How to Become an Urban Planner in New York

New York MapAccording to Arcadis’ Sustainable Cities Index 2016, produced by a sustainable design consulting firm, New York City is the most sustainable city in the United States. It ranks 20thinternationally, however. The benefits of New York City, per this article, include its excellent public transportation system, which means fewer cars on the road; and the inexpensive cost of its public transportation. Furthermore, more residents live in apartments that use less space and resources. The greenhouse gas rate of New York City is 7.4 metric tons, lower than any other city in the United States (the average for a U.S. city is 24.5 metric tons).

The study also points to the fact that New York City’s planners are tearing down empty buildings and unnecessary parking garages and replacing them with affordable housing, efficiently using the land that becomes available. This encourages more people to live in dense urban spaces.

Of course, New York State is more than New York City. The Empire State has a population as of 2018 of 19.54 million (making it the fourth most populated state). The area of New York State is 54,556 square miles *making it the 27thlargest state in area). The US Census Bureau shows that Queens, Brooklyn, Nassau and Westchester Counties actually had decreases in population between 2017 and 2018. Still, there is much work in New York State for aspiring urban planners, who are needed to plan the urban, suburban and rural areas of the state. If you would like to become one of them, read on.

Wages for Urban Planners in New York

As of May 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), urban planners working in New York averaged an annual median salary of $76,830.  Those working in various parts of the state made wages higher or lower than the average, as noted below:

  • Albany $68,780
  • Buffalo $64,430
  • Cheektowaga $64,430
  • New York City $79,550
  • Niagara Falls $64,430
  • Rochester $65,150
  • Schenectady $68,780
  • Syracuse $61,840
  • Troy $68,780

Planning Regulations and Laws in New York

According to the New York State Legislative Commission on Rural Resources, there were  1544 towns, cities and villages statewide as of 2008. The majority of these municipalities have land use regulations in place. Under New York State’s constitution, the primary authority for guiding community development and planning lies with cities, villages and towns.


The state’s Office of Planning and Development Division of Planning undertakes projects to stimulate community revitalization. They concentrate on four main areas:

  • New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program– the state’s program works with 45 planning committees as well as the Governor’s Office and the Office of Storm Recovery, improving state and local government response to the rising sea levels, storm surge and other climate change impacts in New York’s coastal area
  • Regional Economic Development Councils- guide and help develop regional strategic plans
  • Local Waterfront Revitalization Programs- preserve, protect, enhance, and sustainably use natural and man-made resources along New York’s coastal area and inland waterways by setting forth land use and water use policies
  • Brownfield Opportunity Area plans- tailoring these plans to increase resiliency and ignite economic development in the state

Long Island South Shore Estuary Reserve

The Long Island South Shore Estuary Reserve Act was established in 1993 to preserve, protect and enhance the natural, economic, recreational and educational resources of the area. This reserve runs 75 miles east from the Nassau County/New York City line to the Village of Southampton in Suffolk County; and from south to north, from the high tide line on the ocean side of the barrier island to the inland limits of drainage areas.

This area has its own Comprehensive Management Plan. This plan is designed to:

  • Improve/maintain water quality
  • Protect/restore living resources
  • Expand public use
  • Sustain/expand the estuary economy
  • Increase education, stewardship and outreach

OneNYC 2050

The OneNYC 2050 long-term strategic plan was devised to confront the city’s climate crisis, attain equity, and strengthen democracy all by 2050. It focuses on:

  • Achieving a vibrant democracy
  • Attaining an inclusive economy
  • Creating thriving and safe neighborhoods
  • Reducing inequalities in health outcomes and fostering a healthy physical environment
  • Attaining equity and excellence in education
  • Achieving a livable climate through carbon neutrality and adapting to climate change
  • Efficient transportation and mobility
  • Investing in reliable physical and digital infrastructure

Earn an Undergraduate Degree in Urban Planning in New York

You must first pursue an undergraduate degree in an urban planning area before seeking a graduate degree. Although the American Planning Association encourages you to seek undergraduate programs that are accredited by the  Planning Accreditation Board, there are no such programs in New York at this time. However, the Association of Collegiate School of Planning (ACSP) recommends the following undergraduate programs in New York:

  • State University of New York at Albany – Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Major in Urban Studies and Planning
  • Cornell University, Ithaca – Bachelor of Science in Planning, Bachelor of Science in Urban and Regional Studies
  • University at Buffalo, the State University of New York – Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Design

Attain a Graduate Degree in Urban Planning in New York

After you have an undergraduate degree, seek an accredited graduate  program (by the  Planning Accreditation Board (PAB) of the American Planning Association). In New York, these include:


