How to Become an Urban Planner in Arkansas

Arkansas MapOne of the biggest problems urban planners encounter is water inundation and the consequences of failing water infrastructure. An Urban Watershed Framework Plan to combat this problem is being developed for the town of Conway, Arkansas, which sits north of Little Rock and is bound by water on three sides (the Arkansas River to the west, Beaverfork Lake to the south and Conway Lake to the north). The Community Design Center at the University of Arkansas’ Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design has envisioned a plan for this area that concentrates new development in denser pockets, separating residential areas from the bodies of water, acting as buffers against flooding. The community parks that are planned within these areas would also incorporate water and rain shelters. It is hoped that these areas can reinforce positive connotations to the waterways of the city while, at the same time, protecting Conway from water damage from frequent storms.

Water and threat of floods is just a small part of the many concerns that face urban planners in Arkansas on a daily basis. Small cities have created sprawl across the state, resulting in inefficient traffic patterns and segregation of citizens from areas of employment and retail. Urban planners are trying to prevent the cycle of sprawl, segregation and inefficient use of land from continuing in Arkansas. Smart growth, involving individually planned blocks and form-based planning, is thought to be one of the best ways to fight this problem.

If you would like to become an urban planner in Arkansas and have the opportunity to work on problems such as the ones described above, this guide will help you.

Take-Home Pay for Arkansas’s Urban Planners

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the United States Department of Labor says that in May 2019, urban planners employed in the state of Arkansas averaged an annual median salary of $54,720. Those working in various parts of the state earned more or less than this average amount, as evident through statistics below quoted from the BLS and

  • Conway $61,060
  • Fayetteville $55,231
  • Fort Smith $56,515
  • Little Rock $61,060
  • North Little Rock $61,060
  • Springdale $55,231

Laws Regarding Land Use and Urban Planning in Arkansas

Under Arkansas law, cities of the first and second class as well as incorporated towns may adopt and enforce plans for their municipalities. Cities may choose whether or not to plan and regulate land use. IF a city chooses to plan, regardless of a city’s size, it must still follow the same planning process as any other city. Municipalities that choose to do so regulate land use through Planning Commissions and zoning regulations.

Open Space and Parks in Arkansas

Arkansas is known as the “Natural State” partly due to its abundance of open space and land. The American Planning Association- Arkansas Chapter notes, however, that protection of open space is everyone’s concern, including Arkansans. Identifying green infrastructure and weaving modern grid-like street networks within that structure helps to preserve open space while containing sprawl. Some of the benefits to the community of protecting open space, the Trust for Public Land notes, are:

  • Attract investment
  • Revitalize cities
  • Boost tourism
  • Prevent flood damage
  • Protect ranches and farms
  • Promote sustainable developments
  • Safeguard the environment
  • Provide recreational options for families and the public

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission – Owned Land and Lakes

Throughout Arkansas, many of the man-made and naturally occurring lakes and land surrounding those lakes are owned by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. The Commission has defined public usage of these lands and which activities are allowed, allowed with a permit, or prohibited. Regulations on shoreline stabilization have also been put into place in order to protect these lakes. The list of lakes owned by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission includes:

  • Atkins
  • Barnett
  • Bentonville
  • Bob Kidd
  • Cane Creek
  • Charles
  • Conway
  • Cox Creek
  • Crystal
  • Elmdale
  • Frierson
  • Gurdon
  • Harris Brake
  • Hindsville
  • Hinkle
  • Horsehead
  • Jack Nolen
  • Overcup
  • Saracen
  • Poinsett
  • Sugar Loaf
  • Tri-County
  • Lower White Oak
  • Upper White Oak
  • Wilhelmina

Getting an Urban Planning Education in Arkansas

Arkansas Undergraduate Urban Planning Degree

An undergraduate degree in an urban planning-related field is your first challenge in getting your urban planning education in Arkansas. If at all possible, choose a program that has been accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board (PAB) of the American Planning Association. No such accredited programs are found in Arkansas. Examples of potential undergraduate degrees include:

  • Bachelor of Landscape Architecture – -University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
  • Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architectural Studies – University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

Or check out this PAB-accredited undergraduate program in nearby Missouri:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Urban Planning & Design – University of Missouri, Kansas City

Arkansas Graduate Urban Planning Degree

Ideally, you should choose an urban planning graduate degree program in Arkansas accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board (PAB) of the American Planning Association. However, no accredited programs exist in Arkansas. Check out these accredited programs in nearby states:


  • Texas A&M University – Master of Urban Planning

College of Architecture, Dept. of Landscape Architecture & Urban Planning

MS 3137

College Station, TX 77843-3137

Accreditation through December 31, 2021

Wei Li, MUP Coordinator


  • Texas Southern University – Master of Urban Planning & Environmental Policy

Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs, Dept. of Urban Planning & Environmental Policy

