Urban and Regional Planners


Education and Training Requirements

High School

Take courses in government and social studies to learn about past and present organizational structures of cities and counties. Good communication skills are needed to work with people in a variety of professions, so take courses in speech and English composition. Drafting, architecture, and art classes will familiarize you with the basics of design. Become active on your student council so that you can be involved in implementing changes for the school community. Computer science classes will teach you how to use databases, conduct online research, and use software programs.  

Postsecondary Training

A master's degree is the minimum requirement for most trainee jobs with federal, state, or local government boards and agencies. Typical courses include geography, public administration, political science, law, engineering, architecture, landscape architecture, real estate, finance, and management. Computer courses and training in statistical techniques are also essential. Most masters' programs last a minimum of two years and require students to participate in internships with city planning departments.

When considering schools, check with the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning for helpful resources, https://www.acsp.org/page/StudentResources.

Other Education or Training

The American Planning Association offers audio/web conferences, workshops, self-directed study options, online courses, and other continuing education opportunities. Other organizations that provide professional development classes that will be useful to urban and regional planners include the American Institute of Architects, American Society of Civil Engineers, International City/County Management Association, and the Canadian Institute of Planners.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Certification in urban and regional planning is not required but can lead to more challenging, better-paying positions. The American Institute of Certified Planners, a division of the American Planning Association (APA), grants certification to planners who meet certain academic and professional requirements and successfully complete an examination. The exam tests for knowledge of the history and future of planning, research methods, plan implementation, and other relevant topics.

As of 2016, the state of New Jersey was the only state that required planners to be licensed. Contact your state department of labor for more information on licensing requirements.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Aspiring planners should obtain several years’ of experience in the planning field as assistants, interns, or in other positions. 

In addition to being interested in planning, urban and regional planners should have design skills and a good understanding of spatial relationships. Good analytical skills help them in evaluating projects. Planners must be able to visualize the relationships between streets, buildings, parks, and other developed spaces and anticipate potential planning problems. As a result, logic and problem-solving abilities are also important.