How to Become a Transportation Planner

How to Become a Transportation Planner: Career Path Guide

If you want to become a transportation planner, you’ll first need to determine if this career path is right for you.


If you’re interested in a well paying career in which you can work with engineers and urban planners to solve challenging and interesting traffic problems such as where to put subway stops, or where the new airport for your city should go, then you should consider a career as a transportation planner.


Below we've outlined what you'll need to succeed in a career as a transportation planner. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Education Needed to Become a Transportation Planner

Transportation planning is a field of increasing complexity, and as such many entry-level jobs require candidates to have a master’s degree from an accredited program in transportation planning, civil engineering, or a related field.


Students can typically be admitted to master's degree programs in these fields with a wide range of undergraduate backgrounds, such as a bachelor's degree in economics, geography, political science, or environmental design.


Some entry-level jobs in transportation planning can be obtained with a bachelor’s degree in a field closely related to transportation planning, although opportunities for advancement will be severely limited unless an advanced degree is obtained.


Tip for Success: In addition to formal education, many employers give preference to candidates who have work or internship experience in the field of transportation or urban planning.




Transportation Planner Job Description

Transportation planners are responsible for planning, managing and improving a municipality’s transportation system. Transportation planners must also forecast traffic patterns and develop strategies to manage the demand and change travel behaviours of a municipality’s citizenry.



Transportation Planner Job Duties

• Design, create and interpret transport and travel surveys

• Thoroughly examine travel data and records of accidents using statistical analysis

• Formulate potential solutions to transport problems

• Manage relevant studies and projects, ensuring they are completed within timeline and budgetary restrictions

• Prepare funding proposals and submit to appropriate department

• Liaise and negotiate with various stakeholders, such as residents’ groups and planning authorities

• Direct urban traffic-counting programs

• Prepare necessary documents to obtain project approvals or permits

• Prepare or review engineering studies or specifications

• Prepare the initial design ideas for new or improved transport infrastructure, such as junction improvements, pedestrian priority schemes and bus routes



Who Hires Transportation Planners?

There are a few different types of organizations that are interested in employing the skills, knowledge and competencies of transportation planners. Transportation planners may be hired by these organizations on a part-time, full-time, temporary or contract basis, depending on the needs of the employer.


Universities and colleges: Educational institutions may hire transportation planners for instructing related courses, or for research purposes.


Urban planning and Engineering consulting firms: May hire transportation planners for providing consulting services to municipalities who are improving their transportation systems, or implementing a special project


Private/Public research institutes: May hire transportation planning experts for the purposes of conducting research in order to advance knowledge in the field.


Municipal government transportation departments: May hire transportation permanent staff to oversee the planning, implementation and maintenance of municipal transportation systems.


Private transportation planning firms: May hire transportation planners as regular staff, to assist with projects contracted by municipalities.





Work Conditions for Transportation Planners

Hours of Work: Transportation planners typically work normal weekday working hours, although they may stretch their hours into the evenings and weekends in order to attend meetings, give presentation to stakeholders or attend public hearings.


Work Environment: Transportation planners may experience a great deal of stress for a variety of reasons, such as tight deadlines, as well as pressure imposed by citizens or interest groups opposed to proposed transportation and and land use plans. Conversely, transportation planners may feel a great sense of satisfaction in the successful completion of a challenging project, or satisfaction in submitting a proposal to stakeholders and receiving support for it.


Work Setting: Transportation planners typically work in an office setting, although they often have to travel to sites that are intended for development in order to inspect the features of the area.



Skills and Attributes Needed to Become a Transportation Planner

To become successful as a transportation planner, you'll need to have a certain set of skills and personality attributes; without them, you may end up making a lot of bad decisions with long-term effects on the transportation system of the city.


• The ability to consider solutions to a problem from many competing points of view

• Must be able to make a firm commitment to a decision

• The ability to work with professionals from different fields

• Excellent communication and persuasion skills

• Must have an interest in serving the public

• Enjoy developing innovative solutions and proposals

• Must be able to coordinate and supervise the work of others


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Transportation Planner Salary

The salary level of transportation planners can vary depending on many factors, such as the municipality they work for, their level of experience and education, the budget of the transportation department they work for, and many others.


Transportation Planner Salary United States: The median salary for transportation planners in the United States is $75,160 per year.



Careers Related to Transportation Planner

Listed below are jobs that are similar in nature to Transportation Planner, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Community Planner

Parks Planner

Transportation Officer

Urban Planner



References: Transportation Planner Career

Please consult the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a Transportation Planner.


Occupations in Alberta:Community Planner.” (March 31, 2018). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 15, 2020.

Life, Physical, and Social Science:Urban and Regional Planners.” (September 4, 2019). Bureau of Labor Statistics - United States Government website. Retrieved January 15, 2020.

Science & Engineering Careers:Transportation Planner.” (n.d.). Science Buddies website. Retrieved January 15, 2020.



Scholarships for Becoming a Transportation Planner

Scholarships listed for majors that apply to becoming a Transportation Planner can be found on our All Scholarships by Major page.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Becoming a Transportation Planner: Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming a transportation planner. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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