Career Profile: Urban and Regional Planners
Roads, cities, and towns may seem like they grow organically from existing infrastructure, but in fact every new addition to a urban or rural landscape is planned out carefully. This is the job of Urban and Regional Planners, who are experts in designing and planning new additions to residential, commercial, and rural areas.
Urban planners typically focus on cities and towns, while regional planners will focus on a wider area that can include residential towns, but can also be comprised of rural or undeveloped land. In both cases, planners are responsible for mapping out the best way to use available land and resources to expand a city or town, taking into account natural and environmental factors, existing infrastructure, individual needs of a community, roads and highways, and water sources.
Urban and regional planners are responsible for a variety of tasks, including collecting and analyzing data on a city or region (such as demographics, economy, population, political representation or cultural representation), developing land use and community plans, process applications for land development permits, or supervise new and ongoing development projects. Some planners will also specialize, such as focussing on environmental planning for parks, nature preserves, campgrounds, and waterfronts, or infrastructure projects such as transit and transportation, water and sewer systems, or schools.
The most common workplace for urban planners will be in an office environment, but it is likely that you will be required to travel locally, such as around your city or nearby rural areas, in order to examine and oversee project sites, perform surveys, and ensure the project runs smoothly. You will also have to be skilled in using computers, and specific software such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS), computer aided design (CAD) or computer aided engineering (CAE) programs, Building Information Management (BIM) software, and project management platforms.
To become an urban planner, you will need at minimum a bachelor’s degree in urban and regional planning, geography, engineering, architecture, or a related discipline. Depending on the company and job responsibilities, you may also need a Master’s degree in one of these fields, especially if you want to advance through managerial positions or into the executive and consulting spheres.
In most of Canada, you will likely need to be a registered member of the Canadian Institute of Planners, and some provinces may also require registration with a regulatory body, such as the Ontario Professional Planners Institute.
The salary range for urban planners starts at around $43,000 for entry-level positions, with a salary of up to $90,000 per year possible after gaining experience. This will also depend on the job, as smaller companies may not have salaries as high as, for example, the government or consulting sector.