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Town Planner

Source of Information: Next Step / DirectGov / Careers Advice Service

Town Planner

The Work

As a town planner (or spatial planner) you would help to shape the way towns and cities develop. This involves balancing the competing demands placed on land by housing, business, transport and leisure, and making sure plans meet the economic and social needs of the community.

Your work would cover a broad area and could include:

  • planning for housing to create affordable, energy efficient homes
  • managing transport growth and encouraging public transport schemes
  • redesigning street layouts to improve public safety, and reduce traffic and crime
  • developing parks, woodland and waterways in a sustainable way
  • conserving old buildings, archaeological sites and areas of interest
  • ruling on planning applications
  • enforcing planning controls, for instance on building that has started without permission
  • hearing concerns about planning proposals from local people and businesses.

You would also assess the potential impact that developments, such as new road building, might have on an area. To do this, you would use surveying techniques, geographical information systems (GIS) and computer-aided design (CAD) to draw up plans and make recommendations to local and regional councils.

Hours and Environment

You would usually work 35 to 40 hours a week. You might have out-of-hours duties such as attending public meetings. Part-time and flexible hours may be available.

You would be based in a planning office, but would be expected to travel to meetings or to visit sites.

Skills and Interests

  • excellent communication, negotiation and presentation skills
  • knowledge of local planning policies and procedures
  • familiarity with CAD software and GIS systems
  • good organisational and time management skills
  • sensitivity to different viewpoints
  • the ability to make fair judgements
  • research and report writing skills
  • the ability to work as part of a team
  • a commitment to your professional development
  • the ability to work with a wide variety of people.


To work as a town planner you need a qualification accredited by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).

You can qualify by completing one of the following:

  • a full-time RTPI-accredited degree course these last for four years, which includes a three-year BA degree and a one-year postgraduate diploma (longer part-time courses are also available)
  • an RTPI-accredited postgraduate course If you already have a degree in a subject such as surveying, architecture, statistics, geography or environmental science
  • a distance learning course at degree or postgraduate level available jointly through the Open University and a consortium of the University of the West of England, Leeds Metropolitan University, London South Bank University and Dundee University).

Visit the RTPI website for a list of all accredited courses and information on town planning careers.


Once you have your RTPI-accredited qualification you would usually start as a graduate or assistant planner. You can then become a chartered town planner and member of the RTPI (MRTPI) by completing two years' relevant work experience.

You will be expected to keep your knowledge and skills up to date throughout your career. 

Visit the RTPI website for full membership details and information on continuing professional development (CPD).


Most town planners work for the government and local authorities. However, you may find work with private companies like house builders, supermarkets and utility companies. There may also be opportunities with environmental and conservation bodies.

As a graduate or assistant planner, you could progress to planner or senior planner once you have gained chartered status and at least two or three years' experience. With at least ten years' experience you could become a senior manager.

Town planning experience could also lead to careers in environmental management, urban regeneration, recreation management and property development.

You may find the following useful for job vacancies and general reading (links open in new window):

Opportunities public sector recruitment
Planning Resource
Contract Journal

We do not accept responsibility for the content of external sites.

Annual Income

  • Starting salaries for graduate or assistant planners can be between 16,000 and 28,000 a year.
  • Senior planners can earn up to 34,000.
  • Planners with management responsibilities can earn up to 41,000.
  • Chief planning officers can earn between 55,000 and 80,000.

Figures are intended as a guideline only.

Further information

If you would like to discuss your career options with a learning advisor at the Careers Advice Service advice line, call 0800 100 900 or use our online enquiry form.


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