If you are interested in development, regeneration and sustainability, this could be the career for you
Town planners, often known as planners, are involved in the management and development of cities, towns, villages and the countryside. They aim to balance the conflicting demands of housing, industrial development, agriculture, recreation, transport and the environment, in order to allow appropriate development to take place.
Regeneration within towns and cities forms an important part of planning and the often competing views of local businesses and communities are taken into account. In rural areas, planners must ensure that development is sustainable and that the right balance of development is achieved to preserve the countryside. Planners also aim to make a positive contribution towards tackling the effects of climate change.
As a planner you will:
Members of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) may earn higher salaries than non-members. Salaries vary depending on the size and location of the employing organisation and the sector.
Public sector employment often includes a generous holiday entitlement and pension scheme. Other benefits may include essential car user allowances, flexible working hours, home-based working and job share opportunities. The private sector has greater flexibility to offer performance-related pay, profit share and other additional benefits, although annual leave entitlement and pension schemes may be less generous than in the public sector.
Income data from the RTPI. Figures are intended as a guide only.
Working hours vary according to the sector and individual work levels, but you can generally expect a regular 9am to 5pm pattern. More senior positions require additional commitment. There may be considerable contact with the public, politicians and pressure groups, which may on occasion involve evening or weekend meetings.
Career breaks and job shares are possible.
Graduates from any degree subject can get into town planning although specific degrees in planning are available. To become a chartered town planner (which is advisable) you will need to complete a RTPI accredited degree, either at undergraduate or postgraduate level; completing either a combined qualification or a spatial qualification and a specialist qualification.
If you have not taken an RTPI-accredited undergraduate degree, you can still qualify for chartered status by completing an accredited postgraduate qualification. Graduates from a range of subjects are accepted onto postgraduate courses but the following subjects may be particularly relevant:
A list of accredited courses at both undergraduate and postgraduate level, along with further information, is available from RTPI Accredited Qualifications.
If you have an HND you could consider entry at planning technician level. With relevant experience, this route can lead to a professional qualification as a technical member of the RTPI.
You will need to have:
Pre-entry experience is desirable for planners. Examples of relevant experience include vacation/part-time work in the planning department of a local authority or consultancy, work shadowing a planner, experience of dealing with the public or administrative experience, especially in a local authority.
It is worthwhile becoming a student member of the RTPI as this gives you access to publications, their library and membership to networks and allows you to participate in the institute's activities.
Many town planners work in the public sector for a variety of employers including:
You may also work in the private sector for a firm of consultants, or when you have enough experience, establish yourself as an independent consultant. The RTPI offers information and support for doing this. A consultancy may specialise in a certain area of planning or it may include a variety of areas and involve work with other professionals, such as architects and surveyors. For contact details of consultancies, see the RTPI's Online Directory of Planning Consultants.
Other employers include water, gas and electricity companies and property builders that need help with assessing building locations and submitting planning permissions. Major charities and campaigning organisations also employ planners.
With experience you may work in colleges and universities as teachers or lecturers on planning-related courses.
Look for job vacancies at:
The following recruitment agencies specialise in planning jobs:
If you have completed an accredited RTPI qualification and want to get chartered status you must take the RTPI Assessment of Professional Competence (APC).
Before you can apply for the APC, you must gain a minimum of 24 months (full-time equivalent) spatial planning experience at the relevant professional level, at least 12 months of which must be gained while a Licentiate Member of the Institute.
While you are a Licentiate member you will need to complete a log book for a minimum of one year (usually longer if you have no experience) and identify a suitable mentor for yourself. The log book will provide evidence of your experience as a planner and how you have developed, which is required for applying for the APC. Find out more at RTPI Chartered Town Planner.
The RTPI has a virtual learning portal, which allows you to study four modules online. For more information see RTPI Learn.
In the first few years of your career it's useful to join the RTPI Young Planners Network, which gives you access to training, social events and resources which are aimed at those in the early stage of their careers.
Career structures differ between employers, but after you have gained chartered status with the RTPI your chances of moving into senior positions will increase. Career progression may become quicker at this point.
In the public sector moving from assistant/graduate planner to senior planner can take three to five years. Further promotion may be to county planning officer. Senior managerial roles typically require a substantial amount of experience, possibly around ten years or more.
If you have geographical mobility, there are opportunities to move between local authorities. Movement between the private and public sector is also possible, for example between a local authority and a consultancy or charity. You may also decide to specialise in an area of planning such as:
If you are interested in working abroad, see RTPI Working Abroad.