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How to Become an Urban Planner

Master's degree

Regional and urban planners often meet with developers, the public and public officials to determine land use and development plans. Regional and urban planners require a master's degree from an accredited planning program for the majority of positions.

Work Experience

Certain entry level jobs need one or two years of work experience in a similar field such as economic development, public policy and architecture. Numerous students attend internships or participate in planning projects during their master's program. After finishing their degree, many enroll in full time internships.

Education & Training

Most regional and urban planners have their master's degree from an accredited program specializing in regional or urban planning. The Planning Accreditation Board offers a master's degree in planning.

Numerous master's degree programs accept students with a large undergraduate background. Candidates with a bachelor's degree in environmental design, geography, political science or economics often enter master's degree programs.

The majority of master's degree programs include spending time in laboratories, workshops and seminars. Students use these opportunities to learn how to solve and analyze planning issues. The majority of master's programs offer a similar core curriculum. Their courses focus on different issues. For example, high population centers may focus on urban revitalization classes while rural programming may be covered in agricultural locales. It is common for some planners to have a background in a related area including: landscape architecture, architecture or public administration.

Planners with a bachelor's degree may become junior planners or be an assistant. Most individuals with a bachelor's degree require work experience in public policy, planning or a similar field.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

The AICP or American Institute of Certified Planners provides professional certification. In order to become certified, candidates must meet specific experience and education requirements and pass a particular exam. Every 2 years certification must be maintained. Certain organizations prefer hiring certified planners; however, certification is not required for all positions in planning.

Skills and Qualities that will Help

Analytical skills: Regional and urban planners need to analyze data and information from numerous sources including environmental impact studies, censuses and market research studies. They rely on statistical technologies and techniques including GIS or geographic information systems in their analyses to determine the data's significance.

Communication skills: Regional and urban planners must be clear with their communication as they commonly meet with large audiences and give presentations. Explaining plans to community members, interest groups and public officials is necessary.

Decision-making skills: Regional and urban planners must take all options into consideration. They utilize their realism, creativity and analysis to determine the appropriate plan or action.

Management skills: Urban and regional planners need to make decisions, plan assignments, manage projects and ensure tasks are completed.

Writing skills: Strong writing skills are necessary for urban and regional planners as they commonly write grant proposals, write research reports and correspond with stakeholders and colleagues.