/8/13, 4/15/15, 2/22/17 cj.

Cost to workers

Costs can include union or professional association dues and continuing education classes.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Urban and regional planners (SOC 19-3051)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $27.67 $32.97 $38.90 $44.67 $49.89
Monthly $4,795 $5,714 $6,741 $7,741 $8,646
Yearly $57,560 $68,570 $80,910 $92,910 $103,770
    Bellingham Hourly $28.23 $33.13 $36.80 $42.90 $48.12
Monthly $4,892 $5,741 $6,377 $7,435 $8,339
Yearly $58,718 $68,900 $76,551 $89,238 $100,103
    Bremerton-Silverdale Hourly $26.36 $31.34 $37.70 $45.42 $50.46
Monthly $4,568 $5,431 $6,533 $7,871 $8,745
Yearly $54,829 $65,173 $78,407 $94,459 $104,971
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $22.94 $32.39 $37.25 $42.55 $48.30
Monthly $3,976 $5,613 $6,455 $7,374 $8,370
Yearly $47,727 $67,377 $77,475 $88,508 $100,461
    Longview Hourly $21.06 $26.27 $31.01 $37.29 $42.75
Monthly $3,650 $4,553 $5,374 $6,462 $7,409
Yearly $43,809 $54,639 $64,502 $77,549 $88,922
    Mount Vernon-Anacortes Hourly $26.65 $31.40 $36.06 $40.11 $47.09
Monthly $4,618 $5,442 $6,249 $6,951 $8,161
Yearly $55,428 $65,314 $75,003 $83,425 $97,937
    Olympia-Tumwater Hourly $28.20 $33.53 $37.95 $40.87 $45.10
Monthly $4,887 $5,811 $6,577 $7,083 $7,816
Yearly $58,666 $69,758 $78,941 $85,006 $93,820
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $31.66 $36.30 $42.61 $48.51 $56.66
Monthly $5,487 $6,291 $7,384 $8,407 $9,819
Yearly $65,860 $75,497 $88,633 $100,906 $117,861
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $23.22 $30.84 $35.59 $40.22 $45.08
Monthly $4,024 $5,345 $6,168 $6,970 $7,812
Yearly $48,296 $64,143 $74,018 $83,660 $93,771
    Vancouver Hourly $30.47 $35.51 $41.95 $48.19 $56.59
Monthly $5,280 $6,154 $7,270 $8,351 $9,807
Yearly $63,377 $73,853 $87,248 $100,251 $117,701
    Walla Walla Hourly $22.70 $26.30 $33.93 $43.56 $47.88
Monthly $3,934 $4,558 $5,880 $7,549 $8,298
Yearly $47,219 $54,704 $70,586 $90,606 $99,586
    Wenatchee Hourly $22.20 $27.74 $34.17 $38.82 $42.73
Monthly $3,847 $4,807 $5,922 $6,728 $7,405
Yearly $46,186 $57,702 $71,082 $80,759 $88,877
    Yakima Hourly $18.70 $30.21 $34.46 $37.96 $40.87
Monthly $3,241 $5,235 $5,972 $6,578 $7,083
Yearly $38,906 $62,829 $71,680 $78,948 $85,006
United States Hourly $21.72 $27.39 $35.12 $44.32 $54.89
Monthly $3,764 $4,747 $6,086 $7,681 $9,512
Yearly $45,180 $56,970 $73,050 $92,180 $114,170

Salaries of planners vary by education, type of employer, experience, size of community, and area of the country.

Urban and regional planners who work full time usually receive benefits. Common benefits are health insurance, sick leave, paid vacation, and a retirement plan. Those who work part time are less likely to receive benefits.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook

In Washington, the aging of the population is expected to have a major impact on the social structure. Planners will have to address these changes. They will also be needed to develop strategies for replacement of aging roads, sewer systems, and other infrastructures. The need to manage limited resources and address such issues as climate change, economic development, energy use and transportation, and contingency planning for events like floods and heat waves, should increase the demand for planners. More emphasis will be placed on water quality, habitat conservation, and how natural systems interact with the planning process.

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Urban and Regional Planners (SOC 19-3051)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 2,286 10.0% 16.1% 238
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 51 11.8% 13.4% 6
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 32 9.4% 8.6% 3
    Benton and Franklin Counties 26 3.8% 15.0% 2
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 98 9.2% 11.9% 10
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 88 9.1% 15.2% 9
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 473 12.5% 14.1% 52
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 135 9.6% 14.6% 13
    King County 912 10.2% 19.6% 95
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 83 8.4% 13.8% 8
    Pierce County 112 9.8% 15.2% 11
    Snohomish County 154 9.1% 12.4% 15
    Spokane County 63 9.5% 13.9% 6
United States 39,100 10.7% 5.2% 4,200

National employment

About seven out of ten urban and regional planners work for local government agencies.

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation will be strong. Job growth will be due to government regulation of commercial development, the environment, transportation, housing, and land use. Planners will be needed to help the public comply with these regulations. Most new jobs will be in wealthy, rapidly growing communities. New housing requires roads, sewer systems, fire stations, schools, libraries, and recreation facilities, all of which will be planned by urban and regional planners.

Some job openings will come from the need to replace experienced planners who transfer to other occupations, retire, or leave the labor force. Opportunities will be best for those with a master’s degree, and strong computer skills and GIS experience.

Other resources

American Planning Association (external link)
205 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 1200
Chicago, IL 60601
American Planning Association, Washington Chapter (external link)
2150 North 107th Street, Suite 205
Seattle, WA 98133
Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (external link)
6311 Mallard Trace Drive
Tallahassee, FL 32312
Engineer Girl! (external link)
National Academy of Engineering
Find out what it means to be a planner (external link)
Green Building Certification Institute (external link)
Institute of Transportation Engineers (external link)
1627 Eye Street NW, Suite 600
Washington, DC 20006
Urban and Regional Planning Career Information (external link)
(from the American Planning Association)
Urban Land Institute (external link)
2001 L Street NW, Suite 200
Washington, DC 20036


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Strong Interest Inventory

Holland occupational cluster