How to Become an Urban Planner in South Dakota

South Dakota MapThe area of the state of South Dakota is 75,885 square miles. It is the fifth least populated state in the nation. Over half (452,214) of its population of 882,235 (2018) live in rural areas. Those who live in South Dakota’s rural areas must be especially aware of the value of surface and ground waters and properly use and dispose of hazardous materials, such as pesticides, solid waste, recycling, and household hazardous waste. Additionally, they must maintain their water systems, including wells.

This is just one consideration of urban planners who work in South Dakota. Many also live in the state’s largest cities of Sioux City (population 171,544 per the US Census Bureau), Rapid City (73,569) and Aberdeen (28,102). Sioux City is one of the 50 fastest growing cities in the United States, experiencing a population growth of 22 percent between 2000 and 2010. Rapid City is also known as the “City of Presidents” because of its life-size bronze statutes of US presidents, as well as the nearby Mount Rushmore. Aberdeen is a college town, home to Presentation College and Northern State University.

South Dakota contains four major regions of land: the Drift Prairie (covering eastern South Dakota), the Dissected Till Plains (in the state’s southeastern corner), the Great Plains (covering the western two-thirds of the state), and the Black Hills (covering the southwestern part of the state and extending into Wyoming). While the state may not be as culturally diverse as other states in the nation, it does provide a wide variety of land types and uses. This fact should be of particular importance to anyone interested in becoming an urban planner in South Dakota. If that describes you, read on.

Salaries for South Dakota Urban Planners

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the US Department of Labor notes that South Dakota’s urban and regional planners earned an annual median wage of $58,470 as of May 2019. Those working in various cities throughout South Dakota earned varied wages, as noted below:

  • Aberdeen: $59,300
  • Brookings: $59,300
  • Rapid City: $47,810
  • Sioux Falls: $62,420

Regulations and Laws Regarding Land Use and Planning in South Dakota

As is true in most states, South Dakota authorized municipal and county planning commissions to regulate land use and urban planning. The one exception is that the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission (SDPUC) may determine that a municipal or county land use plan for a transmission facility within a designated area is unreasonably restrictive. Under South Dakota law, a transmission facility is defined as “an electric transmission line and associated facilities with a design of more than 115 kV or lines or facilities that are used exclusively for distribution or gathering.” If such a finding is made, the land developer might need to obtain an Energy Facility Permit from the SDPUC.

South Dakota law also states that counties may conduct joint planning to share expenses. The planning commissions of two or more counties may plan jointly, sharing their expenses.

Conservation of Natural Resources in South Dakota

South Dakota was one of the first states to create a soil conservation district, under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Since that time, the state has created conservation programs to protect and manage water, soil, air, wildlife and recreation areas. Under the state’s Coordinated Soil and Water Conservation Plan in 1991, the following gains were made:

  • Cropland erosion on 3.8 million acres was reduced, resulting in a 5.5 percent increase in crop industry output
  • Improved 1.7 million acres of rangeland that was in poor to fair condition by one condition class
  • Improved water quality in 35 water bodies in South Dakota

The state continues to work on the following conservation goals:

  • Achieve economic, social and environmental values of all Missouri River watersheds in South Dakota
  • Make sure that all South Dakota waters provide quality water for beneficial uses
  • Ensure that all South Dakota land has quality soils
  • Ensure that all of South Dakota meets quality air standards
  • Enhance wildlife habitats and recreational opportunities across South Dakota
  • Make sure that all South Dakotans are aware of and realize the benefit of natural resource management
  • Acquire stable funding and finances for natural resource management

Tribal Lands in South Dakota

South Dakota is home to over 71,000 American Indians, not all of whom live on the state’s reservations. Nine federally recognized Indian reservations/tribes (called the Oceti Sakowin) exist in South Dakota: Yankton, Standing Rock (Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate), Lake Traverse, Rosebud, Pine Ridge, Flandreau Santee Sioux, Lower Brule, Crow Creek and Cheyenne River. Each tribe acts as its own separate government, and its land is considered to be private land controlled by each individual tribe. They have distinct, unique interrelationships with the environment that remains essential to the health and preservation of South Dakota’s natural resources.

