How to Become an Urban Planner in Idaho

Idaho MapPlanning website notes that the city of Boise, Idaho has more jobs per capita for urban planners than the average city as of 2019. Boise is an active city within the state and has not only its own Planning & Zoning Commission but also a Capital City Development corporation to oversee the city’s urban renewal districts. Being the capital of Idaho, Boise is expected to have more jobs for urban planners than other cities within the state.

Boise’s planners have been working towards transit-oriented development in the last few years. They hope to make improvements between Whitewater Park Blvd. in Boise and Highway 16 in Star in order to improve transit in the area. If realized, the plan, which has been in development for 15 years, would bring higher-density development to the area as well as faster and more frequent modes of public transportation in the form of a bus rapid-transit system. In this model, transit supports land use, and land use supports transit.

Boise has five urban renewal districts. In these districts, property taxes are frozen and any new property tax revenue generated by development goes back to the urban renewal district to be spent on improvements for the public. Higher-density housing projects have been and are being built within these districts.

Idaho is more than just Boise, of course. Planners in the state keep quite busy working within cities, rural areas and suburban neighborhoods, planning for the future land use and the good of the citizens of Idaho. If you would like to learn how to become an urban planner in Idaho, please keep reading.

Take-Home Pay for Idaho’s Urban Planners

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of May 2019, urban planners working in Idaho earned a median annual salary of $59,290. Planners working in the following cities in Idaho earned:

  • Boise City – $63,350
  • Coeur d’Alene –  $52,760
  • Northwest non-metro area – $48,660
  • Southeast-Central non-metro – $54,200

Rules and Regulations Regarding Urban Planning in Idaho

Land use law in Idaho dates back to the 1920s. Before that time, the government had the right to regulate development of property through zoning but no laws were on paper stating this. Various ordinances were pieced together and didn’t really tackle the comprehensive problems of land use. With the case Village of Euclid v. Amber Realty Co. in 1926, the authority of Idaho’s municipal governments to restrict property use through zoning ordinances was established.

Urban and resort areas in Idaho have grown significantly recently. This growth has placed a strain on Idaho’s land use laws, which were originally developed for a more rural state. Existing land use laws in Idaho do not necessarily meet the needs for smart growth of urban areas.

Planning and Zoning Powers

Cities and counties in Idaho have zoning power under Idaho Constitution and stemming from the Local Land Use Planning Act (adopted in 1975). Police within these jurisdictions also have zoning powers under Idaho law. Each municipality can establish its own Planning & Zoning Commission.

Comprehensive Plans

Under the Local Land Use Planning Act (LLUPA), municipalities must make their planning and zoning decisions always keeping that city or county’s Comprehensive Plan in mind. The plan must consider previous and existing conditions, goals, trends, and desirable future outcomes. The main purpose of a Comprehensive Plan under Idaho law is to guide all planning and zoning decisions within a municipality. Zoning ordinances must be made in accordance with a comprehensive plan. Under the LLUPA, the following 14 elements must be in a comprehensive plan:

  • Property rights
  • Population
  • School facilities/transportation
  • Economic development
  • Land use and a land use map
  • Natural resources
  • Hazardous areas
  • Public utilities, facilities and services
  • Transportation
  • Recreation
  • Special sites or areas
  • Housing
  • Community Design
  • Implementation

Smart Growth

Smart growth, also called “new urbanism,” is also a part of land use law in Idaho. Smart growth encouraged mixed land uses, emphasizes alternative transportation choices, incorporates a mix of housing opportunities and types, creates compactly built communities, and preserves open spaces and natural resources. Developments in Idaho that have incorporated smart growth include:

  • Bo-Do in downtown Boise (short for Boise Downtown)
  • Bown Crossing in Boise
  • Courthouse Corridor in Downtown Boise
  • Crescent Rim in Boise
  • Hidden Springs in Day Creek Valley (north of Boise)

Getting an Education in Urban Planning in Idaho

Undergraduate Urban Planning Education in Idaho

While a graduate degree is the ultimate goal for aspiring urban planners in Idaho, you must start by obtaining an undergraduate degree. None of the undergraduate or graduate urban planning degrees in Idaho are accredited by the  Planning Accreditation Board of the American Planning Association. However, the following programs belong to the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) and are recommended:

