Should a new stadium be built downtown? How can a county reduce sprawl while providing appealing, affordable housing? What should the city demand of a developer who's pushing a new project? To address questions like these, planners gorge themselves on data, conduct studies, and hold public hearings. Before making a recommendation, they'll end up wearing many hats: civil engineer, architect, economist, budget analyst, sociologist, and politician. A diplomat's touch is necessary if you expect your plan to survive all the stakeholders with competing interests.
In larger communities, you might be able to specialize in redeveloping blighted areas; choosing proper land use for a particular parcel; or managing transportation, housing, environmental protection, or historic preservation. In smaller communities, you'll probably handle it all.
National: $68,800. More pay data by metropolitan area
(Data provided by PayScale.com)
Most entry-level jobs require a master's degree in planning. You'll be more marketable if you take courses in structural or civil engineering, economics, architecture, finance, or geographic information systems. The Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning publishes a complete list of accredited training programs.
Private-sector Planner. Consulting firms hire planners to do things like develop a corporate security plan that's subtle and that blends in with the laid-back feel of a building park or corporate campus. Private-sector planners enjoy more freedom than do those in government.