  • Columbia University, New York – Master of Science in Urban Planning

Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation

1172 Amsterdam Ave, 413c Avery Hall

New York, NY 10027

Accreditation through December 31, 2021

Weiping Wu, Director



  • Cornell University, Ithaca – Master of Regional Planning

College of Architecture, Art & Planning, Department of City & Regional Planning

106 W. Sibley Hall

Ithaca, NY 14853

Accreditation through December 31, 2021
Jeffery M. Chusid, Department Chair


  • Hunter College, City University of New York – Master of Urban Planning

School of Arts & Sciences, Dept of Urban Planning and Policy

695 Park Ave, West Bldg 1611

New York, NY 10065

Accreditation through December 31, 2022
John Chin, Director


  • New York University – Master of Urban Planning

Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, Urban Planning Program

295 Lafayette St., 2ndfloor

New York, NY 10012

Accreditation through December 31, 2026
Zhan Guo, Director


  • Pratt Institute – Master of Science in City & Regional Planning

School of Architecture, Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment

200 Willoughby Ave.

Brooklyn, NY 11205

Accreditation through December 31, 2020
Eve Baron, Chair


  • University of Albany, State University of New York – Master of Regional Planning in Urban & Regional Planning

College of Arts & Sciences, Dept of Geography and Planning

Arts & Sciences 218

Albany, NY 12222

Accreditation through December 31, 2023
Catherine T. Lawson, Director


  • University at Buffalo, State University of New York – Master of Urban Planning

School of Architecture & Planning, Dept of Urban and Regional Planning

Hayes Hall

Buffalo, NY 14214-3087

Accreditation through December 31, 2021
Daniel Hess, Chair


Become Certified as an Urban Planner in New York

American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP)

The American Planning Association-New York Metro Chapter recommend s urban planners pursue professional certification. They suggest that you take the following steps before sitting for the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP). Exam:

The exam is offered at Prometric testing centers, which, in New York, include:

  • Brooklyn – 384 Bridge St.
  • New York – 1250 Broadway, Suite 2500
  • Queens – 59-17 Junction Blvd.
  • Westbury – 865 Merrick Ave. Suite 70N
  • Purchase – 2975 Westchester Ave.
  • Melville – 35 Pinelawn Rd.
  • Poughkeepsie – 201 South Ave.

AICP Certification Maintenance in New York

Remember to keep your AICP certification current through theirCertification Maintenance Program.  You must complete 32 CM credits every two years (including 1.5 CMs in Planning Laws and Planning Ethics) to maintain your AICP certification.   The CM Search database can help you to find appropriate activities and events.

More Certifications for Urban Planners in New York

You may decide to pursue other certifications as an urban planner in New York, such as:

New York Career and Job and Career Opportunities for Urban Planners

Urban Planning Internships in New York

Your urban planning degree program should offer you the chance to complete an internship. This is a valuable experience and a great time to network with other professionals. Examples of internships for urban planners in New York have included:

  • NoHo Business Improvement District, New York City
  • Apparel Company, New York City
  • Stantec, New York City
  • New York City Department of City Planning
  • City of Albany

Urban Planning Jobs in New York’s Public Sector

Jobs within New York’s public sector in urban planning may have titles such as:

  • Sustainability Coordinator – Schenectady County, Schenectady
  • Urban Planner – Manhattan Borough
  • Borough Planner- New York City Department of City Planning
  • Planner – Town of East Hampton
  • City Planner- Borough of Queens

Urban Planning Jobs in New York’s Private Sector

Jobs in urban planning in New York’s private sector might have titles like:

  • Project Director, Project M.O.V.E. Buffalo, Americorps, Buffalo
  • Economist/Planner – AKRF, Inc., New York City
  • Planner-LaBella Associates, Rochester
  • Environmental Planner- APA Long Island Section, Hauppage
  • Intermediate Urban Planner- Henning Larsen, New York City

Outlook for Real Estate and Urban Planners in New York

New York State’s housing prices are increasing, according to the New York State Association of Realtors. From 2018 to 2019, the price of a home in New York rose 7.1 percent to $299,950. Although affordability of housing is dropping in New York State, home prices are up and inventory is down, the housing market is still expected to remain strong in the future. New York’s economy ranks third nationwide with a gross state product of 1.720 trillion. Positive trends in real estate in New York should encourage this growth and also ensure that plenty of jobs will be available for urban planners in the state.

Additional Urban Planning Resources in New York