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Thread: Lowest salaries for planning jobs that you've seen

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Lowest salaries for planning jobs that you've seen

    In an earlier, I described a recently advertised planning director position in the Cleveland area. They want graduate education, experience in specialized areas, and the job involves supervisory and highly technical, specialized work. The listed salary was $30,000. Not a typo; thirty thousand dollars.

    Is this the lowest paid planning job in the US? Excluding planning technicians and interns, what is the lowest paid planning job you have seen advertised recently?
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    Cyburbian rcgplanner's avatar
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    I have seen a few Planner I positions in Indiana with beginning salaries of approx. $29,000 to $31,000.

    I did see a Planner I position in rural eastern NC with a beginning salary of $27,000, and a Master's was desired. Makes me wonder who ended up taking those positions.

    I don't think I had seen a PD position under $40,000. $30,000 is ridiculous for a PD position, who do they think they can recruit with that salary? How much room do they have to negotiate

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    Planner I, Wyoming

    Cheyenne, WY. Planner 1 $25,000.

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    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Really wealthy Boston suburbs looking for The Town Planner and offering a salary in the mid-30s.

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    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller View post
    Really wealthy Boston suburbs looking for The Town Planner and offering a salary in the mid-30s.
    You know, I was just going to say this. I remember checking out the Mass APA and MMA websites and seeing planning director jobs offering like $45,000. It's not a cheap area and this salary is literally half of what it ought to be given how rough it can be to work as a planner in the suburban towns around Boston. The towns are batsh!t crazy if they think they can find dedicated talent at that salary.

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    Cyburbian beach_bum's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by rcgplanner View post
    I did see a Planner I position in rural eastern NC with a beginning salary of $27,000, and a Master's was desired. Makes me wonder who ended up taking those positions.
    You can't even touch student loans with that!

    I saw one in Florida, Planner I, 30,000-ish, wanted AICP!
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    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    I was offered a job in Amarillo that advertised 29,000. Sounds low, but the job I took in Austin that paid 33 was actually about equivalent, given the cost of living differences.

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    Cyburbian abrowne's avatar
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    I don't think I've ever seen a planning job (i.e. Planner 1 or higher, not Planning Assistant or Technician) advertised for less than $50k, and most start around $55k for entry. Assistants and technicians are usually around $45k.

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    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by abrowne View post
    I don't think I've ever seen a planning job (i.e. Planner 1 or higher, not Planning Assistant or Technician) advertised for less than $50k, and most start around $55k for entry. Assistants and technicians are usually around $45k.
    Are those Canadian $$?!

    Salaries are pretty low in NM (and that's not just a planner-related problem). I saw a mid-level planner position in Santa Fe about a year ago that asked for 3 years experience, Masters preferred and offered $33k. The median home value in Santa Fe is $475k right now. So, they want experienced people to help plan a city that none of those people can afford to live in...

    Generally, I have not found planning salaries to be all that comfortable in the areas I have looked. Sometimes things may look like a decent salary compared to here, but once housing and other expenses are factored in, I don't see most people in the profession socking away a lot of extra cash. Of course, I have kids and my wife works part-time, so our costs may not be the same as some. If only I had decided to become a planner in my 20s...

    I suppose if you are in a municipality with income growth potential, COL raises and the possibility to graduating to higher positions, there is potential to pull a decent salary. I would be happy to be making $50k and living where I am (which is to say, my requests are modest), but I don't see a lot of opportunity for that without moving. I also have not seen that AICP really affords that much more salary-wise. As we feel the pinch more and more these days, I have been looking around more. Our belts can't get much tighter...
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    Cyburbian Plus PlannerGirl's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by abrowne View post
    I don't think I've ever seen a planning job (i.e. Planner 1 or higher, not Planning Assistant or Technician) advertised for less than $50k, and most start around $55k for entry. Assistants and technicians are usually around $45k.
    There are quite a few here is one from the APA site
    Planner I, Peoria, IL
    Entry Level Position
    Company / Agency: Tri-County Regional Planning Commission
    Salary Range: $29,395 to $44,092, DOQ
    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." Ben Franklin

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    In 2004, I saw a few CDC positions at 26k in Chicago. I "think" they had a tuition reimbursement up to a few thousand dollars (maybe this was an Americorps job, I forgot).

