Is becoming an urban planner right for me?

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What do urban planners do?
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How to become an Urban Planner

To become an urban planner, you typically need to follow these steps:

  • Earn a Bachelor's Degree: Most urban planners have a Bachelor's Degree in Urban Planning, Geography, or a related field. A bachelor's degree usually takes four years to complete.
  • Gain Work Experience: Many urban planning jobs require applicants to have experience in the field. You can gain experience through internships, part-time work, or volunteer positions.
  • Earn a Master's Degree: Some employers prefer candidates with a Master's Degree in Urban Planning or a related field. A master's degree typically takes two years to complete.
  • Obtain Professional Certification: Certification is not required to work as an urban planner, but it can improve job prospects and demonstrate expertise in the field. The American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) offers certification for urban planners who meet certain education and experience requirements (see below).
  • Network and Build Professional Connections: Attend professional conferences, join industry organizations, and connect with other urban planners to expand your professional network.
  • Apply for Jobs: Look for job openings on job boards, government websites, and industry organizations. Tailor your resume and cover letter to each position and be prepared to interview for the job.
  • Continuously Develop Your Skills: Stay up-to-date on new technologies, trends, and best practices in urban planning to improve your job performance and advance your career.

There are several certifications available for urban planners that can demonstrate their expertise and knowledge in the field. Here are some of the most common certifications for urban planners:

  • American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP): AICP is the most widely recognized certification for urban planners in the United States. To become certified, planners must meet certain education and experience requirements and pass an exam.
  • LEED Certification: The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification is offered by the US Green Building Council and focuses on sustainable design and construction practices.
  • Certified Floodplain Manager (CFM): The CFM certification is offered by the Association of State Floodplain Managers and demonstrates expertise in floodplain management and hazard mitigation.
  • Geographic Information Systems Professional (GISP): The GISP certification is offered by the GIS Certification Institute and demonstrates expertise in geographic information systems (GIS) technology.
  • Certified Economic Developer (CEcD): The CEcD certification is offered by the International Economic Development Council and demonstrates expertise in economic development and community planning.

The following associations offer a range of benefits, including networking opportunities, professional development resources, conferences, publications, and access to research and best practices in the field of urban planning.

  • American Planning Association (APA): The APA is the largest professional organization for urban planners in the United States. It provides resources, networking opportunities, and advocacy for planners working in various fields.
  • Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP): ACSP is an organization of academic programs offering planning degrees. It promotes excellence in planning education, research, and outreach.
  • Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU): CNU focuses on the promotion of walkable, sustainable, and equitable communities. It brings together professionals, academics, and advocates interested in the principles of new urbanism.
  • Urban Land Institute (ULI): ULI is an interdisciplinary organization that focuses on land use, real estate development, and urban design. It provides a platform for knowledge sharing, research, and professional development.
  • National Association of County Planners (NACP): NACP represents county planners across the United States. It offers networking opportunities, educational resources, and professional support.
  • National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO): NACTO is an association that brings together transportation planners and practitioners from cities across the United States. It focuses on innovative and sustainable urban transportation solutions.
  • American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP): AICP is the professional certification arm of the APA. It provides a voluntary certification program for planners to demonstrate their expertise and commitment to the planning profession.