How to Become an Urban Planner in New Jersey

New Jersey MapAccording to the New Jersey Regional Plan Association, New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the United States. Its more than eight million residents live in New Jersey’s cities, suburbs and rural communities, packed into the state’s 7354 square miles of area. The US Census Bureau notes that, as of 2010, there were 1195 residents per square mile living in New Jersey. That’s a lot of people packed into a fairly small area, and presents unique challenges for urban planners working in New Jersey.

The Census Bureau also notes that much urban redevelopment is ongoing in New Jersey. Eight urban centers accounted for 18.6 percent of New Jersey’s population growth statewide from 2010 to 2018 (they are Atlantic City, New Brunswick, Camden, Trenton, Elizabeth, Paterson, Jersey City and Newark). During that same time, the entire population of the state grew by just 1.3 percent. Population growth in New Jersey continues to be concentrated within the state’s cities, towns and older suburban downtown areas. There are 124 municipalities in New Jersey that score well on New Jersey Future’s metrics of compact, walkable urbanism – that is, having a mixed-use center, having local street network density and having net activity density. These areas account for almost 71 percent of the state’s population growth since 2010.

All of these factors taken together point to urban areas continue to grow and thrive in New Jersey, spelling out continued work opportunities for urban planners in the state. If you want to know how to become an urban planner in New Jersey, please keep reading.

Urban Planning Salary in New Jersey

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the U.S. Department of Labor notes that as of May 2019, urban planners working in the state of New Jersey earned an average annual salary of $72,730. Those employed in some of New Jersey’s biggest cities made salaries that varied from the median, as you can see below (some city data is provided by

  • Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton PA-NJ $79,860
  • Elizabeth $69,980
  • Jersey City $79,550
  • Newark $79,550
  • Paterson $70,655

Planning Regulations and Laws in New Jersey

New Jersey’s Department of State Office of Planning Advocacy is responsible for the State Plan. The State Plan coordinates planning activities and objectives in land use, housing, transportation, economic development, agriculture and farmland retention, natural resource conservation, urban and suburban redevelopment, recreation, public facilities and services, historic preservation, and intergovernmental coordination. Under 1985’s State Planning Act, the State Development and Redevelopment Plan (its full title) is the culmination of the statewide planning process, with input from the public, state agencies, and municipal, county and regional governments.

Municipal Planning

New Jersey’s municipalities regulate their own building and construction projects via municipal land uselaws. Each municipality is responsible for enforcing regulations based on zoning, the environment, water, safe roadways, compatible land uses, adequate public facilities, and impacts to property values and taxes. All Municipal Master Plans must contain the following elements:

  • Statement of purpose
  • Land Use element
  • Housing Plan element
  • Relationships with other plans

Optional elements that may be in a Municipal Master Plan include:

  • Conservation element
  • Cultural resources element
  • Infrastructure evaluation
  • Economic growth
  • Technology needs
  • Recycling efforts

All master plans must be reexamined every six years, to reflect a community’s current conditions and visions. They must be reviewed, re-presented and re-adopted by the municipal Planning Board.

Environmental Capacity-Based Planning in New Jersey

The State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection also involves itself in planning and sustainable communities. They work with other agencies to ensure that the state’s environmental limits and opportunities for growth are met when planning land usage throughout the state. This involves water quality management, the Statewide Water Supply Master Plan, and the Landscape Project.

Because New Jersey is a coastal peninsular state, coastal planning is also part of this process. New Jersey has more than 200 miles of coastline from the waterfronts of northern New Jersey to the estuary of the Delaware Bay. Planning in these areas addresses and protects the special natural resources that are contained there. Coastal Zone Management Rules were put into place to ensure that these areas are preserved and protected when it comes to planning purposes.

Choose an Undergraduate Degree Program in Urban Planning in New Jersey

Although your ultimate goal in your quest to become an urban planner in New Jersey is to obtain a graduate degree, you must start with an undergraduate degree. It is recommended that you find a program that is accredited by the   Planning Accreditation Board, but New Jersey has no accredited undergraduate programs. Alternatives include:

  • Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey – Bachelor of Science in Urban Planning & Design
  • Montclair State University – Bachelor of Arts in Geography with Urban Studies minor

Pick a Graduate Degree Program in Urban Planning in New Jersey

Once again, it is suggested that you choose a graduate urban planning program that holds accreditation by the  Planning Accreditation Board (PAB) of the American Planning Association). In New Jersey, there is one such program:


  • Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey – Master of City and Regional Planning

Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning & Public Policy, Urban Planning and Policy Development Program

33 Livingston Ave, Suite 300

New Brunswick, NJ 08901-1987

Accreditation through December 31, 2021

Kathe Newman, Program Director



Seek Professional Urban Planner Certification in New Jersey

State Board of Professional Planners

New Jersey is the only state that requires licensure of urban planners. The State Board of Professional Planners is responsible for regulation of the planning profession in New Jersey. Licensure is attainable through completing the Application for a License to Practice as a Professional Planner. Once you have completed the application, be sure to have it notarized and include the filing fee (listed on the application) payable via check or money order to the State of New Jersey. You must pass a professional state examination in order to become licensed. State licenses are valid for two years and must be renewed at that time. No continuing education credits are necessary to renew your state license.