    I've had my doubts about staying in planning due to a low/working wage. I am pretty disgusted with the high expectations for entry level jobs (graduate degree, a few years of experience, AICP, etc.), high level of stress dealing with residents, politicians, etc, skyrocketing costs everywhere (healthcare, energy, etc.) and low compensation afforded to planners. I would like to earn a nice six figure salary in my mid-forties running a design firm (15-20 years from now). If I don't, I will probably get out of planning and landscape architecture all together, go back to school AGAIN for a JD and then practice corporate law.
    Last edited by nrschmid; 28 Jul 2008 at 6:26 PM.

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    Cyburbian
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    City of Houston

    Planner 1 $24,750-$45,00

    masters degree preferred.

  13. #13
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    West Florida Regional Planning Council

    Planner I, II or III

    $31,000 - $51,000 DOQ starting salary

    AICP preferred
    I think that one of the great signs of security is the ability to just walk away.

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    Cyburbian abrowne's avatar
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    Yeah--those salaries I mentioned were in Canadian dollars (once something to be shrugged aside, but now basically at par). My three summer jobs between University years paid around $22.50 hourly. My first job out of school pays $31 hourly. Unfortunately, after income taxes and benefit deductions (extended health, life insurance, short and long term disability, private pension, and who knows what else) I get to keep only 60% of what I earn gross. BC's income taxes are now the lowest in the country, though, so this is some solace at least.

    Housing is expensive, so keep that in mind. In Vancouver a 1 bedroom condo can be had for about $300k. A house in the burbs starts around $550k and goes up very quickly from there. Even away from Vancouver property can be quite expensive--cities in the Interior where salaries are 25% less have housing that is only 10-15% less.

    I think it might be that more Canadians have respect for the public service than Americans might, so this probably leads to better salaries and more competition. I get the impression in much of the USA that government (and employment with the government) might not quite be in vogue. Government is the #1 employer across the country here (although this probably holds true in the USA), and people have real careers, research, etc. Statistics Canada alone hires probably 50% of all stats-related grads from UWaterloo and Wilfried Laurier U.

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    Cyburbian graciela's avatar
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    I wonder how Urban Planning keeps on ending up as one of the top ten careers in US News? Someone is making it sound much more glamorous and higher paying than it really is.

    Planner II's here start at around 38,000 with no chance of advancement so if you stay on here you are a Planner II for life. I worry about my future in Planning field as I only have a BLA and most of the upper level jobs want people with graduate degrees. I need to get my AICP, I guess that will help me out a little.
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  16. #16
    Wow, those are some low wages in the US especially considering that the USD and CAD are about equal. In Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, I see Planner I jobs go from ~55-75k a year. Planner IIs make around 60-80k so 6 figure salaries are not out of reach at all. I myself am a planning intern fresh from university with a BA in Geography and I make 50k a year.

    Planning is in very high demand here in Alberta so if you want to find planning careers with great pay, come here. We could always use more planners due to the huge boom we are experiencing and the fact that there is a lack of post-secondary planning programs here.

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by abrowne View post
    I think it might be that more Canadians have respect for the public service than Americans might, so this probably leads to better salaries and more competition. I get the impression in much of the USA that government (and employment with the government) might not quite be in vogue.
    That's very true. In the US, many believe that working for government should be treated as if you're working for the Catholic Church; that government work is a vocation, not a profession, where one is expected to make some sacrifices for the common good. Also, in other parts of the country, especially the Rust Belt, it's believed that government workers are overpaid and underworked. For example, thanks to union contracts, pay for government employment in Buffalo is upside down, with unskilled laborer positions often earning more than professional positions.

