Planning - town and transport

Planning – town & transport

Town planning

Town planners, often referred to as planners, play a key role in developing the space around us whether that is cities, towns or rural areas. Key issues for planners now are regeneration and sustainability.  The planned use of space aims to balance many different requirements from business, the environment, transport, housing, communities, agriculture and individuals.Typical employers of town planners include:

  • Local authorities i.e. councils
  • Planning Inspectorate - England and Wales
  • Scottish Government
  • Welsh Government
  • Environment agencies
  • Highways agencies
  • Regeneration agencies
  • Water, gas and electricity companies
  • Property builders and developers (often roles here are advertised through mainstream graduate recruitment schemes)
  • Project engineering organisations – these organisations manage major construction and infrastructure projects so employ people on a multi-disciplinary basis e.g. civil engineers, architects, town and transport planners and construction specialists
  • Planning consultancies – consultancies work on behalf of clients such as developers, to advise on the most effective way to design, present and obtain approval for a wide range of construction proposals – e.g. housing projects, shopping complexes, sports facilities, factory developments and extensions.  Consultancies may specialise in giving advice based on their extensive local knowledge of a particular geographical area. Or they may focus their expertise in specialist field e.g. out-of-town shopping centres, and work across the UK with clients.  Planners with sustained experience may establish themselves as independent consultants.  A useful starting point for finding planning consultancies is the RTPI’s Online Directory of Planning Consultants (see Related links)
  • Major charities
  • Academic roles e.g. teachers or lecturers on planning-related courses

Getting in

For town planning, either an undergraduate or postgraduate qualification which is accredited by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) is required.  The requirements are very specific so it is worth taking the time to explore the different options available and working out what is right for you:

  • If you do not yet have a degree then you could look at accredited undergraduate programmes
  • If you already hold a degree in a subject other than planning then you can look at accredited postgraduate qualifications

It is generally advisable that you aim towards becoming a chartered town planner as this enhances your career prospects, so you need to choose courses carefully.  The RTPI specifies that you must complete either a combined fully accredited qualification or a spatial accredited qualification + a specialist accredited qualification.  Check RTPI Accredited Qualifications for more details.

If you are already on an accredited undergraduate planning programme, then find out whether your programme has a combined accreditation or a spatial or specialist accreditation – for example, the undergraduate BSc City and Regional Planning at Cardiff University (from 2016/17 the BSc Urban Planning and Development) has a spatial accreditation so to progress towards chartered town planner status with the RTPI you will need to complete a specialist postgraduate course through either full-time, part-time or distance-learning.  Employers are sometimes prepared to sponsor graduates for these courses once they have built up a track-record working in their organisation. The RTPI has lots of information.

Graduates from a range of subjects are accepted onto postgraduate courses but subjects such as architecture, environment and ecology, engineering, geography, law, urban studies, politics, government or public administration, economics may be particularly relevant.

The RTPI offer a Future Planners bursary for accredited postgraduate courses which you may be eligible to apply for.

Relevant experience

For town planners, some planning courses allow you to take a 12-month placement in a planning environment, between Year 2 and Year 3 of the undergraduate course (this option is available at Cardiff University). Placement tutors on such courses will be able to help you identify suitable vacancies, which are usually publicised from February onwards to start in the following September. It may be possible to arrange your own placement, approaching potential employers on a speculative basis.

Summer jobs and work experience will also be beneficial when looking for graduate roles in the future.  Some larger organisations offer structured internships – e.g. government departments and multinational companies – check the relevant organisation’s websites or look at graduate vacancy sites (use the Related links below) for details and pick up graduate recruitment brochures from Careers & Employability at 51a Park Place.

If you want to get experience in a local authority or a planning consultancy then you will often need to approach them speculatively with a good CV and cover letter and see if you can arrange something, for example: a vacation role, part-time work or work shadowing a planner.  Speak to a Careers Adviser for advice and have a look at our section on CVs and Covering Letters or consider attending one of our workshops about using LinkedIn to build a network of contacts in this field.

