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What is it like to work in town planning?

What is town planning?

Town planning relates to the design, development, and management of communal environments such as parks and residential spaces in towns, cities, and rural areas.

The management of land resources varies from area to area but ultimately, town planning focuses on developing a sustainable solution that pleases as many stakeholders as possible and meets local needs for housing, business space, and green space.

In towns and cities, there are many opposing views, from residents, to business owners, about what should be developed. While in rural areas, local communities might be more focused on preserving the countryside and limiting population growth.

It’s the role of a Town Planner to take into account these varying opinions to balance the conflicting views and offer a solution that incorporates as many of these recommendations as possible, while still adhering to regulations and planning laws.

What do town planners do?

Regardless of the kind of environment that a Town Planner works in, ultimately their roles are similar, and thus, the skillsets they need would be the same across the board, whether they’re designing residential or recreational spaces, Town Planners are responsible for:

  • Working with developers, architects, and agents to design new spaces through computer-aided design (CAD) or geographical information systems (GIS)
  • Facilitating investment and growth
  • Submitting and monitoring planning applications, or if working with a local authority, advising and dealing with applications
  • Making plans that protect buildings and areas of environmental, historical, or architectural importance
  • Presenting proposals to local residents and investors
  • Keeping up to date with legislation and land use regulations
  • Engaging with opposing groups and minorities to ensure their views are represented at meetings
  • Writing reports that detail legislation, regulations, recommendations, and stakeholder opinions

It’s also worth noting that Town Planners can go by different names including:

  • Town and country planners
  • City planners
  • Land use planners
  • Spatial planners
  • Urban designers
  • Environmental planners
  • Development planners

(Credit to RTPI for the list of names)

What is it like to work in town planning?

“Town planning is dynamic, exciting, and fast-paced. You are having a direct impact on the quality of the natural and built environment. You have the chance to help create and shape communities for generations to come and to improve the areas that people call home.”

“It may seem cliché to say that every day is different, but within Town Planning it couldn’t be more true, as your career grows, you will find yourself covering some incredibly fascinating projects. Town Planning is not for everyone, it requires determination, focus, passion, and hard work, however, the rewards for those willing to take it on are more than worth it.” Alex Tapley, Principal Consultant, Town Planning

What qualifications do I need to work in town planning?

There are two ways to get into town planning. If you think a career in town planning is right for you, then you should seek to complete an RTPI (Royal Town Planning Institute) accredited qualification; this can be in the form of a degree or apprenticeship.

Alternatively, you could go into town planning with a degree in the following related subjects:

  • Architecture or landscape architecture/design
  • Ecology and environment
  • Economics
  • Engineering
  • Geography
  • Law
  • Politics, government, or public administration
  • Transportation
  • Urban studies/built environment.

(Credit to Prospects for the list)

Regardless of your entry into town planning, any town planner should be accredited by RTPI and be recognised as a “chartered town planner”.

What experience do I need to work in town planning?

As with any specialist role, work experience is desirable alongside a professional qualification. It’s advisable that you seek some kind of work experience inside a consultancy, shadowing a town planner and learning more about the role’s requirements and day-to-day activities. For those going to university, we recommend you do a placement year to put you ahead of other students who might be graduating at the same time as you.

Talk to your careers advisor or do your own outreach to try and obtain this experience where possible; the more you have, the better your chances of securing a job when you apply.

What is a Town Planner’s typical salary?

There are plenty of opportunities for professional development with post-graduate courses and other qualifications being offered by RTPI. At a glance, a graduate or entry-level role might range from £18k – £25k, depending on your experience, while more senior or specialist roles such as a Principal Planner might earn up to £45k per year with Chief Planning Officers earning in the region of £50k – £60k.

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