Planning as a Career

Planners link knowledge and action in ways that improve public and private development decisions which affect people, places, and the environment. To do this planners must have knowledge and experience in a wide range of topics. As a planner, you may:

  • recommend policy and guidelines on land use, environmental conservation, housing, and transportation;
  • do research and prepare reports on demographic, economic, cultural, social, and environmental issues;
  • review proposals for development to ensure that they follow regulations and generally accepted planning practice;
  • prepare plans for developing private lands, providing public spaces and services, and maintaining and improving the environment;
  • answer questions from the public on planning policies and procedures;
  • speak before public meetings or formal hearings;
  • consult with landowners, interest groups, and citizens.

Planning a Career

  • city planner
  • community development officer
  • conflict resolution mediator/negotiator
  • economic development officer
  • environmental planner
  • geographic information system planner
  • heritage coordinator
  • housing analyst
  • industrial planner
  • land use planner
  • municipal planner
  • planning director
  • planning consultant
  • policy analyst
  • recreation and park planner
  • regional planner
  • resource development officer
  • social planner
  • strategic planner
  • transportation planner
  • urban designer

Urban and regional planning deals with cities and people, human services and infrastructure, fiscal issues, and environmental concerns. The field blends intellectual, aesthetic and interpersonal skills. It aims to integrate knowledge with action in the pursuit of more just, efficient, and sustainable cities.

Planners typically work for city, provincial and federal governments, consulting firms, non-governmental organizations, and development corporations. They help prepare policies and programs in areas such as land use, housing, parks and recreation, local economic development, environmental services, transportation, health and social services. They participate in the development and management of facilities and services. They interact with politicians, bureaucrats, developers and citizen groups. They are engaged in developing projects like the Toronto waterfront, squatter resettlement in Mexico, and community organization in the Northwest Territories.

Urban and regional planning is a profession with a long tradition of social service. Concern for the rights and needs of disadvantaged and marginalized sectors of the population, the equitable distribution of resources, and the involvement of citizens in community decisions have been hallmarks of this profession.

If you are considering becoming a planner, you should enjoy the following:


Planners almost always work as part of a team, either with other planners, other professionals such as engineers or architects or with politicians and citizens. With your varied background and communication skills, you will often be the one person who brings together a coherent plan of action that draws upon the ideas of experts and knowledgeable participants.

Understanding data and numbers

Planners must feel comfortable interpreting population statistics, economic and social data, geographical information, resource inventories and environmental indicators. You will use this information to support your policy and project proposals.

The physical world around you

Most planners have a genuine interest in geography and the environment. Understanding how landscapes are formed, what happens to surface water when land is developed, how topography affects the design of roads and subdivisions, how to safely dispose of human and industrial waste, and how to preserve trees and natural resources, all require the natural curiosity and broad background that planners possess.

Understanding your neighbours

Most planners are concerned with balancing the rights of individuals with the needs of the larger population. Families, single people, young and old, working and unemployed, new immigrants - you will need to seek out and understand the diverse voices of your community.

Communicating with flair

Planners put together text, charts and pictures into reports and presentations for clients, other professionals, the general public and politicians. Planners also create maps, plans and 3-D models and present their ideas with flair.

Managing conflict

People have strong feelings about their property, homes, businesses and communities. Planners often face situations where they must respect conflicting views, mediate effectively, seek compromises and ultimately help others make difficult decisions.

Working late

Because so much of a planner's job involves working with people in the community and taking directions from elected councils, you will often have to make time outside of normal working hours to attend meetings. Many planners work in government - either at the municipal, regional, provincial or federal level.
"I want to be an Urban Planner, what will my salary be?" - An article from the Globe and Mail.

In high school, you should work hard in language arts, mathematics, geography, social studies, computers and fine arts. At university, you can go directly into a Bachelor's degree related to planning such as geography, economics, political science, engineering or environmental studies. Many planners also have a Master's degree in planning - typically a two-year program which accepts students out of planning or related undergraduate programs.

Being Part of a Profession

Many planners belong to the Canadian Institute of Planners and have the designation "MCIP", or Member of the Canadian Institute of Planners, after their name. Members of CIP also belong to affiliated provincial associations who provide services to members locally and provincially. In some provinces, there are separate licensing requirements for planners.


To obtain more information about a career in planning please contact CIP at:
141 Laurier Avenue West, Suite 1112 Ottawa ON K1P 5J3
Phone: (800) 207-2138 or (613) 237-PLAN - Fax: (613) 237-7045
Website: - Email:

The School of Urban and Regional Planning (SURP) offers graduate-level instruction to students seeking a professional planning degree and to those in associated disciplines. The program of study prepares graduates for a wide range of planning positions in the public and private sector job markets.

The Queen's M.PL. degree (Master of Urban and Regional Planning) is officially recognized by the Canadian Institute of Planners and is a key stage toward earning the Registered Professional Planner (RPP) designation.

The School of Urban and Regional Planning has an outstanding national and international reputation as a leader in innovative planning research and education. The School is increasing its academic links with educational and professional institutions abroad through lecture tours, consulting work, student study programs, and exchanges.