Matthew has a degree in human geography and an MSc in Town Planning. He works as a planner for a local authority.
I decided to go into planning as I was interested in how the physical environment we all live in has developed and is continually changing to meet new needs and challenges. Following my degree in human geography, I studied for a one-year MSc in Town Planning, accredited by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) .
Both my qualifications were relevant to planning and provided me with a broad understanding of the profession. My degree allowed me to successfully narrow down an area of interest, regeneration, and helped identify a career path. My Masters provided a good overview of the planning process and an introduction to current debates and challenges within the profession.
An appropriate planning qualification is essential for this profession, unless your employer is willing to send you on a day release course. Whilst many employers have done this recently to positively tackle the lack of planning graduates, the economic downturn may make this option more difficult.
The broad and diverse nature of planning work requires a range of skills, many of which are developed with experience in professional practice and are constantly being enhanced. Above all, good communication skills are essential as the work involves liaising with a wide range of people, including architects, developers and the public. As planning aims to balance conflicting demands, the ability to negotiate is vital.
To get into planning, work experience through vacation work (paid or voluntary) with a local authority or charity is helpful. Enthusiasm and a desire to learn are important and will stand graduates with limited experience in good stead when applying for jobs. It's very important to gain a variety of experience as this will give you the edge over other similarly qualified candidates.
My role involves planning, coordinating and implementing the town's major regeneration schemes. I work closely with partner organisations, developers and council colleagues in other departments, such as highways and conservation. While each scheme offers different challenges, my role typically involves:
In the three years since graduating, I've taken on more responsibility and tasks. I have also grown in confidence, which has enabled me to better convey my thoughts and opinions.
I really enjoy the variety of work within my job. I also like the fact that I'm making a difference and can see the improvement my actions make on the physical environment and people's lives. A less pleasant part of my job is the criticism you can receive from the general public; you have to be able to accept that you cannot please everyone all of the time.
In the future, I see myself gaining more areas of expertise, in particular urban design, to allow myself to have a greater influence in the design process. I'd also like to take on greater responsibility in the delivery of major regeneration schemes.
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