Ministry of Business and Innovation - Occupation Outlook

Occupation Outlook | Main MBIE Site

Urban Planners

Job Prospects

Job Prospects... At a glance

Prospects are average for urban planners, due to a stable number of positions available and supply of new graduates. Getting employment as an urban planner is likely to be easier in Auckland than in the rest of New Zealand.

How to become an urban planner

What they do

Urban planners develop and put into action plans for the development of urban areas. This work can include, for example, planning new subdivisions, developing strategies for urban areas, or developing policies for local government.

Regional planners perform the same functions as urban planners, but for a whole region.

Qualifications needed

To become an urban planner you usually need a degree in planning or a degree with a planning component. There are many different degrees available for students in planning. Examples include a Bachelor or Master of Urban Planning, a Bachelor or Master of Resource and Environmental Planning, and a Master of Planning. Check out the website of the New Zealand Planning Institute (NZPI) for a full overview of their accredited degrees.

New Zealand Planning Institute, accredited degrees:

Cost of study

NZPI-accredited BachelorNZPI-accredited Master
$19,000 over three years $15,500 over two years

Average costs in 2016 for a domestic student. Costs vary between institutions. Further costs include student levies, administrative fees, materials, textbooks and accommodation. 

The average cost of a bachelor’s degree accredited by the New Zealand Planning Institute was around $19,000 over three years, while a master’s degree cost around $15,500 over two years.

Rents vary from place to place. Estimated market rents by region, city and suburb, and are available on the MBIE Tenancy Services website.

The StudyLink website provides general budget advice for students, and the Sorted website provides help with detailed budget planning.

Tenancy Services: 

Where to study

An NZPI-accredited bachelor’s degree is offered at the University of Auckland, Massey University, Lincoln University and Waikato University.

An NZPI-accredited master’s degree is offered at the University of Auckland, Massey University, Lincoln University and Otago University.


No registration is necessary to work as a planner, but students and graduates of accredited degrees can become members of the New Zealand Planning Institute. Members can progress to more comprehensive memberships as they gain experience. Membership of the institute is also available for planners without an accredited degree, but with at least seven years of experience.


Completed qualifications

The number of students completing a bachelor’s degree in the broader category Architecture & Urban Environment has fluctuated between 600 and 800 during the last few years. The number of students completing a Master in Architecture & Urban Environment has increased from around 180 per year in 2009-2010 to around 270 per year in 2011-2014. However, this jump is because of an increase of students completing a Master in Architecture. For urban planners, the number of graduates has been stable over the last few years.

Completed qualifications chart


Source: Ministry of Education

Income and employment prospects


The average annual income for urban planners is estimated to be $82,000. Income depends on skills and experience.

Estimated Average Income

Source: MBIE estimates based on Statistics NZ Census and Labour Cost Index.

Employment and skill shortages

Urban planners’ employment

HistoricProjected Growth
2006 2013 2020 2025
1,629 1,815 2,569 3,078
  1.6% 5.1% 3.7%

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections. Percentages are compound annual growth rates.
*Projected numbers are based on the broader category “Architects, Designers, Planners and Surveyors”.

There has been a steady rise in the number of urban planners in recent years. Employment is forecast to grow 5.1% per year to 2020, and then 3.7% per year to 2025.

Employment chart

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections

Outcomes after qualification completion*

OverseasIn further studyReceiving a benefitIn employmentMedian Salary
24% 5% S 86% $43,200

Source: Ministry of Education. “S” means data is supressed because of low numbers.
*Two years after completion of Masters - Architecture & Urban Environment. ‘Overseas’ refers to the percentage of ALL graduates completing this qualification. Other indicators refer only to graduates living in New Zealand.

Two years after graduating, most people with a master’s degree in architecture and urban environment were in employment. A relatively large percentage was overseas, while few were in further study. Almost no one was receiving a benefit. The median salary was $43,200.

Urban planners are not on any of Immigration New Zealand’s Skill Shortage Lists.

Immigration NZ, skill shortage list:

Where to find job vacancies

The number of online job vacancies for urban planning positions decreased until 2012, and decreased at a quicker rate than all vacancies on average. Since 2012, there has been a steady rise in the number of online job advertisements for urban planners.

Jobs advertised chart


Source: Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment

Urban planner vacancies are advertised through websites such as Trade Me Jobs and Seek and, increasingly, through social media like LinkedIn.

Trade Me Jobs: 

Career path

Many urban planners work in the public sector, for example, planning the development of local communities for councils, or in the public housing department. For more information on the career path of urban planners, consult NZPI’s page on career advice.

NZPI, Career advice:

Related Occupations

The following occupations are related roles or alternative titles. Some of the roles may require different qualifications and skills than urban planners.

  • Architect
  • Environmental Engineer
  • Environmental Planner
  • Regional Planner
  • Surveyor
  • Urban Designer

Other information


More information on urban planners is available on the Careers New Zealand website and through the "Just the Job" videos.

Careers New Zealand:
Just the Job video clip: A Career in Planning at Auckland Council


The Australian New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) is the official classification of occupations in New Zealand.

The occupation of urban planners has been coded to the following ANZSCO code for the purpose of this report:

2326 – Urban and Regional Planners