3100 Cleburne St. – PAB 420D

Houston, TX 77004

Accreditation through December 31, 2022

Sheri Smith, Interim Dept. Head


  • The University of Texas at Arlington – Master of City & Regional Planning

College of Architecture, Planning & Public Affairs, Dept. of Planning & Landscape Architecture

601 W. Nedderman Drive, Box 19108

Arlington, TX 76019

Accreditation through December 31, 2023

Ardeshir Anjomani, Interim Director


  • The University of Texas at Austin – Master of Science in Community & Regional Planning

School of Architecture, Graduate Program in Community & Regional Planning

One University Station B7500

Austin, TX 78712-0222

Accreditation through December 31, 2022

Elizabeth Mueller, Director



  • Jackson State University- Master of Arts in Urban and Regional Planning

College of Public Service, Department of Urban and Regional Planning

101 W. Capitol St., Room 321

Jackson, MS 39201

Accreditation through December 31, 2020

Berneece Herbert, Chair



  • University of Memphis – Master of City & Regional Planning

School of Urban Affairs & Public Policy, Department of City & Regional Planning

208 McCord Hall

Memphis, TN 38152

Accreditation through December 31, 2020

Charles A. Santo, Chair


Achieving Professional Certification in Urban Planning in Arkansas

American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP)

After graduation and working for 24 months in the field, you should look into becoming professionally certified by taking a test through theAmerican Institute of Certified Planners (AICP). The Arkansas Chapter of the American Planning Association provides test preparation materials online. You can register to sit for the examination at one of the following Prometric test centers in Arkansas:

  • Arkadelphia – 586 N. 10th
  • Fort Smith – 2409 South 56th
  • Little Rock – 10800 Financial Ctr. Pkwy.
  • Texarkana – 4425 Jefferson Ave.

AICP Certification Maintenance in Arkansas

The Certification Maintenance program of the AICP ensures that you have ample opportunities to fulfill the 32 CM credit requirement every two years in order to keep your membership in the AICP current. The APA-Arkansas Chapter posts eligible events on their website from time to time.

Certified Arkansas Planning Official Program

The Arkansas Chapter of the American Planning Association also offers a Certified Arkansas Planning Official (CARPO) certification program, designed for private Arkansas citizens as well as appointed or elected officials serving on Boards of Adjustment and Planning Commissions. Training workshops and home study combine to create qualified individuals who then receive the designation of CARPO.

Auxiliary Certifications for Urban Planners in Arkansas

Supplemental professional urban planning certifications are also available in Arkansas, such as:

Procuring a Job in Urban Planning in Arkansas

Urban Planning Projects Across Arkansas

Urban planning projects across the state of Arkansas that are of note include:

  • The Circle- mixed-use area of Bentonville
  • Revitalization project – University of Arkansas Little Rock
  • Cave Springs Karst Study- environmental and conservation concerns
  • Fayetteville City Plan 2040
  • Urban Watershed- Conway (mentioned earlier)

Urban Planning Internships in Arkansas

Even if your college program in urban planning does not offer you internship opportunities, you can seek them out on your own. Examples of potential internships in Arkansas include:

  • Conservation Program Technician Internship – Arkansas Game & Fish Commission, Lonoke
  • Intern/Developer – USAble Life, Little Rock
  • Transportation Systems Intern- BGE, Inc., Fayetteville
  • Wildlife Education Internship- Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, Eureka Springs
  • Civil Engineering Intern- Garver, Fayetteville

Public Sector Urban Planning Positions in Arkansas

State, county, city and federal-level public sector urban planning positions that may exist in Arkansas carry titles such as:

  • County Planner- Benton County
  • Senior Planner- City of Fayetteville
  • Soil Conservationist – U.S. Department of Agriculture, Arkadelphia
  • Code Enforcement Officer- City of Bella Vista
  • Archaeology Technician- U.S. Department of Agriculture, Waldron

Private Sector Urban Planning Positions in Arkansas

Private sector jobs within companies and non-profit groups in Arkansas can have titles like:

  • Land Planner- Rausch Coleman Homes, Fayetteville
  • Conservation Specialist – Central Arkansas Water, Little Rock
  • Civil Project Engineer- Nabholz Construction Services, Rogers
  • Outdoor Interpretation Specialist – Crystal Bridges, Bentonville

Probable Future for Urban Planners and Real Estate in Arkansas

Real estate experts say that Arkansas’ housing market is expected to continue to grow in 2020. In 2018, 11,000 new residents made Arkansas their home, fueling the real estate industry. The demand for jobs as well as for housing is expected to continue to expand. Arkansas is one of the most affordable states in the nation in which to purchase a home, with median home values at $126,000, up six percent from 2018. Fayetteville ranked fourth in U.S. News and World Reports list of best places to live in America.

All of this spells good news for prospective urban planners wishing to work in Arkansas. The demand for homes, coupled with growth of smaller and larger cities and need to protect open space, will all work together to make sure that there is plenty of work for urban planners in Arkansas for some time to come.

Supplementary Resources for Urban Planners in Arkansas