Urban Planning Degree Career Options

Graduates with an urban planning degree can work for governments, construction companies, non-profits and in international development. Although most of the positions are as full-time, permanent employees, some urban planners also work as freelance urban planning consultants once they have gained some experience in industry.


Governments at the city, state and federal level all hire urban, or regional planners. At the city or state level, urban planners work on city and regional development, from projects that improve public health to transportation services, within and between communities. An urban planner within a city will also consult, organize, attend and provide presentations at public meetings about commercial and residential development. Many of the projects you will receive will depend on your background: geographers turned urban planners may work on road or development planning and civil engineers and architects who have become urban planners will work on constructing public services and buildings.

Though there are many more opportunities in big cities for urban planners, many small towns experiencing under development will also hire urban planners. If a rural, or small city lifestyle appeals to you, there are opportunities in this area. For college students, there are many internships and summer learning positions that will help you acquire the necessary skills and contacts to get your first job out of college.

Construction Companies

Construction companies hire urban planners to help them design their communities. From determining where to construct roads, to the number of houses that will fit in each community, urban planners play a large role in the initial development and maintenance of a project. They will assist in the design and delivery of amenities such as water, power and waste removal, as well as determine transportation requirements. They also coordinate with city and state governments and handle project management with the assistance of engineers and project managers. Urban planners can also work with commercial developers to build large scale shopping complexes or to redevelop areas within a city for commercial or residential use.


Urban planners also work with non-profits analyzing current and future proposals of land uses for residential and commercial development. In the non-profit sector, much of their work will include writing reports and proposals and analyzing data. They may also make plans that will not materialize until far in the future, such as creating urban farms within the city limits, such the proposed plans put forth to revitalize Detroit. Working in a non-profit is also a way for many urban planners to work outside of bureaucracy and to integrate green development into their plans, and to work on the cutting edge of sustainable towns and cities.

International Development

Urban planners can find work in international development, offering their assistance in city and regional planning to developing countries. They also play an important role in distributing resources to communities and in reconstruction efforts after wars and natural disasters. Urban planners in this field should acquire an additional language as well as some cross-cultural and business development training, so if you are currently in college, look for study and work abroad opportunities.