• Ongoing coronavirus / COVID-19 discussion: how is the pandemic affecting your community, workplace, and wellness? 🦠

    Working from home? So are we. Come join us! Cyburbia is a friendly big tent, where we share our experiences and thoughts about urban planning practice, planning adjacent topics, and whatever else comes to mind. No ads, no spam, no social distancing.

Planning Payscale

bmoore81

Member
Messages
19
Points
1
In my reading of all these posts, I see many coments on how low starting salaries are for planners ~30k. Statistically that is just below the median income for the US, now what exactly do you guys mean by low pay? Relative to other fields, if so what fields? Compared to high paid actors and other superstars, they are overpaid and we should implement income leveling on everyone who makes one million or more per year :p , see I come from single family lower middle/upper lower class, and 30k per year starting is great, sheesh I could be flipping hamburgers, oh wait I did that for 6 years before starting college...
 

ludes98

Cyburbian
Messages
1,264
Points
22
Large munis will typically pay more, but the cost of living is probably higher too. I think that Planner I's make ~$40K to start around Phoenix (20+ jurisdictions.)
 

PlannerGirl

Cyburbian Plus
Messages
6,377
Points
29
In a large NC city i started out at 27 back in 98 now i work in a suburb of DC and make a hair less than 50 but Ive been working now for a number years and the cost of living is out the roof.
 

otterpop

Cyburbian
Messages
6,655
Points
28
I work in Montana, where planners typically make between $28 thou and $30 thou starting out. Pay is lower for those who work for the state, where starting pay can be as low as $25 thou. An associate planner gets paid in the mid to upper thirties; senior planners in the low 40s starting out.

I am lucky. My county pay is in the mid range for the state, but the benefit package is very good.

Montana ranks pretty low in salaries around the country. I believe the average income for a small family is about $18,000/year. As we say Montana is a wonderful place to live but you can't eat the scenery.
 

passdoubt

Cyburbian
Messages
407
Points
13
Taken into account that it's generally recommended you have a masters to be a planner, the pay isn't that great. Yes, it's just under median income, but it requires greater than median education. You don't have to take out six years of student loans to flip burgers.

This is becoming true for pretty much every field though, so it also has to do with the 50s perception that a masters is an advanced degree that bestows a lot of money on the recipient. It's easy to look at your parents and wonder how they did so well economically without even finishing college, and why you're struggling to make ends meet after all the schooling.
 

Zoning Goddess

Cyburbian
Messages
13,852
Points
39
In my area (central FL), low to mid-thirties is common starting pay, but you can negotiate higher. Seeing as how housing here is relatively cheap, depending on the municipality, you can make out pretty well.
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,080
Points
34
I think that starting salaries will typically be in a $25-35,000 range, with master degree holders toward the higher end of the scale. As they are often guv'mint jobs, the benefits tend to be pretty good. Also remember that if yo manage your career, you can quickly increase your earning power. Ten years ago I took a job at $27,000. My recent offer is considerably more than three times that figure. The top-of-scale for this position is nearly $110,000.
 

jdstl1977

Cyburbian
Messages
80
Points
4
Is there a significant difference in pay between government and private sector jobs?

If so, I'm wondering if it's a matter between shifting the compensation package between salary and benefits.
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,080
Points
34
jdstl1977 said:
Is there a significant difference in pay between government and private sector jobs?

If so, I'm wondering if it's a matter between shifting the compensation package between salary and benefits.
It is almost always true that government pays less with a better package of benefits. Private pay is better but you pay for a greater share of the benefit package. The real difference in salaries is location, as was said before. Remember that it is due to the cost of living. Contrast where I live, and a decent house can be purchased for about $140,000. Where I am moving to, that house would run $400,000. In nearby communities, figure $250,000.
 

boiker

Cyburbian
Messages
3,889
Points
26
Cardinal said:
It is almost always true that government pays less with a better package of benefits. Private pay is better but you pay for a greater share of the benefit package. The real difference in salaries is location, as was said before. Remember that it is due to the cost of living. Contrast where I live, and a decent house can be purchased for about $140,000. Where I am moving to, that house would run $400,000. In nearby communities, figure $250,000.
other comparisons:

Government has a more consistant work schedule. you know when your late nights will be. Private may be more demanding of your time.

Private firms offer bonuses for good work. Gov't gets you a pat on the back for the hard work. (But usually more payed holidays).
 

Dharmster

Cyburbian
Messages
440
Points
13
For those people who haven't started working don't underestimate the value of vacation. While some private sector firms have cafeteria plans that allow you to "buy" additional vacation, most start you out at 2 weeks with no increase for 3 to 5 years. If your job is stressful, the lack of vacation can really wear you down over time.

boiker said:
other comparisons:

(But usually more payed holidays).
 

boiker

Cyburbian
Messages
3,889
Points
26
Dharmster said:
..most start you out at 2 weeks with no increase for 3 to 5 years. If your job is stressful, the lack of vacation can really wear you down over time.
Most public places I've worked functioned the same way.
 

Repo Man

Cyburbian
Messages
2,549
Points
25
I think that when Planners talk about low pay, we do it because given the education of most planners; the pay should be a bit higher. Why is it that an engineer right out of college makes 50+k a year when the average planner with a Masters gets 30--35k Planners work is just as important (shhhh, don't tell the engineers) and often times planners have to be knowledgeable in Engineering, Architecture, Politics, Law, and Economic Development, yet they don't get paid like engineers, architects, politicians, lawyers, and real estate professionals.
 

donk

Cyburbian
Messages
6,970
Points
30
I have 2 quotes related to planning I'll share on this item

1) "Planners the tenuously middle class."
2) "Adults don't earn as little as you do."

I think the thing that really gets planners with respect to pay is that we are dealing with projects that may make someone millions of dollars and are making decisions that will last a lifetime yet get no respect and are generally treated poorly by our "customers". If I am going to be treated like crap or facilitate you making money maybe I should be paid a bit more or I might as well be flipping burgers.(Can't tell I am having a bad month)

As for $$ amounts, while I make slightly more that the average person, my household income is waaaaaaay less.
 

Plannerbabs

Cyburbian
Messages
1,037
Points
23
Another thing you might want to check if you're looking at a government position is whether or not the pay has been frozen. In a lot of municipalities around the US, pay has been frozen because local and regional governments are struggling financially. In the short term, that may not seem to be too bad, since generally the benefits are good. I've heard, though, that after the pay freeze comes benefit cuts, if the pay cuts don't help enough, and then you lose whatever advantage you had over the private sector, overall pay/benefit-wise. On the other hand, pay freezes can contribute to high turnover, so you may be able to advance faster (just don't expect much financial compensation to go along with that promotion).
 
Messages
1,264
Points
22
I started off making $300/month while working as an intern for a small non-profit back in '97. (Good thing I was living on campus, because $300/month in Maryland just doesn't cut it. :-D ) Now, I'm a shade under $50K for a state agency. One thing about government, is that you can't control your own destiny. There's a set payscale no matter how hard or how little you work. You can be a superstar and some dude who does next to nothing and is just waiting on retirement will make $10K/year more than you.
 
Top