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Planning the future

Posted: 25 February 2010

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Not many five-year-olds dream about being town planners when they grow up. But when being an astronaut, ballerina or train driver starts to look a bit less realistic, it's a career your students or clients should consider. They may not play with building blocks any more, but through planning they can shape the world around them and help build a better future.

What do planners actually do?

Planning's a flexible, varied and rewarding career with opportunities to work in all sorts of locations, in lots of different fields. Instead of being stuck in the same routine, day in, day out, a job in planning can mean working with local communities, in some of the UK's most spectacular scenery, or in countries across the world. There's not only a great view, but the satisfaction of creating a greener future and better places for communities to live and work.

Planners are working on the Olympic site, finding sustainable energy solutions, putting villages back together after the tsunami, creating better housing, managing flood risk, designing skateboard parks... and doing a whole host of other things you may not have thought of. These days, town planners tend to refer to themselves as spatial planners, because there's so much more to their profession than planning towns.

A flight path, not a pigeon hole

Unlike the rigid entry requirements for some professions, people can come into planning from a wide variety of backgrounds - humanities, social sciences, design, law - and it's an ideal next step for students who're interested in geography but aren't sure what to do with it. You don't have to decide on a career in planning when choosing GCSE options; many people working in planning studied other subjects as undergraduates.

But as well as that flexibility, there's a path to professional qualification and Chartered Town Planner status. And the credibility and improved career prospects that come with it.

Something for everyone

Because planning is so varied, there are jobs to suit all types of people. There are roles for those who are analytical and like working with detail, those who work well with people and want to get involved with their local community, and those who are into design and making things work better. Planners don't all work for local authorities - they're in the public, private and voluntary sectors, and working as self-employed consultants.

Planners have a huge amount of scope to develop their career, with options from urban design to environmental planning, regeneration, transport planning, heritage and conservation, and policy. Whatever field they work in, one of their top priorities is protecting the environment, and they are involved with promoting energy efficiency, finding sustainable solutions and tackling the effects of climate change.

Planning: their career?

To help you help students make a more informed choice, the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), the professional body for people working in planning, has produced a new set of careers materials:

  • Planning Your Career, a booklet that aims to answer all your questions about planning as a career path.
  • Postcards and an A3 poster for your classrooms and notice boards.
  • Updated careers section on our website, with a new resources page at where you can download copies of the materials.

You can also contact us at for copies of any of these materials.

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