Insight into town planning

What do town planners do?

Planners are involved in the making and shaping of place. They make long and short-term decisions about 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. For further details see the town planner job role description on the Prospects website. 

“A career in planning gives you the opportunity to really make a difference to the world around you - whatever type of person you are, there’s a role in planning that will suit you.” (Royal Town Planning Institute)

You can pursue planning as a career in many different environments, in both the public and private sector. With regards to the public sector, as well as local government and the Planning Inspectorate, Planners can be found within organisations such as the Environment Agency, the Highways Agency and the Homes and Communities Agency. In the private sector, Planners are employed by developers, planning consultancies and can also be found within architecture, surveying and property companies.

What qualifications do I need?

You can get into town planning with a degree in any subject but specific degrees in planning are available. Chartered town planning status is recommended if you wish to enhance your career prospects and to enter a job at a higher pay scale; for this you will need to complete a degree accredited by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI). You can do this at the University of Birmingham by undertaking our RTPI accredited Masters course in Urban and Regional Planning. To gain chartership you will also need a minimum of two years’ relevant professional experience. Prospects provides a helpful summary of careers to which a planning degree will be particularly suited.

What are my chances?

Due to changes in legislation around planning, economic fluctuations and public spending reviews, there was a period when recruitment to planning positions slowed or even halted. However, the outlook is now more positive and some local authorities and planning consultancies are experiencing a shortage of both entry level and experienced planners.

A range of opportunities is certainly available for new graduates, but you may need to be flexible initially with regard to environment, and look at options within the public and private sectors. Options are greater for those with related work experience and with an accredited RTPI degree.

How you can improve your employability

  • Consider taking out RTPI membership. By becoming a member you will be able to network and share knowledge with others who share the same interests, as well as gain access to useful events.   
  • Join your regional RTPI Young Planners Group to develop your interest in planning and to network within the planning community. Active membership of your local group will help you demonstrate to future employers your commitment to a career in this area. 
  • You can further improve your chances by making sure you are able to demonstrate to employers the key skills needed to become a Town Planner – have a look at the information on the RTPI website and Prospects. In addition to a degree and work experience, employers want candidates to demonstrate abilities such as strong communication, organisation and report writing skills, as well as being self-motivated. If you feel you lack any of these skills or want to enhance them, consider undertaking activities to develop them -  a good place to start might be joining one of the University’s societies (such as the Planning Society), clubs or sports teams, or take a look at Careers Network’s award winning Personal Skills Award.
  • Planning employers also often value employees who have an understanding of development finance, and have skills in environmental impact assessment, as well as more generic abilities such as project management and skills in negotiation, presentation and community engagement.
  • Get networking - start contacting people in the industry and try attending any conferences or related events - the RTPI Young Planner’s Conference takes place annually in the autumn. Also, attend the university’s careers fairs in order to meet employers, and also ask your tutors if they have any contacts they may be able share with you.
  • If you lack involvement in the sector and do not have a planning qualification, roles such as Planning Technician can provide practical experience. The planning technician role is an entry-level job in planning which does not normally require a degree. Planning technicians have a similar role to planners, but with less responsibility as the role is more junior. As such, technicians typically carry out the day-to-day support work needed to enable planners’ work.

How do I get work experience in planning related roles?

Pre-entry work experience in addition to your studies is highly valued by employers. Vacation work in the planning department of a local authority or with a consultancy, such as shadowing a planner or developing administrative experience, are just a few examples of desirable experience.

Birmingham City Council - One of many local authorities that provide planning students with short summer internships and work experience placements.

Birmingham City Council’s Planning and Regeneration department hosts the Birmingham Graduate Hub, which will offers paid positions for graduates within the council’s Planning and Regeneration department. Opportunities can be found through Birmingham City Council’s jobs portal.

MADE (no website) - 321 Bradford St, Birmingham B5 6ET; telephone number 0121 348 7980. Located in the centre of Birmingham, MADE is an organisation dedicated to improving the quality of our towns, cities and villages. Espousing the benefits of a high quality built environment for economic prosperity and wellbeing, they host a range of activities as well as voluntary roles for students.

Forum for the Built Environment (FBE) - The leading independent built environment networking organization, with a branch that meets regularly in the centre of Birmingham. The FBE has over 1,000 members nationwide from a wide variety of backgrounds - multinational construction companies, cost consultants, architects and designers, property developers, engineers, planners and consultants, legal & financial specialists and other service professionals.

Alternative careers using planning skills

Useful links

You may also be interested to consider careers in surveying, as an alternative to planning. If so, Careers Network’s Insight Into Surveying webpage may be of assistance.

For more information and careers resources see Careers Network’s ResourceLists for Construction, civil engineering and property and Logistics and transport.


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