Chapter 23 | Becoming a Planner or Planning Commission Member


This chapter provides a brief outline of how a reader can become a professional planner or a member of a planning commission. Chapter 24, available only on the web, provides more information on how to enter the planning profession; it is updated periodically.


  1. Check the classified section of the Sunday edition of the nearest big-city newspaper and look for ads for planners. What kinds of jobs are available for entry-level planners? What salaries do they advertise?
  2. Invite a local planner with three to five years of experience to come to class and talk about her or his career to date. Alternatively, assign small groups in the class to contact several alumni of your school who have been in practice as planners for three to five years and prepare professional biographies of them to share with the class.
  3. Write a position description for what you would consider to be the perfect first job.
  4. If you were hiring a new planner, what traits or characteristics would you seek? How might those differ from traits or characteristics you would seek if hiring an architect, a lawyer, an accountant, or a nurse?

Discussion Questions

  1. How have planners made a difference in your community? Can you tell by looking at it or by living there? How might better planning, or more planning, in the past have made your community an even better place today?
  2. Invite an engineer and a landscape architect to class to talk about the work of planners. You may or may not wish to include a planner as moderator.

Supplemental Resources

  • The principal resource for planners is the American Planning Association. The organization provides a number of resources for any user, but there are many more for those who join. There are special membership rates for students, for new planners and for planning commissioners. Anyone can use the bookstore, which provides a broad array of planning books from APA and from other publishers.
  • APA also provides information on state chapters and links to their websites. Most state chapters sponsor conferences at least once a year, providing a nearby (and typically reasonably priced) opportunity to learn more about planning in your own area.
  • For those considering earning a planning degree, the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning publishes a downloadable (free) Education Guide with information about planning degree programs in the United States and Canada.
  • For those interested in becoming planning commissioners, an excellent background resource is the Planning Commissioners Journal; the website provides some resources, but far more information is available with a subscription to the journal, which is printed.
  • One proprietary website provides a variety of information for planners, including daily updates of news from around the country and regular blog entries by invited commentators. See Planetizen.

Common Search Terms

Use these terms in search engines to find additional examples and other resources:

urban planner, community planner, town planner, rural planner, regional planner, planning commission, planning commissioner (all searches will work best with the name of a state or community to limit the search).