How to Become an Urban Planner in Georgia

Georgia MapGeorgia is the largest state east of the Mississippi River, covering 37.3 million acres. In 2005, its population was nine million, including 7.3 million urban citizens and 1.74 million rural citizens. Four million of Georgia’s residents lived in the following ten counties: Rockdale, Henry, Gwinnett, Fulton, Fayette, Douglas, DeKalb, Cobb, Clayton, and Cherokee. The total urban area of Georgia, however, covers just three percent of the state’s total land area.

Almost 25 million acres of Georgia’s land area is forestland. This forestland is owned primarily by private individuals (72 percent), followed by corporations (21 percent) and government (seven percent). Eleven million acres of Georgia consists of farmland.

Georgia is one of the most biologically diverse states in the country. However, 320 of its native species have such low populations that they are deemed federally and state protected. Conservation of Georgia’s natural resources must be foremost in the mind of its land use planners. Land use decisions involve social, environmental and financial sustainability.

If you would like to become an urban planner in Georgia, you will be dealing with the above issues, and more. You will have a major impact on planning for the future of the state. Does this appeal to you? If so, read on to discover how you can become an urban planner in Georgia and mold its future land use.

Take-Home Pay for Georgia’s Urban Planners

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2019 urban and regional planners working in the state of Georgia averaged an annual median salary of $58,160. Those working in Georgia’s cities earned the following:

  • Atlanta $64,620
  • Augusta $56,975
  • Roswell $64,620
  • Sandy Springs $64,620

Land Use and Planning Regulations in Georgia

The Georgia Planning Act, passed in 1989, is the basis for all regional, community-level planning in the state. Every local government (city and county) in the state is required to adopt a comprehensive plan to maintain Qualified Local Government status. Comprehensive plans must be updated every five years. As a Home Rule state, local government makes all land use decisions in Georgia. Under Georgia’s constitution, the power to zone property is given directly to local governments.

Minimum Standards for Comprehensive Plans in Georgia

Comprehensive plans, created at the local governmental level in Georgia, must live up to certain standards and be able to guide local officials when making decisions about their community’s future. All local government comprehensive plans must contain:

  • Community goals
  • Needs and opportunities
  • Community work program

Communities with zoning or land development regulations must include:

  • Land use

Communities that charge impact fees must include in their comprehensive plan:

  • Capital improvements

Communities that are included in Georgia Job Tax Credit Tier 1 must include:

  • Economic development

Communities that are included in a Metropolitan Planning Organization must include:

  • Transportation

Communities that are entitlement communities and are required to have a Consolidated Plan must include:

  • Housing

Comprehensive plans may also include optional elements, such as (but not limited to):

  • Infrastructure and community facilities
  • Community sustainability
  • Natural resources
  • Human services
  • Disaster resilience
  • Greenspace
  • Education
  • Historic and cultural resources
  • Public safety
  • Intergovernmental coordination
  • Solid waste management
  • Recreation

Education for Georgia Urban Planners

Undergraduate Education in Urban Planning in Georgia

Getting an undergraduate degree is your first goal along the pathway to becoming an urban planner in Georgia.  It is recommended that you choose a program accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board (PAB) of the American Planning Association. As Georgia has no PAB-accredited undergraduate programs, consider the following programs:

  • Bachelor of Landscape Architecture – University of Georgia
  • Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science- Savannah State University

Graduate Education in Urban Planning in Georgia

The following Georgia graduate programs in urban planning are accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board (PAB):


  • University of Georgia – Master of Environmental Planning & Design

College of Environment and Design, Environmental Planning & Design Program

285 S. Jackson St.

Athens, GA 30602

Accreditation through December 31, 2020

Umit Yilmaz, Program Director



  • Georgia Institute of Technology- Master of City & Regional Planning

College of Design, School of City & Regional Planning

245 Fourth St. NW, Suite 204

Atlanta, GA 30332-0155

Accreditation through December 31, 2026

Subhrajit Guhathakurta, Chair



Profession Certification for Urban Planners in Georgia

American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP)