In addition, staff in the School of Geography and Planning at Cardiff University often receive details of vacancies from planning consultancies and local authorities so keep an eye on your e-mail and on departmental noticeboards.  Consider talking to your tutor about where previous students have gained experience as they may be able to give you some useful ‘leads’.

In addition, planning employers are likely to value any experience you have in customer-facing skills and in dealing with the public, managing resources and budgets, administrative work, completing work to deadlines, communication and team-work – even if you have not gained these skills in a planning context they are all crucial to the role so you can market them in your applications.

Also consider becoming a student member of the RTPI as this gives you access to their resources and also to their networks and activities which may be useful for advancing your career.
 

Transport planning

Transport planners work on projects and policies related to all different kinds of transport – roads rail, pedestrians, cycling and air travel.  Their aim is either to improve existing systems or look at how new systems can be implemented.  Like town planners, their role involves balancing what may be conflicting requirements from the environment, government, business and communities.  Because of its nature, transport planners often work on projects related to government policies and initiatives.Typical employers of transport planners include:

  • Local authorities i.e. councils
  • Government departments such as the Department for Transport and transport executives which oversee public transport in cities – such as Transport for London
  • Consultancies – some consultancies specialise in transport planning whereas others may have a broader remit which includes transport.  Clients may include public sector such as schools and hospitals as well as developers and commercial firms
  • Train and bus operators
  • Highways agencies
  • Academic roles e.g. teachers or lecturers on transport planning-related courses

Getting in

For transport planning, it is possible to get in to graduate roles with a degree in any discipline but employers may find the following subjects particularly relevant – civil engineering, economics, environmental science, geography, maths, social science, town and urban planning.  There are also some undergraduate degrees in transport management and some combined courses – search the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) course database.

If you have a degree in a subject other than transport then a postgraduate qualification can help you be competitive with other candidates – check the Transport Planning Society’s (TPS) Masters Courses page.

Look for Masters courses which are approved for the Transport Planning Professional qualification.  This is a professional qualification which shows you have reached a high standard.  As with town planning, some employers will offer you support for completing further study once you have shown your potential within the organisation.

There are other routes to gain professional recognition as you progress through your career, depending on the area in which you decide to specialise and your own educational background e.g. some transport planners with a background in civil engineering become chartered engineers, some with a background in town planning may become chartered planners.

Relevant experience

For transport planning, pre-entry experience is not always essential but it will always give you an advantage and crucially, give you an insight into whether this is the right career for you.

As with town planning, some larger organisations offer structured internships – for example: government departments and multinational companies – check the relevant organisation’s websites or look at graduate vacancy sites (use the Related links below) for details and pick up graduate recruitment brochures from Careers & Employability at 51a Park Place.

If you want to get experience in a local authority or a planning consultancy then you will often need to approach them speculatively with a good CV and cover letter and see if you can arrange something such as a vacation role, part-time work or work shadowing a transport planner.  Speak to a Careers Adviser for advice and have a look at our section on CVs and Covering Letters or consider attending one of our workshops about using LinkedIn to build a network of contacts in this field.

In addition, staff in the School of Geography and Planning at Cardiff University often receive details of vacancies from planning consultancies and local authorities and this may include transport planning opportunities, so keep an eye on your e-mail and on departmental noticeboards.  Consider talking to your tutor about where previous students interested in this field have gained experience as they may be able to give you some useful ‘leads’.

By looking at the membership lists of professional bodies such as the Transport Planning Society (TPS) and the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) you may get ideas of organisations to contact.

Have a look at the Related Links section below for further ideas about where to look for work experience and internships.
 
 

Other related fields which could be researched alongside an interest in town or transport planning are:

  • Urban design – Urban Design Group has some interesting careers information on this relatively new field
  • Planning and development surveying, which is related to the work of planners but involves qualifying as a surveyor – see Career Areas A-Z surveying

Related links

Getting started

Professional bodies

Employers and vacancy sources