Land Development Manager Careers: Job Description & Salary

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A land development manager's median annual salary can be around $66,940. Is it worth the educational requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about career prospects to discover if becoming a land development manager is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as a Scheduling Coordinator

The primary responsibility of land development managers, also known as urban and regional planners, is to create plans for the use of land. Read here about the pros and cons of becoming a land development manager.

Land Development Manager Career: the Pros and Cons

PROS of a Career as a Land Development Manager
Above-average income (median annual salary about $66,940 in 2014)*
Sustainable development is expected to be an area of growth*
Chance to positively impact an area (may help plan homeless shelters, parks and schools)*
Various opportunities for specialization (urban, environmental and land use planning)*

CONS of a Career as a Land Development Manager
Master's degree is the minimum requirement for this position*
Professional experience needed for management positions (usually five years or more)*
Some jobs could be difficult to find during poor economy*
Can be a stressful job with tight deadlines*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Land development managers may be classified within a larger group, known as urban and regional planners. In 2014, the BLS reported that 66% of urban and regional planners worked for local governments. Typically, these professionals operate as part of a team composed of other professionals, including engineers, architects and politicians. They are commonly responsible for the planning and supervision of projects, as well as inspections that take place in the field.

Urban and regional planners concerned with land development typically engage in work to analyze and develop laws and policies concerning how land is utilized. This could include strategic zoning to optimize building conditions, or policies that benefit the area in an environmental or economic sense.

Salary and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment growth for urban and regional planners was expected to increase 6% from 2014-2024, which is about as fast as average. As the public becomes more aware of environmentally friendly building techniques, sustainable land development was predicted to be strong. In addition, needs for infrastructure improvements in transportation and public utilities could keep the demand for workers in this career high.

In May 2014, the BLS reported that urban and regional planners earned a median salary of about $66,940 per year. In that same year, the BLS reported that the top ten percent of earners in this field took home about $99,560 or more, while the bottom ten percent earned about $42,220 or less.

Educational Requirements

Most land development managers get a master's degree from a program accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board (PAB). You can generally find programs in urban and regional planning, real estate development or a similar field. Many programs include specializations in sustainable development, urban revitalization or rural community development. Through these programs, you could take coursework in cost estimating, land use, sustainable design and planning law. Many programs include internships, which allow you to gain some professional experience while you're in school.

Licensure and Certification

As of 2011, only New Jersey and Michigan required any sort of license or registration to work as a land developer or planner. Regulations in those states are managed by the individual state regulatory boards. While certification is not required for this field, it might help you get a job by allowing you to demonstrate your proficiency in land development and planning. Certification is available through organizations like the American Institute of Certified Planners and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

Useful Skills

It's important for land development managers to have excellent project management skills, as well as knowledge in areas like investing, marketing, construction and legal agreements. You should be familiar with current market trends and have the capacity to raise money for development projects. As a land development manager, you should also be skilled at:

  • Supervising others and delegating tasks
  • Networking and building relationships
  • Writing reports and grant proposals
  • Public speaking

Jobs Posted by Real Employers

Most management-level roles in land development require five or more years of career experience. Some employers want you to have knowledge in a specific area, such as urban planning or sustainable development, and most of them prefer that you have a master's degree in an area related to land development. Read samples below from April 2012 job postings:

  • A real estate developer in North Carolina is looking for a development manager with 5-7 years experience in multifamily development. The person hired must analyze markets, negotiate contracts and bids, oversee budgets and plan new sites. A master's degree is preferred and you need to have outstanding project management, computer, interpersonal and public communication skills.
  • A large city in Idaho is seeking a director for city planning and development. You must have at least seven years of experience as a real estate developer in a large community and your expertise should include budgeting and management. The person hired must be a problem-solver and have excellent interpersonal skills, since you could work with a variety of agencies, organizations and personnel. A master's degree in a field such as urban planning or real estate development is preferred.
  • A green building agency located in Seattle, WA, is searching for a certified building project manager with over six years of sustainable development experience. The person hired must have familiarity with project management, team management, budgets, proposals and technical writing. The ideal candidate should have a master's degree.

Standing Out from the Crowd

Since eco-friendly development is a growing sector of this career, dedicating some of your education to sustainable development could give you a boost in getting a job. If you want to work in an urban area, having a degree that focuses on historical preservation or urban redevelopment could also help.

If you have a PAB-accredited master's degree and two years of professional experience, you can be eligible to take the American Institute of Certified Planners exam. Certification is voluntary, but could be preferred by some employers. If you're preparing to work in green and sustainable development, you should consider pursuing certification in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system through the USGBC. The USGBC offers certifications for professionals working in building design and construction, commercial spaces, homes and neighborhood development.

Other Careers to Consider


If you want to be part of the process of selecting land for development, you could become a surveyor. Surveyors collect mapping data and set property boundaries. You only need a bachelor's degree in a field such as surveying technology, and some states require that your degree be from a program accredited by the ABET. Also, if you want to work as an independent surveyor, you need to become licensed in your state. Job opportunities for surveyors were anticipated to increase at a faster-than-average rate of 25% from 2010-2020, according to the BLS. In May 2011, surveyors earned a median annual salary of $56,000.


Architects design buildings and structures, and usually work with other professionals, such as land development managers. Career opportunities for architects could also increase at a rate greater than land development managers, with job growth predicted to be at 24% from 2010-2020. To become an architect, you need a 5-year professional degree from an accredited college or university, at least three years of training experience and a passing score on a national licensing exam. The BLS indicated that architects received an median salary of $73,000 per year. Just like land developers, if you have training and certification in sustainable architecture, you may be more likely to find the top jobs.

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