American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP)

The American Planning Association-New Jersey Chapter advocates professional certification for urban planners in New Jersey.  This is accomplished through passing the  American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) exam.

The AICP exam covers the following areas:

  • 25 percent is on Fundamental Planning Knowledge:
    • History of planning
    • Foundational legal principles/decisions
    • Theories on planning
    • Patterns of human settlement
    • Statutory basis of planning
    • General terminology
    • Natural, social and economic systems
    • Core values of planning
  • 30 percent is on Plan Making and Implementation:
    • Conducting research and getting knowledge
    • Spatial analysis
    • Public engagement
    • Communication
    • Preparing to plan
    • Formulating plans and policies
    • Plan implementation
    • Monitoring and assessing
    • Project program management
    • Social justice
  • 30 percent is on Areas of Practice:
    • Comprehensive and sectoral planning
    • Community and neighborhood planning
    • Current planning
    • Sustainability planning
    • Transportation planning
    • Infrastructure planning
    • Hazards, mitigation, resiliency planning
    • Environmental and natural resources planning
    • Economic development planning
    • Urban design
    • Housing planning
    • Parks, rec and open space planning
    • Historic and cultural resources planning
    • Institutional planning and siting
    • Food planning
    • Health planning
    • Rural and small town planning
  • 5 percent is on Leadership, Administration and Management:
    • Leadership
    • Managing external relationships
    • Internal organizational management
    • Technology and related applications
  • 10 percent is on AICP Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct:
    • Section A: aspirational principles
    • Section B: rules of conduct
    • Section C, D, E: Procedural provisions

Choose a Prometric testing centers in New Jersey to take the AICP exam:

  • Hamilton Township – 1 AAA Drive
  • Laurel Springs – 1381 Chews Landing Road, Bldg. 5
  • Clark- 100 Walnut Ave

AICP Certification Maintenance in New Jersey

The AICP Certification Maintenance Program helps you to maintain your AICP certification. Be sure to take32 CM credits every two years to maintain your AICP certification.   The CM Search database helps you to discover interesting CM activities in your area.

Other Certifications for Urban Planners in New Jersey

There are other professional urban planning certifications you may decide to undertake, like:

Urban Planning Jobs and Careers in New Jersey

Planning Projects in New Jersey

Recent planning projects that have been planned or begun in New Jersey include:

  • Bergen County Parks Master Plan
  • Perth Amboy 2ndStreet Park: Brownfields to Waterfront Park
  • Hackensack River Regional Planning- connecting communities along a river corridor
  • Urban coastal protection, Bayonne
  • Teaneck Creek Conservancy Wetlands

Urban Planning Internships in New Jersey

Most urban planning degree programs will offer you real-life work experience through an internship. Examples of internships in New Jersey have been:

  • H2M Architects Engineers, Parsippany-Troy Hills
  • Kitchen and Associates – Collingswood
  • Novo Nordisk – Plainsboro Township
  • North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority – Monmouth and Union Counties
  • Edgewood Properties – South Plainfield
  • WSP-Morristown

Public Sector Urban Planning Positions in New Jersey

Urban planning careers in the public sector in New Jersey may have titles such as:

  • Planner- Middlesex County, New Brunswick
  • Project Manager- City of Jersey City
  • Senior Planner- New Jersey Transit, Newark
  • Senior Planner- City of Jersey City

Private Sector Urban Planning Positions in New Jersey

Urban planning careers in the private sector in New Jersey may have titles like:

  • Community Resilience and Mitigation Planner – Tetra Tech, Morris Plains
  • Director, Urban Design and Planning- Spiezle Architectural Group, Inc., Camden
  • Principal Planner, Corridor Studies – New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark
  • Senior Planner – H2M Architects Engineers – Parsippany

Forecast for Real Estate and Urban Planners in New Jersey

Home prices in New Jersey continue to rise, with the median home value now $324,700. They rose by 5.9 percent in 2018, and are expected to continue to rise. The shortage of housing inventory creates higher demand and higher prices in the state’s real estate market.

Urban planners in New Jersey will continue to face challenges as urban areas are in redevelopment and with the ongoing dilemma of where to fit the increasing cities’ populations. If your goal is to become an urban planner in New Jersey, your time is now!

Additional Urban Planning Resources in New Jersey