California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

   Urban and Regional Planners in San Diego County

May also be called: City Planners; Community Development Directors; Community Development Planners; Neighborhood Planners; Planners; Planning Directors; Regional Planners; Sustainability Planners; Urban Planners

What Would I Do?

Urban and Regional Planners* develop long-term and short-term plans for land use and the growth and revitalization of urban, suburban, and rural communities and the region in which they are located. They assist local officials by forecasting future housing and employment needs and developing plans for roads, schools, parks, shopping centers, recommended zoning regulations, and other infrastructure needed to support anticipated growth. Regional Planners may also assist public officials in the drafting of legislation related to environmental, social, and economic issues, such as planning a new park, sheltering the homeless, or making the region more attractive to businesses.

Urban Planners need to be aware of current and proposed zoning codes, State and local building codes as well as State and federal environmental regulations. As communities transform, due to growth or other factors, Planners address the environmental, economic, and social health issues faced by that community. Urban Planners provide communities with plans for new school, roads, public transportation options, and public housing to help accommodate their neighborhoods. They also serve in environmental capacities related to developing resources and protecting ecologically sensitive regions. Urban and Regional Planners work with land developers, civic leaders, and public officials in mediating community disputes regarding land development and attend public meetings in order to educate community residents.

Many Urban and Regional Planners focus on one or more areas of specialization, such as transportation planning, urban design, community development and redevelopment, and land-use or code enforcement. While Planners may specialize in these and other areas, they are also required to keep the bigger picture in mind and do what's best for the community as a whole. Some Planners, especially in smaller jurisdictions, serve in a variety of planning roles ranging from current and long range planning, to transportation and environmental planning.

Tools and Technology

Urban and Regional Planners use computers to develop databases, spreadsheets, and analytical software in order to project program costs and forecast future trends in employment, housing, transportation, or population. Regional Planners also use geographic information systems (GIS) to map land areas to assist them in planning their projects and producing alternative plans for land use or development.

Green Economy

Urban and Regional Planners will play an important role in the emerging green economy. They will assist with educating the public, compliance with governmental/legislative zoning regulations, and compliance with environmental and wildlife conservation programs. Urban and Regional Planners take into consideration long-term sustainability of new and existing communities, ways to maximize space, minimize residential and commercial energy use, and reduce the residents’ dependence on fossil fuels through viable public transportation options.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

*This product was partially funded by a grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment & Training Administration. The information contained in this product was created by a grantee organization and does not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Labor. All references to non-governmental companies or organizations, their services, products, or resources are offered for informational purposes and should not be construed as an endorsement by the Department of Labor. This product is copyrighted by the institution that created it and is intended for individual organizational, non-commercial use only.

Green e conomy activities and technologies would most likely have an effect on Urban and Regional Planners. The advancements in technology may cause changes to the work and worker requirements, such as new tasks, skills, knowledge, and credentials. Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Hold public meetings and confer with government, social scientists, lawyers, developers, the public, and special interest groups to formulate and develop land use or community plans.Critical Thinking
Review and evaluate environmental impact reports pertaining to private and public planning projects and programs.Inductive Reasoning
Discuss with planning officials the purpose of land use projects such as transportation, conservation, residential, commercial, industrial, and community use.Oral Comprehension
Mediate community disputes and assist in developing alternative plans and recommendations for programs or projects.Active Listening
Design, promote and administer government plans and policies affecting land use, zoning, public utilities, community facilities, housing, and transportation.Law and Government
Conduct field investigations, surveys, impact studies or other research to compile and analyze data on economic, social, regulatory and physical factors affecting land use.Administration and Management
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Urban and Regional Planners often travel to inspect the features of land under consideration for development or regulation. Some local government Planners involved in site development inspections spend most of their time in the field. Planners also spend time in an office setting preparing environmental documents, such as those required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), in order for projects to be started and completed.

