In general, urban planners develop plans to grow, revitalize or build communities. They also review proposals from developers, manage environmental issues, solve economic problems and establish programs that could attract new businesses to the area. For the most part, regional planners -- as they’re sometimes called -- enter the field with a master’s degree in urban planning. In an urban planning program students learn how to identify, analyze and inevitably solve the issues facing most communities.
Plan on High Salaries
In 2012, urban planners earned an average of $67,950 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of the top 10 percent, salaries often exceeded $97,630, while salaries for the bottom 10 percent were less than $41,490 annually. Logic would tell you that starting salaries came in at the low end of this range, and that’s not far from the truth. A survey by the American Planning Association found that planners with fewer than three years of experience earned anywhere from $40,000 to $50,000 as of 2012.
Locating the Earning Potential
Though information is limited on how location affects starting salaries, the BLS does break down earnings by geographic area. Of the states, urban planners in the District of Columbia earned the highest salaries, at an average of $102,190 a year. Those in California were a distant second, averaging $80,750, while urban planners in Nevada ranked third, bringing home $79,950 annually. The lowest reported wages were found in Kentucky, where the average salary was $47,120 a year.
Gender Affects Planner Pay
As with many occupations, men outearn women in the field of urban planning. On average, women made 88 cents to every male dollar, reports the APA. But this didn’t hold true at the start of a planner’s career. With fewer than five years of experience, women averaged more money than men -- though both averaged around $50,000.
Bright Future Ahead
The BLS expects employment for urban planners to grow by as much as 16 percent from 2010 to 2020. This is just slightly faster than the national average for all U.S. occupations, a projected 14 percent. Being a relatively small field, however, the 16 percent growth works out to just 6,500 new jobs over the course of a decade. Expect the best job prospects for planners willing to relocate.