Getting an Urban Planning Education in South Dakota

Where to Undertake Undergraduate Urban Planning Studies in South Dakota

You must ultimately obtain a graduate degree in urban planning in order to become a South Dakota urban planner. However, you must start by getting an undergraduate degree in a related field. Consider these options:

  • Bachelor of Science in Community & Regional Planning- South Dakota State University
  • Bachelor of Science in Geologic Engineering- South Dakota School of Mines & Technology

Where to Complete Graduate Urban Planning Studies in South Dakota

It is recommended that you choose an graduate urban planning degree program that is accredited through the Planning Accreditation Board (PAB) of the American Planning Association. Although there are no accredited programs in South Dakota, neighboring states have them:


  • University of Nebraska Lincoln – Master of Community & Regional Planning

College of Architecture, Community & Regional Planning Program

304 Architecture Hall

Lincoln, NE 68588-0105

Accreditation through December 31, 2025

Gordon Scholz, Program Director





  • University of Minnesota, Minneapolis – Master of Urban & Regional Planning

Concentrations available: Environmental Planning, Housing & Community Development, Land Use & Urban Design, Transportation Planning, and self-designed concentrations

Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Urban & Regional Planning Program

301 19th Ave South

Minneapolis, MN 55455

Accreditation through December 31, 2022

Ryan Allen, Director





  • Iowa State University—Master of Community & Regional Planning

College of Design, Dept. of Community & Regional Planning

146 College of Design

Ames, IA 50011

Accreditation through December 31, 2024

Francis Owusu, Chair



  • University of Iowa—Master of Science in Urban & Regional Planning

School of Urban & Regional Planning

347 Jessup Hall

Iowa City, IA 52242-1316

Accreditation through December 31, 2020

Charles Connerly, Director



Urban Planner Certification in South Dakota

American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP)

After getting your graduate degree, you should consider professional certification through the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP). In order to take the certification exam, you must work in the field for two years. The exam is offered at the following Prometric test center closest to South Dakota:

  • North Dakota: 4503 Coleman St., Bismarck-Mandan

Maintaining AICP Credentials in South Dakota

The American Planning Association – Western Central Chapter can assist you in finding ways to meet the requirement of completion of 32 Certification Maintenance (CM) credits every two years. You must meet this mandate in order to maintain your AICP credentials. Consult their website for more information.

Other Urban Planning Certifications Offered in South Dakota

Other organizations offering urban planning credentials include:

Urban Planning as a Career in South Dakota

South Dakota Planning Projects That Are Notable

There have been some noteworthy planning projects in South Dakota, like:

  • South Dakota Housing for the Homeless – statewide 10 -year plan to end homelessness
  • South Dakota Drought Mitigation Plan
  • Shepherd Hills Development – North Rapid City
  • Russell Street Interchange- Sioux Falls

South Dakota Internships in Urban Planning

Even if you aren’t able to complete your urban planning studies in South Dakota, you can still undertake an internship, such as:

  • Field Research Assistant – Advance Services, Inc., Wentworth
  • Ascend Internship Program – City of Sioux Falls
  • Intern – South Dakota School of Mines, Rapid City
  • Intern – South Dakota Bureau of Human Resources, Pierre

South Dakota Urban Planning Jobs in the Public Sector

Jobs in the public sector may be at national, state, local or regional levels and might include:

  • Project Engineer & Executive Assistant – City of Spearfish
  • Planning Director – Pennington County
  • Community Development Specialist- Planning and Development District III, Yankton
  • Assistant Community & Economic Development Director – City of Box Elder
  • Park Ranger (Protection) – US Department of the Interior, Custer
  • Lead Transportation Assistant- US Department of Veterans Affairs, Fort Meade
  • Soil Conservationist – US Department of Agriculture, Chamberlain

South Dakota Urban Planning Jobs in the Private Sector

Privately owned companies and nonprofit organizations often offer jobs for urban planners, such as:

  • Utility Forester – Environmental Consultants, Rapid City
  • Right of Way Agent- Black Hills Energy, Rapid City
  • Logistics and Transportation Assistant – Marmen Energy, Brandon
  • Land Cover Scientist/Spatial Analyst- KBR, Sioux Falls
  • Ranch Technician – Turner Enterprises, Inc., Fort Pierre

Housing Market and Urban Planning Outlook for South Dakota

During 2020, according to, housing prices in South Dakota are expected to rise by 3.35 percent. In 2019, housing prices in the state were up 6.58 percent compared to one year ago. The median home price in South Dakota in 2019 was $194,400, much less than the national average of $229,600. Over the past ten years, housing prices in South Dakota have risen by $54,000. All of these positive indicators point to the probability that there will be enough jobs for urban planners in South Dakota for years to come.

Further Resources for Urban Planners in South Dakota