There are approximately 39,700 urban and regional planners working in the United States. About 72 percent of planners work for local governments; others work for state agencies, the federal government, and in the private sector.
Many planners are hired for full-time work where they intern. Others choose to seek opportunities in state and federal governments and nonprofit organizations. Planners work for government agencies that focus on particular areas of city research and development, such as transportation, the environment, and housing. Urban and regional planners are also sought by colleges, law firms, the United Nations, and even foreign governments of rapidly modernizing countries.
Those with a bachelor's degree may find employment opportunities as an assistant at an architectural firm or construction office or working as city planning aides in regional or urban offices. New planners research projects, conduct interviews, survey the field, and write reports on their findings. Those with a master's degree enter the profession at a higher level, working for federal, state, and local agencies.
Previous work experience in a planning office or with an architectural or engineering firm is useful before applying for a job with city, county, or regional planning agencies. Membership in a professional organization is also helpful in locating job opportunities. These include the American Planning Association, the American Institute of Architects, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the International City/County Management Association. Most of these organizations host student chapters that provide information on internship opportunities and professional publications.
Many planning staffs are small and directors are usually eager to fill positions quickly. As a result, job availability can be highly variable. Students are advised to apply for jobs before they complete their degree requirements. Most colleges have career services offices to assist students in finding job leads.
Beginning assistants can advance within the planning board or department to eventually become planners. The positions of senior planner and planning director are successive steps in some agencies. Frequently, experienced planners advance by moving to a larger city or county planning board, where they become responsible for larger and more complicated projects, make policy decisions, or become responsible for funding new developments. Other planners may become consultants to communities that cannot afford a full-time planner. Some planners also serve as city managers, cabinet secretaries, and presidents of consulting firms.
Visit https://www.planning.org/jobs/search for job listings.
Join professional associations, such as the American Planning Association (APA), to access industry publications, training and networking opportunities, and career resources. The APA offers great resources at its Web site, https://www.planning.org/advance.
Participate in internships or part-time jobs that are arranged by your college’s career services office.
Conduct information interviews with planners and ask them for advice on landing a job.