What Skills Do Planners Need?

In addition to a formal educational background, planners possess a unique combination of skills that enhance their professional success.

Because planning is a dynamic and diverse profession, individual skills vary depending on a planner's role and area of specialization, but successful planners typically demonstrate the following:

  • Knowledge of urban spatial structure or physical design and the way in which cities work.
  • Ability to analyze demographic information to discern trends in population, employment, and health.
  • Knowledge of plan-making and project evaluation.
  • Mastery of techniques for involving a wide range of people in making decisions.
  • Understanding of local, state, and federal government programs and processes.
  • Understanding of the social and environmental impact of planning decisions on communities.
  • Ability to work with the public and articulate planning issues to a wide variety of audiences.
  • Ability to function as a mediator or facilitator when community interests conflict.
  • Understanding of the legal foundation for land use regulation.
  • Understanding of the interaction among the economy, transportation, health and human services, and land-use regulation.
  • Ability to solve problems using a balance of technical competence, creativity, and hardheaded pragmatism.
  • Ability to envision alternatives to the physical and social environments in which we live.
  • Mastery of geographic information systems (GIS) and office (presentation, spreadsheet, etc.) software.

Resources and Information

The Planning Accreditation Board currently accredits 71 master's and 15 bachelor's programs at 75 North American universities.

The American Institute of Certified Planners is APA's professional institute and provides the only nationwide, independent verification of planners' qualifications.

APA offers easy access to core knowledge and instruction in a variety of formats — from on-demand courses to virtual conferences — to meet the demands of your job, your role, and your schedule.

The American Institute of Certified Planners' Core Competencies establishes a framework for the "core" of skills, experience, and values that form the foundation of the profession — fundamental knowledge and understanding that every planner should both possess and share.