I'm a transportation planner. It is definitely an interesting field and you will meet lots of wonderful people in your ventures. Smart, socially conscious, passionate. It's also, incidentally, one of the best fields to be gay in...the notion of being closeted at work is just laughable to me.
Learn as many software programs as you can while in school. Adobe Creative Suite, SketchUp, ArcGIS, Transportation modeling software (if you're interested in transportation). That said, more than the particular skills, what set apart the most successful students (and future workers) was a genuine passion about a particular aspect of planning.
The job market is still tight. There is currently a lot of interest in urban planning, and a lot of students who go to school hoping to work in the field. Many were laid off when city budgets were cut in the aftermath of the recession, and you may still be competing with them. Back when I was applying for jobs in 2010, I heard often that organizations would get 300 or so applicants for one position (and would subsequently fill it with someone more senior than advertised).
I did find something, but it wasn't the perfect fit, and now that things have gotten somewhat better, I'm taking the relevant skills I picked up and considering a move. Have an interview in early January
Start networking early and be prepared to work your ass off at internships to prove yourself.
Rants and raves? Well, I had to sit through a one-hour discussion during a City Council meeting because someone wanted to change the font of an approved sign...there are some mind-numbingly dull moments. There are also some great ones, like when I took several city staff out on a tour through their city on bicycles.
Be prepared, too, for the frustration that will inevitably ensue when you come up with a brilliant, thoughtful solution to an issue and then have it shot down seemingly for no reason. This is more true for private sector planners. They don't get any decision-making authority, but on the other hand, they do get to work on a wider variety of project.
MontagueWell I know Chicago is hiring them and from the looks of it they start off making six figure salaries!
I highly recommend not getting your hopes up too high...
Alpha13The sad truth is that urban planning is done by Politicians but you can get a cushy government job if you like to play along with that.
It is true that City Councils do ultimately vote on planning issues, and the public process for many projects is important and can be political, but this statement is mostly overly simplistic and false. Politicians are busy as all hell, and a convincing staff report can be very powerful. So is an engaged community, and the planner has hopefully done enough background work to get people excited about the project.
Also, I work in the private sector, and it's definitely not cushy.