Choosing the Planning Profession

Planners help government officials, business leaders, and citizens create communities that offer better choices of where and how people work and live. It's a collaborative, dynamic field that offers the chance to really make a difference in the communities you care about, helping communities meet the challenges of growth and change.

Where Do Planners Work?

  • Every state and around the world
  • Rural areas, suburban areas, and large cities
  • Public sector within federal, state, and local governments
  • Nonprofits
  • Private sector within real estate development companies and planning or multi-disciplinary consulting firms

For select geographic and employment-sector data, review the APA Salary Survey.

APA has 47 chapters that represent every state in the U.S. They provide information on planning at the state or regional level.

Where Do Planners Go to School?

Visit the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning's website for a complete list of undergraduate and graduate planning degrees and credentials, including a searchable guide broken down by specializations, location and other helpful fields.

A degree from a Planning Accreditation Board (PAB) accredited university in Urban Planning or City and Regional Planning is the most thorough educational preparation for the planning field. A master's-level graduate degree, also accredited by PAB, is considered the standard for those who are planning practitioners. Many employers also give preference to American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP). Check out PAB's list of accredited schools.

What's a Typical Salary?

The APA/AICP 2016 Planners Salary Survey provides median salary by state, gender, experience, type of employer, and more. Surveys are conducted every other year. According to the latest survey, the typical full-time planner reported a 2016 annual salary of $77,300. AICP members earn an even higher salary. Read more.

How Does Planning Affect the Community?

Find out how planning can make an impact in your community — and how you can get involved. Read more.

How Does APA Help Planners?

APA is a nonprofit education and membership organization. Members include practicing planners, planning students, elected and appointed officials, planning commissioners, and interested citizens. The association offers continuing education, job leads and career services, networking opportunities — locally and throughout the nation, research, a variety of publications, and much more.

APA also publishes books by planning experts. Check out these top titles on career development.

What Does a Planner's Typical Day Look Like?

Planning is a highly collaborative field, and planners spend much of their time working with others. A planner's day may start with a staff meeting to discuss the management of a planning project. Other meetings might include a team meeting with engineers, architects, health professionals, and landscape architects to review the specifics of a plan. Yet other meetings might take place with developers as part of a pre-application process. The planner's role is to provide the big picture and to relate the project to various goals and guidelines, such as ordinances or design review, in order to achieve a final project that meets the needs of the community. This might include appropriate design, environmental considerations, support for the local economy, or equitable access for all members of the community. Read more.

What Skills Do Successful Planners Need?

In addition to a formal educational background, planners possess a unique combination of skills that enhance their professional success. Because planning is a dynamic and diverse profession, individual skills vary depending on a planner's role and area of specialization. Read more.

What Specializations Are Common in Planning?

While some planners spend their entire career within one of these specializations, most will move between them or find employment opportunities that combine specializations. Here are several of the most common specializations within the planning profession:

  • Community Development
  • Land Use & Code Enforcement
  • Transportation Planning
  • Environmental/Natural Resources Planning
  • Economic Development
  • Urban Design
  • Planning Management/Finance
  • Housing
  • Parks & Recreation
  • Historic Preservation
  • Community Activism/Empowerment

To gain insight into the various arenas of planning, read about APA's divisions.