    One thing that is encountered everywhere in the United States is widespread opposition to halfway decent local government office facilities. New city halls and administrative buildings are often labeled "Taj Mahals" by the media and public if they offer anything better than Class C office space. There is a belief that government workers should not enjoy a work environment that is equivalent to those in the private sector, because people don't want their taxes being spent on things that are "extravagant", it's part of their sacrifice for the common good, or because they don't deserve it.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    OTOH, how many vacation days do government workers typically get? I have a friend in a smaller city who gets about 15 (Good Friday, Presidents, Election, Veterans, NYEve, and of course King Day among them).

    I'm in the private sector, and I get eight.

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    Cyburbian jsk1983's avatar
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    Keep in mind that Canadian's have national health care. Hence higher taxes and higher salaries.

    Some of these threads scare me a bit. I'll have 40K in debt when I graduate and it doesn't even look that easy to get a job and many don't pay too much. I'd really not want to have to move to Texas or the like (no offense to Texans), but I don't want to have to declare bankruptcy either.

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    Cyburbian rcgplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by twisted by dezign View post
    Wow, those are some low wages in the US especially considering that the USD and CAD are about equal. In Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, I see Planner I jobs go from ~55-75k a year. Planner IIs make around 60-80k so 6 figure salaries are not out of reach at all. I myself am a planning intern fresh from university with a BA in Geography and I make 50k a year.

    Planning is in very high demand here in Alberta so if you want to find planning careers with great pay, come here. We could always use more planners due to the huge boom we are experiencing and the fact that there is a lack of post-secondary planning programs here.
    I have looked at applying for jobs in Canada, especially in the Prairie Provinces, but it seems pretty difficult to break into the Canadian planning field w/o much experiece. I have applied for a couple positions in Alberta, but never even received a confirmation they received my application package.

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    Cyburbian abrowne's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by rcgplanner View post
    I have looked at applying for jobs in Canada, especially in the Prairie Provinces, but it seems pretty difficult to break into the Canadian planning field w/o much experiece. I have applied for a couple positions in Alberta, but never even received a confirmation they received my application package.
    It can be difficult, yes. It helps to be a member of the Canadian Institute of Planners. Experience is important, just as anywhere, and US planners do routinely get hired (certainly not uncommon). As for confirmations of receiving your application, the world has changed--people are so busy this tends to not occur anymore. Automated email responses are the best you can expect, if anything. The City of White Rock in the Vancouver area sends out a wonderfully pleasant and informative email confirmation (though they didn't interview me, haha).

    As for health care expenses, I'm fairly certain that the taxes we pay toward health care probably amount to less than what private insurance would cost. *shrug* And our health care dollars come out of gross salary, not net (though some provinces have added, mandatory extended medical insurance premiums... about $1200 a year for a family of 4, if I recall).

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    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller View post
    Really wealthy Boston suburbs looking for The Town Planner and offering a salary in the mid-30s.
    I was just going to say that! To add a little bit more vitriol: single-family homes anywhere near these same towns START at $400,000. Riduculous. The town planner gets to live in mommy's basement off Route 9 in Natick with his wife and two kids. Or he gets to drive 1.5 hours to work everyday from his 1200SF tract house in Oxford. All the while protecting the high property values, low tax rate and 1-acre lots of his wealthy employers.

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    There is constant turnover at the regional planing agency in Rochester, NY (GFLRPC) that is constantly advertising entry level positons around $32,000, which for a masters degreed professional is low, even in comparison to true municipal planners in NYS. So it's no wonder that they advertise for the joba bout every 6 months when the newest recruit cuts and runs for more money.

    Sadly, planning is one of the lowest paid white collar jobs going and often have major responsibilities within their community that most fail to recognize. It's a profession by and large where planners and the APA have done a poor job working for better wages.

    Luckily, I work in the private sector, where I can work hard, get promoted and get raises above some standard raise schedule.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian
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    I saw a job in Crosslake Minnesota that paid $28,000.

    It's a vacation-town that is filled with million-dollar summer homes on numerous lakes. Population goes from 1200 in the winder to 25,000 in the summer.

  25. #25
    Cyburbian rcgplanner's avatar
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    It all makes sense now why Crosslake is always looking for planners. 28k is an insult anywhere, especially in Minnesota.

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