  • University of Idaho – Moscow
    • Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture
    • Bachelor of Science in Architecture
    • Bachelor of Interior Architecture and Design
    • Bachelor of Science in Horticulture and Urban Agriculture

Graduate Urban Planning Education in Idaho

Once again, there are no PAB-accredited graduate urban planning programs in Idaho. The following is ACSP-recommended, however:

  • University of Idaho, Moscow
    • Master of Architecture
    • Master of Landscape Architecture
    • Master of Science in Bioregional Planning & Community Design

College of Art & Architecture, Urban Design Center

322 E. Front St., Suite 390

Boise, ID 83702



Gaining Professional Certification as an Urban Planner in Idaho

American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP)

The Idaho Chapter of the American Planning Association recommends that you attain professional certification by the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP). Online study resources to help you pass the AICP examination are available at the APA Idaho Chapter website. Take the test in Idaho at one of these Prometric centers:

  • Meridian – Idaho State University
  • Pocatello – 1001 South 8th

AICP Certification Maintenance in Idaho

The AICP’s Certification Maintenance program helps you to earn 32 CM credits every two years and keep up your AICP membership. The APA-Idaho Chapter offers information on free APA distance education and other providers that offer these credits.

Further Certifications for Idaho Urban Planners

Organizations besides the AICP that also offer urban planning certifications include:

Employment for Urban Planners in Idaho

Projects in Urban Planning in Idaho

Examples of recent planning projects undertaken in the state of Idaho include:

  • Idaho Smart Growth
  • City of Idaho Falls Downtown Master Plan
  • City of Greenleaf Comprehensive Plan (won an award in 2006)
  • Idaho Main Street Program
  • City Peak Motorcycle Park in Payette County

Internships in Urban Planning Areas

The University of Idaho requires graduate students in the Bioregional Planning & Community Design program to complete a three- to six-credit internship. This can help you to gain valuable pre-professional experience that can be beneficial to you later when searching for a job. Examples of internship opportunities may include:

  • Keller Associates, Inc., Meridian
  • Micron, Boise
  • Dioptra LLC, Pocatello
  • Idaho Botanical Garden, Boise
  • PotlatchDeltic Corporation, Saint Maries

Idaho’s Planning Careers in the Public Sector

Careers in planning may available at the federal, state and county/city levels in Idaho and might include:

  • Planner I – Community Development – Kootenai County, Coeur d’Alene
  • Senior Planner – City of Pocatello
  • Planning and Development Services Director – City of Pocatello
  • Planning and Zoning Director – Bingham County, Blackfoot
  • Community & Regional Planner – Ada County, Boise
  • NEPA Planner – Forest Service, Orofino

Idaho’s Planning Careers in the Private Sector

Careers in planning in Idaho might be available within the private sector, such as:

  • Conservation Planner – National Older Worker Career Center, Caldwell
  • Community and Economic Development Manager – Region IV Development, Twin Falls
  • VP of Land Acquisition and Forward Planning- Sterling Homes, Boise
  • Planning & Development Services Director – Pocatello Fire Department
  • Mid-Level Resilience/Emergency Management Planner – Tetra Tech, Inc., Boise

Forecast for Idaho’s Real Estate Industry and Urban Planning

According to, Boise will be the top housing market in the United States in 2020. Housing prices, as well as housing sales, in Boise are expected to grow faster than anyplace else in the country. Part of the reason is Boise’s geographic location – the climate is mild, there are four seasons, and it provides easy access to rivers, mountains, parks and lakes. Add to that Boise’s strong school system, good job market and great health care and you have a town in which people want to live.

Home prices in Boise continue to rise, and in November 2019 averaged $359,000, their highest home prices ever. Fewer new and existing homes are hitting the market, so demand is greater than supply at this time.

This positive news for Boise’s real estate industry means that, in the Boise area, planners should have plenty of opportunities for work. Statewide, jobs for urban and regional planners in Idaho are expected to grow by a whopping 14.9 percent between 2016 and 2026. There couldn’t be a better time to become an urban planner in Idaho!

Other Resources for Idaho’s Urban Planners