Despite playing an extremely important role in shaping communities, the role and contribution of planners is not widely understood or acknowledged. At the same time, there is a shortage of planners in Australia, especially in non-urban areas. Thus, through an online survey of 185 rural and regional planners, this research explores the motivations, expectations and experiences of these planners. Most enjoyed and felt confident in their role, explaining that they valued the relaxed family orientated rural lifestyle and the varied nature of the planning work. Although they sometimes felt isolated, the non-urban location provided quicker progression to senior roles, the ability to engage directly with the community and to see the consequences of their decisions. Only half felt their education had prepared them well for their role, citing gaps in terms of computerised modelling, team leadership and conflict resolution skills. Their feedback centred on providing a more practical course, focusing more on regional planning, and encouraging urban and rural experience placements. As the first study to quantifiably explore rural and regional Australian planners' perceptions of their role and challenges, the findings illustrate current experiences, key planning challenges, perceived educational gaps and future priorities.