City Planner Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of city planners is projected to grow 11 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. Drivers of this growth include demographic, transportation, and environmental changes. Federal, state, and local government budgets for development projects are contingent on available funds which in turn dictates the demand for city planners. However, urban and suburban areas need city planners to address challenges associated with population growth, environmental degradation, the movement of people and goods, and resource scarcity. With the recent pandemic, there has been an urban exodus which city planners may be called upon to address in the near future.

The median annual wage for urban and regional planners was $74,350 in May 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $45,850, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $116,280. Careers in city planning working for the federal government tend to be the most lucrative.

Federal government$95,990
Architectural, engineering, and related services$80,050
Local government, excluding education and hospitals$72,640
Management, scientific, and technical consulting services$71,120

Salaries for City Planners – City Planner Salary

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that City Planners earned an annual average salary of $77,750 as of May 2019. Those working in the following metropolitan areas made higher than average salaries:

  • San Francisco/Oakland/Hayward, CA: $105,370
  • Los Angeles/Long Beach/Anaheim, CA: $ 95,470
  • Sacramento/Roseville/Arden/Arcade, CA: $91,030
  • Seattle/Tacoma/Bellevue, WA: $90,430
  • Washington/Arlington/Alexandria, DC/VA: $90,020
  • New York/Newark/Jersey City NY/NJ: $89,880
  • San Diego/Carlsbad/CA: $88,680
  • Minneapolis/St. Paul/Bloomington MN/WI: $85,070

What does a City Planner do?

What does a City Planner do you might ask…  City planners plan and control the construction, future growth and development of a city or town. A city planner takes into account the community’s resources while protecting physical and geographical landmarks. To begin, a city planner collects data about the city and any structural problems it anticipates or is currently facing like traffic, pollution, ecological preservation, city infrastructure and key industries.

In addition to gathering data, they work with local agencies to inform their planning. The needs of local business leaders, law enforcement, neighborhood groups and government officials are considered when determining the proper course of action. City planners must work within the confines of zoning, building codes and environmental regulations. City planners are often involved in writing grant proposals and legislation. Most city planners are employed by local municipal governments.

It can be challenging to predict the growth of cities. Decades old city planning may not have had the foresight to accommodate for rapid growth. City expansion must be prioritized in the planning so that highways and roads can be enlarged, schools added and other services provided for if need be.

A variety of technology and tools are used in the city planning profession. Typically, city planners will employ geographic information systems (GIS) to analyze data. GIS is used in conjunction with electric maps to manipulate data. Statistical, visualization and presentation software are also applied along with survey information, CAD drawings, BIM models, GIS layers, lidar points, renderings, photographs for design. On the horizon for city planners is the integration of 3-D visualization software and virtual reality (VR).

City Planning Specializations

  • Land use
  • Environmental planning
  • Economic development
  • Transportation planning
  • Housing
  • Code enforcement
  • Community development and redevelopment
  • Urban design

Typical Duties Involved in City Planning:

  • Discuss development plans and issues of land use with public officials, developers, and the public
  • Collect and analyze environmental and economic research, censuses, and market research data
  • Conduct field investigations to determine factors affecting land use
  • Review and approve site plans submitted by real estate developers
  • Assess the feasibility of proposals and suggest necessary changes
  • Present projects to planning officials and planning commissions
  • Be knowledgeable and up-to-date on zoning or building codes and environmental regulations 

City Planning Skills

  • Analysis
  • Written communication
  • Research
  • Stakeholder management-mediate or facilitate conflicts between interest groups
  • Knowledge of the physical design of cities
  • Problem-solving
  • Creative visionary
  • Mastery of technical jargon- legal, engineering, environmental

City Planner Education

In order to become a city planner, you need to earn a masters degree. Some universities offer bachelor degrees in planning. However, degrees in architecture, geography, urban studies and sociology are relevant and acceptable for graduate programs in city planning. Most city planners have a master’s degree in urban or regional planning, environmental planning, urban design, or geography, yet not every job requires it.

When researching planning programs, make sure you find one accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board (PAB) (link: Some states, like New Jersey and Michigan require city planners to be licensed or registered which necessitates a separate examination. The American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) also offers an optional certification.

Beyond a degree, it is helpful to get real-life experience in the planning profession through internships such as working in a planning office part or full-time over the summer. Some entry-level positions require 1 to 2 years of work experience in a related field, such as architecture, public policy, or economic development.