Once you have graduated with a graduate degree in urban planning and worked in the field for about two years, you should try to become professionally certified. This involves taking an exam sponsored by the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP). These Prometric  test centers in Georgia offer the exam:

  • Albany – 2510 Archwood Drive
  • Athens – 825 S. Lumpkin St., University of Georgia
  • Atlanta – 5909 Peachtree Dunwoody Rd.
  • Atlanta – 75 Piedmont Avenue
  • Augusta – 2743 Perimeter Parkway
  • Columbus – 4225 University Avenue
  • Dahlonega – 203B Stewart Student Success Center, University of North Georgia
  • Macon – 3312 North Side Drive
  • Savannah – 340 Eisenhower
  • Smyrna – 2400 Lake Park Drive
  • Valdosta – 1709 River St.

To help you prepare for success on this examination, there are 2019 and 2018 AICP Exam Reviews from Georgia Tech that are downloadable at the American Planning Association – Georgia Chapter website.

AICP Certification Maintenance in Georgia

The AICP’s Certification Maintenance (CM) program will enable you to fulfill the required 32 credits every two years that you must complete to hold your AICP certification. Examples of applicable events for credit listed at the APA-GA website include (but are not limited to):

  • Transportation Alternatives and Innovations – Northeast Georgia Planning Collective, Athens
  • Georgia Tech 53rdAnnual Basic Economic Development Course- Atlanta
  • 2020 GPA Spring Conference – Sandy Springs
  • Georgia Association of Zoning Administrators Summer Conference – Buford

Alternatives or Additions to AICP for Certification in Georgia

You may want to pursue more professional planning certifications, like:


Careers for Urban Planners in Georgia

Urban Planning Projects of Note in Georgia

Outstanding planning projects across the state of Georgia have included:

  • Livable Centers Initiative – Atlanta Regional Commission
  • Marietta Multi-Use Trail Map
  • Atlanta Streetcar Project
  • Revitalization of Capitol Homes into a mixed-use, mixed-income, mixed-generational community (Atlanta)

Internships in Planning in Georgia

Your college urban planning degree program should offer you the chance to participate in an internship, in which you can put what you’ve learned in the classroom to practical use in the workplace. If not, consider creating your own opportunities such as:

  • Transportation Planning Intern – RS&H, Atlanta
  • Intern- Land Planning – Kimley-Horn, Atlanta
  • Environmental Planning Intern – WSP, Atlanta
  • Urban Planning Intern – Jacobs, Atlanta
  • Ethics & Compliance Intern – UCB, Smyrna

Urban Planning Jobs in Georgia’s Public Sector

Jobs at the local, county, state and federal levels in urban planning in Georgia could include:

  • Planner I- City of Douglasville
  • Zoning Administrator – City of Riverdale
  • Planning Manager- Dekalb County Government, Decatur
  • Community Development Director – Spalding County Board of Commissioners, Griffin
  • Senior Planner- Hall County Government, Gainesville

Urban Planning Jobs in Georgia’s Private Sector

Jobs working in the private sector in urban planning in Georgia might include:

  • GIS Technician/Planning – ACCGOV, Athens
  • Environmental Project Manager – Southern Georgia Regional Commission, Valdosta
  • Transportation Technical Planner – High Street Consulting Group, Atlanta
  • Land Planner/Landscape Architecture – Falcon Design, Stockbridge
  • Planner – W&A Engineering, Athens

Future for Urban Planners and the Real Estate Market in Georgia

As the population and economy of Georgia continue to grow, the demand for land grows accordingly. Much of Georgia’s land is changing from rural, forest and agricultural uses to urban uses. If left unchecked, this can contribute to urban sprawl. Urban planners are needed in Georgia to promote reasonable land use and help to prevent urban sprawl.

The real estate sector in Georgia is expected to remain strong for the near future. The state’s economy remains strong and unemployment is at an 18-year low as of 2019. As more business moves into Georgia, opportunities are created for investors in residential and commercial real estate. Home values in Georgia increased by more than 10 percent from 2017 to 2018, according to All of this spells great opportunity for investors, and even more work for those seeking urban planning jobs within Georgia.

More Resources for Georgia’s Urban Planners