Germ cells serve as intriguing examples of differentiated cells that retain the capacity to generate all cell types of an organism. Here we used functional genomic approaches in planarians to identify genes required for proper germ cell development. We conducted microarray analyses and in situ hybridization to discover and validate germ cell-enriched transcripts, and then used RNAi to screen for genes required for discrete stages of germ cell development. The majority of genes we identified encode conserved RNA-binding proteins, several of which have not been implicated previously in germ cell development. We also show that a germ cell-specific subunit of the conserved transcription factor CCAAT-binding protein/nuclear factor-Y is required for maintaining spermatogonial stem cells. Our results demonstrate that conserved transcriptional and post-transcriptional mechanisms regulate germ cell development in planarians. These findings suggest that studies of planarians will inform our understanding of germ cell biology in higher organisms.