You'll need analytical and project management skills to tackle transport problems and plan transport systems
As a transport planner you'll work on policies, projects and plans relating to all kinds of transport systems in your work, focusing on systems such as:
- roads and the use of cars, lorries and buses
- rail networks
- pedestrian systems for walking or cycling
- air travel.
You'll look at ways to improve these systems or how new systems can be implemented in certain areas. You'll need to take into consideration issues such as climate change, the economy and the environment.
The work is often related to government policies and initiatives, such as encouraging people to reduce their car use and take up walking, cycling or public transport.
Work can be carried out at different levels from local to international and may include tasks from initial ideas through to design, completion and reviews.
While the work can vary, in general as a transport planner you'll need to:
- design and interpret transport and travel surveys
- write clear reports and present options and recommendations on transport systems to clients
- use statistical analysis to examine travel data or accident records
- develop initial design ideas for new or improved transport infrastructure, e.g. junction improvements or pedestrian priority schemes
- use mathematical and computer simulation models to forecast the effects of road improvements, policy changes and/or public transport schemes
- evaluate the benefits and costs of different strategies
- participate in public consultation initiatives, including designing leaflets or questionnaires and attending scheme exhibitions
- assess infrastructure requirements (access, car parking, bus stops, cycle parking, etc) of new developments to support planning applications or to inform local authority development plans
- liaise and negotiate with different parties, e.g. planning and highways authorities, residents' groups, councillors and politicians, developers and transport providers
- act as an expert witness at public inquiries and planning appeals
- write bids for the funding of projects.
- Starting salaries for transport planners range from £22,000 to £25,000, depending on your employer, type of role and your location.
- With experience and the right combination of skills, you could earn in the region of £25,000 to £40,000.
- Senior or principal town planners can earn £30,000 to £60,000, depending on location and employer.
- Directors in consultancies may receive salaries of £60,000 to £100,000+, while departmental directors in local authorities may earn £70,000 to £80,000.
Additional benefits can include a pension, health insurance and a car allowance.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Although you'll generally work 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, you may need to have some flexibility, for example when conducting surveys during peak-period travel conditions. Regular evening work may be required when attending council or residents' group meetings. Public consultation exhibitions of new projects can also involve occasional evening and weekend work.
Part-time work and career breaks are more likely to be offered within the public sector, although consultancies are becoming more flexible in order to attract and retain staff. Self-employment may be possible when you have significant experience and you can work for consultancies or local authorities on a contract basis.
What to expect
- Although largely office based, you'll also be expected to visit sites and attend meetings.
- Jobs in both the private and public sectors are available nationwide, but the larger consultancy offices tend to be located in, or near to, major cities.
- Work is usually carried out in small teams but may also involve liaising with colleagues from a range of disciplines, such as town planning, architecture and landscape architecture.
- The working environment is often stimulating, but the need to meet deadlines can put team members under pressure.
- Major consultancies often have overseas contracts and there may be opportunities for international travel if you have experience. Elsewhere, travel is likely to be local or regional.
Specific degrees are available in transport management and may be combined with other subjects such as business and logistics. However, it isn't essential that you have one of these degrees as you can enter with any subject.
Degrees that are particularly valued in the sector include:
- civil engineering
- environmental sciences/studies
- social science
- town/urban planning.
Although not a strict requirement, most transport planners are graduates. If you don't have a degree, you may need to start as a transport planning assistant and then gain the relevant skills through experience, short courses and study to progress to a transport planner.
Some employers also look for postgraduate qualifications but this can depend on the level of the job on offer. Details of courses relating to transport planning can be found at Transport Planning Society (TPS): Masters Courses.
Most of these courses are approved for the Transport Planning Professional (TPP) qualification, which can be achieved later in your career and shows that you have reached a certain professional standard. Some employers will encourage you to study for a Masters and allow part-time work or offer financial support.
You will need to show:
- numeracy skills and the ability to interpret data
- written and oral communication skills
- good problem-solving and analytical skills - finding a range of solutions, understanding their effects and making recommendations
- confidence in dealing with a range of people including clients, councillors, local groups and the general public
- the ability to communicate complex ideas and issues clearly and accurately, often to a non-technical audience
- project management skills
- the ability to work as part of a team
- computer literacy
- an interest in transport and urban planning issues and political awareness.
Relevant work experience or paid employment in an associated part of the profession is useful. Try approaching consultants directly to find opportunities. TPS has a list of members you could use for contact details - visit TPS Stakeholder Members.
Try to build contacts in the transport planning field for networking opportunities and to find out more about what the job is like.
Consultancies are the biggest employers of transport planners in the private sector. Some are specialists in transport planning, while others have a broad transport, environmental or engineering remit. You would work with a range of clients, including schools, hospitals, developers and industrial firms.
You could also find employment in the private sector with train and bus operators or other firms with transport interests, such as finance companies.
In the public sector, most of the work is found with local authority departments where you would be producing local transport plans and assessing the implications of developments, often in consultation with residents and developers.
Other employers include:
- government departments such as the Department for Transport (DfT)
- transport executives, such as Transport for London and The Highways Agency (HA)
- universities and research organisations.
Look for job vacancies at:
- The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) UK: Jobs
- Local Government Jobs
- TPS Job Vacancies
Speculative applications can be productive in the private sector, whereas public sector positions are generally advertised.
Recruitment agencies occasionally handle vacancies for new graduates. Small and medium-sized consultancies are more likely to use agencies than larger firms.
TPS supports training and development and offers the Professional Development Scheme (PDS). This is designed to give you the relevant level of competence in the technical and generic skills required for transport planning roles.
The PDS is made up of 18 units. Some of these are mandatory but with others you have a choice depending on your interests. If you are new to transport planning, it's likely to take you around three years to complete the PDS but if you have previous experience you may be able to progress quicker. Find out more at TPS Professional Development.
After you've completed the PDS, it's likely you will have the necessary skills and experience required for the Transport Planning Professional (TPP) qualification. This is provided by the society and the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation (CIHT) and shows that you have reached a recognised professional standard.
There are other routes available for professional recognition depending on the area in which you work:
- you can become a chartered member of CILT
- if you have a civil engineering degree you may become a chartered engineer via the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE)
- if you have a town planning degree you may become a member of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).
It's important to keep up to date with developments in technologies, techniques, policies and legislation. Details of short training courses, opportunities to network and meet fellow planners and a list of training providers are available via TPS.
There are various career development opportunities open to transport planners. You may choose to specialise in a certain area of transport planning, such as sustainable transport or transport modelling, or you could continue to work across a range of transport planning activities.
It's likely you'll move on to manage projects, which can also lead into wider management roles. Promotion usually involves taking on increased responsibilities, starting with the technical aspects of larger-scale projects and then staff and project management.
It may be necessary to move to a post in a different public sector body or consultancy to achieve promotion. Movement between the public and private sectors does occur.
A relevant Masters degree helps career progression, and some employers sponsor employees through qualifications on a part-time basis. Achieving the Transport Planning Professional (TPP) qualification or gaining chartered status with a relevant professional body can also aid career development.
It's also possible to move into different areas such as town planning or work on policy development. Consultancy work is another option, which can allow greater flexibility as well as give experience of working on various projects.