Case study

Transport planner — Marcus Merry

Marcus moved into transport planning after working in IT and then studying for a Masters in transport planning. Find out how he hopes to develop his career in the sector

How did you get your job?

I graduated with a first class BA Hons Geography in 2011, followed by an MSc Sustainable Urbanism (Distinction) in 2012. I worked in IT for a few years before going back to study. In 2019 I graduated with an MSc Transport Planning (Distinction) from the University of the West of England and am studying part time for a PhD.

My PhD supervisor recommended me to Mott MacDonald. I went for an interview and was offered the job.

What's a typical working day like?

I provide support on a range of transport projects. For example, I could spend the day reviewing academic articles about future mobilities and transport carbon reduction roadmaps or I might write a risk management strategy for a proposed transport investment.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I feel that my work contributes to the overall goal of making transport better - it is such an important part of human wellbeing and has a major impact on the environment. My vision for transport is for far higher levels of active travel such as walking and cycling, greater use of collective modes like buses, trams and trains, and for personal mobility vehicles to be electric, and restricted from travelling through urban centres.

What are the challenges?

I am new to the transport planning sector, having spent five years as an IT project manager after my initial degrees. Therefore, there is a lot to learn.

In what way is your degree relevant?

Studying geography and sustainable urbanism provided me with a broad background knowledge and also helped me develop my organisation and research skills, as well as the ability to write to deadlines.

My transport planning Masters has given me specific understanding of transport appraisal and modelling, and connections with academics and practitioners in that sector.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

After spending the past few months on carbon reduction and business case projects, I'm about to start on a four-to-six month project modelling the impact of aviation investments.

I hope within four years to have completed my PhD, attained extensive practical transport planning experience and be well-placed to undertake roles helping to develop and implement innovative transport strategies.

What are your top tips for choosing a Masters?

Research the academics leading and teaching the course to find out if they are interesting and inspiring about the topics you’re interested in. Read their articles or find videos of them speaking or lecturing.

What advice can you give to others wanting to get into this job?

  • Do a degree in transport planning or do relevant modules/a dissertation within another degree, and develop relevant knowledge and skills.
  • Try and gain awareness and practical experience of transport planning through talking to transport planners or by doing internships and work experience - is it right for you and your aspirations?
  • Submit high quality applications for relevant graduate schemes or positions in transport planning at different organisations, based on thorough research. If you don't get offers, keep learning and developing your technique for applications, interviews and assessment centres, and improving your CV, until you do.

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