Although most Planners have a scheduled 40-hour workweek, they frequently attend evening or weekend meetings or public hearings with citizens’ groups. At public meetings, Urban Planners provide elected officials and members of the public with information regarding proposed projects and answer questions from the public and stakeholders. Urban Planners may experience the pressure of deadlines and tight work schedules, as well as political pressure generated by interest groups affected by proposals related to urban development and land use.

Unionization is common for Urban and Regional Planners who work for Government entities or municipalities. Unionization is not common for Urban Planners who work in the private sector.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Urban and Regional Planner may appeal to those who enjoy working with ideas that require an extensive amount of thinking. Individuals considering this occupation should also like starting up and carrying out projects and persuading and leading people.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?


The median wage in 2016 for Urban and Regional Planners in California is $79,922 annually, or $38.43 hourly. The median wage for Urban and Regional Planners in San Diego County is $76,229 annually, or $36.65 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2016Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
San Diego County$64,887$76,229$92,968
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2016 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas


Urban and Regional Planners generally receive health insurance, a pension plan, vacation, sick leave, and holidays. The type of benefit package is determined by company policy or union contract.

What is the Job Outlook?

Employment growth is projected for Urban and Regional Planners. Most new jobs will be in affluent, rapidly expanding communities. Job prospects will be best for those with a master's degree; bachelor's degree holders with additional skills in geographic information systems (GIS) or mapping may find entry-level positions, but advancement opportunities are limited.The emerging green economy should give those Urban and Regional Planners with knowledge of sustainability an enhanced opportunity for employment.

Employment as an Urban and Regional Planner is subject to the fluctuations of the economy. Workers in this field may experience periods of unemployment or reduction in hours during economic downturns.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Urban and Regional Planners is expected to grow slower than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Urban and Regional Planners are expected to increase by 11.4 percent, or 800 jobs between 2014 and 2024.

In San Diego County, the number of Urban and Regional Planners is expected to grow much faster than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Urban and Regional Planners are expected to increase by 38.2 percent, or 210 jobs between 2012 and 2022.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Urban and Regional Planners
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Additional Openings
Due to Net
San Diego County
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

Annual Job Openings

In California, an average of 80 new job openings per year is expected for Urban and Regional Planners, plus an additional 130 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 210 job openings.

In San Diego County, an average of 21 new job openings per year is expected for Urban and Regional Planners, plus an additional 25 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 46 job openings.

Estimated Average Annual Job Openings
Urban and Regional Planners
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-
Projected Year)
Jobs From GrowthJobs Due to
Net Replacements
Total Annual
Job Openings
San Diego County
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Data for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

The majority of Urban and Regional Planners are encouraged to have a master’s degree in urban and regional planning or a related field. Employers may be willing to substitute the possession of a master’s degree with relevant experience. Students applying to master degree programs may possess bachelor degrees from a wide range of fields like geography, political science, or environmental design.


While in graduate school, urban and regional planning students are often required to participate in regional planning internship programs in order to gain valuable work experience.

Early Career Planning

High school preparation courses in English, mathematics, computer technology, marketing, general business, and public speaking are helpful for students interested in careers in urban and regional planning.


Urban and Regional Planners can receive certification from the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP). The AICP certification is voluntary and grants certification to individuals who meet the requirements of education and work experience and who are able to pass their examination. In order to maintain certification, Planners will need to take continuing education courses approved by the AICP. A list of approved providers is available on the AICP website. The AICP certification can be useful for promotional reasons. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

The largest industries employing Urban and Regional Planners are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Local Government 56.0%
Architectural and Engineering Services 16.8%
State Government 14.3%
Management & Technical Consulting Svc 8.5%
Federal Government 1.6%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. College placement offices, company recruiting events, job fairs, and online job search sites are also good places to look. Career associations sometimes offer job openings on their Web sites. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Urban and Regional Planners.

  • Architecture
  • Civil Engineering
  • Government Offices

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

Urban and Regional Planners may advance to assignments that increase independent decision making or move into supervisory positions.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Urban and Regional Planners with links to more information.

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Other Sources

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SOC - Standard Occupational Classification19-3051
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Urban and Regional Planners19-3051.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)IEA