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Urban and Regional Planners Job Outlook

Employment of urban and regional planners is expected to grow 16 percent from 2010 to 2020, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Population growth and environmental concerns will drive employment growth for planners in cities, suburbs, and other areas.

Urban areas will need planners to accommodate an expected influx of people into metropolitan areas. Within cities, urban planners will be needed to develop revitalization projects and address problems associated with population growth.

Suburbs are the fastest-growing communities in most metropolitan areas. As suburban areas become more heavily populated, municipalities will need planners to address changing housing needs and to improve transportation systems.

Planners also will be important as new communities will require extensive development and infrastructure, including housing, roads, sewer systems, schools.

An increased focus on sustainable and environmentally-conscious development also will increase demand for planners. Issues such as storm water management, permits, environmental regulation, and historic preservation should drive employment growth. 

Employment growth should be fastest in private engineering, architectural, and consulting services. Engineering and architecture firms are increasingly using planners for land use, development, and building. In addition, many real estate developers and governments will continue to contract out various planning services to these consulting firms, further driving employment growth.

Employment of planners in local or state government may suffer because many projects are canceled or deferred when municipalities have too little money for development. Expected tight budgets over the coming decade should slow planners’ employment growth in government.

Job Prospects

Job opportunities for planners often depend on economic conditions. When municipalities and developers have funds for development projects, planners are in higher demand. However, planners may face strong competition for jobs in an economic downturn, when there is less funding for development work.

Although government funding issues will affect employment of planners in the short term, job prospects should improve over the 2010–20 decade. Planners will be needed to help plan, oversee, and carry out development projects that were deferred because of poor economic conditions. Combined with the increasing demands of a growing population, long-term prospects for qualified planners should be good.

Job prospects will be best for those with a master’s degree from an accredited planning program and relevant work experience. Planners who are willing to relocate for work also will have more job opportunities.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition