Town & Regional Planning
|Sources of vacancies|
A career in planning presents graduates with the opportunity to be at the heart of the development and regeneration of communities. It is a career that is driven by regulation and policy and an interest in social, economic and environmental change. A significant percentage of planners are in employed in the public sector, largely with local authorities. Opportunities also exist in the private sector, notably with planning consultancies but also within retail, engineering, construction, property and energy. A recognised postgraduate qualification is necessary in order to work as a town planner.
|Planning & development surveyor|
|Planning enforcement officer|
In respect of town and regional planning work experience is important in terms of being successful in the job market but it is also often a requirement for postgraduate study. Unfortunately there are not a lot of structured internship opportunities available; those that do exist tend to be with large property and engineering consultancies that offer planning services, such as Arup, Colliers, DTZ and AECOM. However, the scope for bespoke, short-term experience is good. The challenge for anyone considering a career in this area is to proactively seek relevant employers and approach them speculatively about work experience. This is normally done via the submission of a targeted CV and covering letter.
In order to source relevant work experience it is important to consider the range of employers that a planner might work for. Local authorities remain the largest employer of planners and they do represent a good source of work experience if you are prepared to contact them speculatively. Opportunities also exist through central government (Planning Inspectorate, Planning Advisory Service, Mayor’s Office Highways Agency, Homes and Communities Agency, Greater London Authority, Natural England, Canal & River Trust); there are no structured work experience programmes but it is possible to organise an individual placement with a relevant government department or agency. In addition to public sector opportunities, house-builders, business parks, retailers, banks, energy and utility companies recruit planners in respect of planning applications and development opportunities and may well accommodate interns. Potential work experience opportunities also exist in the voluntary sector (e.g. Planning Aid, RSPB, Campaign to Protect Rural England). Environmental organisations such as National Parks, National Trust and the Environment Agency also recruit planners. There are approximately 1000 UK consultancies in existence in the field of planning. They vary in size and remit, reflecting the breadth of opportunities within the field of planning (regeneration, environment, agriculture, commercial and business, industry, residential etc). Some of the larger consultancies include DPP, David Lock Associates, NLP and Barton Willmore.
Researching relevant employers and work experience opportunities
Typically, formal internships are aimed primarily at students in their penultimate year; closing dates can be as early as December and January! The internships last 8-12 weeks; they are usually salaried and involve structured, project based work. Opportunities are advertised via our vacancy service, which is available through the Careers Centre website, but also through the main graduate careers websites such as Prospects, Target Jobs and Milkround. It is feasible to undertake work experience with SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises) through the ‘Step’ programme.
‘Planning’ is an excellent online resource with which to research this sector; the website also includes a directory of organisations that provide planning services. The RTPI directory of consultants is a useful resource if you wish to develop planning contacts within the private sector. NLP is an example of a planning consultancy that does accept speculative applications in respect of work experience. In respect of opportunities with local authorities, the Direct Gov website can be used to research planning departments. The Royal Town Planning Institute provides some useful online careers resources to support your initial research into work experience options.
At public sector level, most posts are likely to be advertised via individual local authorities as they are responsible for their own planning work. Competition is high but there is a demand for qualified planners. Vacancies for planners occur throughout the year, although there tends to be an increase between April and June when local authority finance is fixed. Potential employment opportunities also exist at national level through The Planning Inspectorate and the Planning Advisory Service. Other departments and agencies that employ planners include the Environment Agency and the Highways Agency.
Within the private sector, recruitment is usually for experienced staff but don’t be deterred! Networking and speculative application may yield results. Graduate opportunities are advertised through specialist sites like ‘Planning Jobs’; some of the larger engineering and property consultancies offer graduate schemes in the broader context of planning and surveying. DTZ and Carter Jonas are two examples of property consultancies that recruit graduates into planning roles; you must, however, be studying towards an RITP accredited qualification. Specialist planning and development consultancies such as DPP and NLP do recruit graduates at ‘Assistant Planner’ level but usually applicants need to be studying an accredited RITP qualification.
Job vacancies and recruitment agencies
Specialist recruitment consultancies, such as Macdonald and Company, occasionally have vacancies for trainee and early career planners. Refer to the Recruitment Employment Confederation website for details of appropriate organizations.
There are many general and specific job search resources in respect of town and regional planning; below are a number of key resources with which to begin your job search:
In order to work in town and regional planning, it is necessary to undertake an accredited qualification.
There are two main routes in respect of the accredited qualification:
- A relevant degree recognised by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI)
- A degree in a subject other than town planning followed by a postgraduate course recognised by the RTPI
The RTPI provides information on accredited postgraduate courses. Relevant undergraduate subjects include Geography, Economics, Law, Environmental Science, Politics and Architecture but you do not necessarily need a specific academic background; please always refer to individual institutions for further information. Work experience is a key element in securing a place on an accredited postgraduate course and is obviously crucial in terms of your career decision making and long-term employability.
A further study option is to consider undertaking a RICS (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors) accredited programme in surveying as opposed to town planning. Commercial and residential property companies recruit planning and development surveyors; this is different to the role of a town planner but represents another means of engaging with planning and development issues. This can be done as part of a full or part-time postgraduate course; some surveying companies will recruit graduates from non-surveying degrees and support then through accredited learning. Further information on accredited postgraduate courses in surveying can be found on the RICS website.
Professional bodies (also known as associations, organizations or societies) are non-profit organizations concerned with developing, and supporting, a particular profession. They represent a valuable resource for anyone considering entering a particular profession as they will provide information on employment and training opportunities. Professional bodies will often accredit relevant professional and postgraduate courses; they can also provide a range of other services linked to job and training vacancies, network events, conferences and careers information.
In the town and regional planning profession the main representative body is the Royal Town Planning Institute. This body is an excellent source of planning related news and events; it also actively engages in professional development and learning related to the industry. Another facet of the organisation is the ‘Young Planners’ Network’ which provides support and contact for students and young professionals. The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors is another relevant professional body; the website features a useful careers section. Asset Skills is not a professional body but does represent employers in a number of sectors, including planning, with a particular focus on addressing skills shortages.