If your ambition is to work in the field of urban planning, you most likely know that, optimally, you will need a graduate degree. This is a lofty goal that can take up to six years to achieve, and can become costly. You might be wondering, after spending all that time and money on my education, what, exactly, can I do with an urban planning degree?
Get an Accredited Graduate Urban Planning Degree
Before we answer the question of what you can do with an urban planning degree, it is important to know what type of degree you will need. The program that you choose should be accredited by the Planning Accreditation board (PAB), an organization that accredits university programs that lead to degrees in planning. Standards that the PAB use to determine if a program is worthy of accreditation have been developed by the American Planning Association (APA), APA’s American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP), and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP). Seventy-six programs have been accredited by the PAB, and can be found here.
Examples of names of graduate urban planning degrees include (but are not limited to):
- Master of Urban Planning
- Master of Urban & Regional Planning
- Master of Science in Urban Planning
- Master of City & Regional Planning
- Master of Community & Regional Planning
- Master of Arts in Urban & Environmental Planning & Policy
- Mater of Science in Environmental Policy & Planning
- Master of City & Metropolitan Planning
Jobs That You Can Get with an Urban Planning Degree
Congratulations! You’ve studied and worked hard, and now have a graduate degree in urban planning! Now what? There is a wide variety of jobs available for those who hold a graduate degree in urban planning.
Jobs that most people associate with an urban planning degree include:
Urban and Regional Planner
Urban and regional planners develop comprehensive plans for the use of land and physical facilities. They may work for cities, towns, counties or metropolitan areas. Popular industries in which urban planners work include local government, architecture and engineering, state government, management and technical consulting, and the federal government. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of May 2020, the mean annual salary for Urban and Regional Planners is $79,410.
Project Management Specialist
A project management specialist’s duties vary depending upon the job and the needs of the employer. They organize all parts of a project and make sure that its operations run smoothly. They must communicate with others on the project time as well as clients. The BLS notes that popular industries for project management specialists are the federal government, management of companies, computer systems design, management and technical consulting, and colleges and universities. The mean annual wage for project management specialists as of May 2020 is $84,290.
Transportation planners plan and organize transportation within an area. They develop routes for mass transit, study proposed transportation projects, improve existing transportation systems, and develop new ones. Industries in which they work are similar to those for urban planners, as the BLS classifies them among urban planners. Their salary as of May 2020 is $79,410.
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) planners help to draw and prepare maps, graphs and charts and to review proposed developments within a community. They work with real-time, ever changing spatial information on spaces and evaluate current and planned development. GIS planners typically work in federal, state and local government. They are classified by the BLS as urban planners, with a salary of $79,410.
Environmental Sustainability Planner
An environmental sustainability planner is focused on the environmental and economic sustainability of a space when planning that area. This pertains to the area’s climate and economic outlook as well as the availability of resources. Environmental sustainability planners plan with the environment and the community in mind at all times. They work for local, state and federal government. As the BLS classifies them as urban planners, their mean annual wage is $79,410.
Other jobs that an urban planning degree can help you to obtain that might not be as obvious include:
A building inspector inspects structures to determine if they are sound and compliant with codes, regulations and specifications. They may also identify violations of codes and regulations, but not enforce them. While some engineering knowledge is needed for this position, some people with a degree in urban planning have gone on to become building inspectors. They commonly work in local, state and federal government, as well as in architecture and engineering services and management and technical consulting services. The BLS notes that as of May 2020, their mean annual wage is $66,470.
Codes Enforcement/Zoning Officer
Codes enforcement and zoning officers typically work for local and state governments, identifying that an area’s codes and regulations are adhered to in new construction. While specialized certification might be necessary for some positions, a degree in urban planning is also valuable to this position. Salary.com notes that the annual salary range for codes enforcement officers is between $42,660 and $52,011 as of 2022.
A landscape architect helps to design outdoor spaces such as parks and recreation areas. They must be licensed in the state in which they work. Degrees in urban design and planning can contribute to becoming a landscape architect. The BLS notes that as of May 2020, the annual average salary for landscape architects is $70,630.
If you aspire to a political office or want to help craft our laws, you might consider becoming a legislator or politician. Urban planning degrees can give you better knowledge of an area’s design, which can help you to better legislate that area. The mean annual wage, per the BLS, for legislators as of May 2020 is $53,560.
Of course, with a graduate degree in urban planning, you might choose to put your knowledge to work in teaching others. Many college professor positions require a graduate degree. Just think how satisfying it could be to pass on your vast knowledge of urban planning to students who are just starting out or are more advanced in the field. Some schools might require that you obtain teaching certification prior to working as a professor. Professor salaries vary widely depending upon the institution in which you work. The BLS notes that as of May 2020, the average annual salary for a postsecondary teacher is $80,560.