10 Alternative Professional Career for Urban Planning Graduates

The urban planning graduates are playing major roles in how the environment we live in is managed and developed. Most of the urban planning graduates go on to careers in planning, design and development, as well as in areas such as transport, economic development, urban regeneration and environmental consultancy. Specialist courses for urban planning graduates can allow you to focus on topics including

  • Transport
  • Urban design
  • Urban regeneration
  • Environmental planning or infrastructure.

Find out how Urban Planning skills can be used across a wide range of sectors

Community Development Worker

As a community development worker, you’ll help communities to bring about social change and improve the quality of life in their local area. You might work with individuals, families or whole communities, empowering them to:

  • identify their assets, needs, opportunities, rights and responsibilities
  • plan what they want to achieve and take appropriate action
  • develop activities and services to generate aspiration and confidence.

Community development workers act as the link between communities and a range of other local authority and voluntary sector providers, such as the police, social workers and teachers.

You will frequently be involved in addressing inequality. Projects often target communities perceived to be culturally, economically or geographically disadvantaged.

Community work can be generic or specialised. Generic community work takes place in a particular geographical area, focusing on working with the community to identify their needs and issues, and formulating strategies to address those issues. The setting is either urban or rural, with rural community development work increasingly attracting attention. Learn more

Civil Service Administrator

The Civil Service is a significant employer, comprising departments, agencies and non-departmental public bodies. The Civil Service is made up of a large number of different departments, which implement government policies and deliver services to the public.

Urban Planning Graduates

Civil Service administrators may have direct dealings with individuals and have the chance to make a real difference to people’s lives or may conduct research, compile reports and work on policy documents. As a civil service administrator, you will need to meet nationality requirements. Any job in the Civil Service is open to UK nationals or those who have dual nationality (with one being British).

Some posts are open to Commonwealth citizens, and nationals of the member states of the European Economic Area (EEA). Civil Service departments and agencies each have responsibility for their pay, grading and performance management. They negotiate salaries for their own staff and because of these salaries can vary across the Civil Service. Learn more

Sustainability Consultant

A sustainability consultant promotes sustainable solutions for the often conflicting needs of people, the environment, development and successful business. You’ll help businesses develop an environmental conscience, while simultaneously saving them money by making choices that positively impact the earth and all who live on it.

Their work will involve evaluating the impact a company is having on the environment (for example, their carbon footprint) and then minimising that impact or planning the use of limited resources. You may be involved in all or some stages of a project from planning and building, through to remediation, restoration and reuse of land and property, for example.

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Flexibility is important when getting your first job and you may need to get experience in a relevant area of work before moving into a sustainability consultant role. Many start their careers as environmental impact assessors and there are a number of graduate schemes available for both roles.

Competition for jobs is strong so getting some work experience is important. Many charities are active within the environmental sector and offer opportunities to volunteer in conservation work. You may be able to do a relevant work placement as part of your degree course or apply for a summer internship.

Work on any type of eco-project, alternative energy, living-building design or sustainable-community scheme would be useful. Experience in waste management and recycling is also relevant. Roles such as sustainability or energy project officer/assistant can provide an insight into issues around sustainability. Office experience can also help develop your understanding of how businesses operate. Learn more

Environmental Manager

As an environmental manager or sustainability manager, you’ll be responsible for overseeing the environmental performance of private, public and voluntary sector organisations. Your role will involve examining corporate activities to determine where improvements can be made and ensuring compliance with environmental legislation across the organisation.

You’ll also create, implement and monitor environmental strategies to promote sustainable development. Your wide remit means you’ll review the whole operation, carrying out environmental audits and assessments, identifying and resolving environmental problems and ensuring necessary changes are implemented.

Most employers look for candidates with work experience, even at junior levels, so relevant work experience, gained through vacation or sandwich placements, is advantageous. Experience gained through voluntary work can also be very helpful.

Becoming a student member of relevant societies, institutes or charities will increase your knowledge of the sector, show your commitment to the field to potential employers and provide you with essential opportunities to network and make useful contacts. It’s also important to keep track of developments and changes in the sector.

A relevant degree, or postgraduate qualification, provides the necessary skills for employment in this field. However, a business qualification or experience in the area of business activity carried out by a company may be considered as important as knowledge of environmental aspects. Learn more

Fire Risk Assessor

A fire risk assessor identify fire hazards and risks, record your findings and advice on fire prevention. You’ll identify people at risk, as well as evaluate, remove or reduce the risks. The fire risk assessors prepare emergency plans and provide training to all employees, updating and reviewing fire risk assessment regularly.

You will also be tasked with informing and supporting health and safety managers in a workplace or public place. Fire risk assessors work to strict guidelines set out by the government and fire safety experts and must ensure that buildings and services are compliant with all regulations such as The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

Not only do you have the potential as a fire risk assessor to prevent the loss of life and the cost of damage to property, but fire risk assessment is also a legal requirement for any place of work or business that gives access to members of the public. Government guidelines state that it’s the legal responsibility of an employer, owner, landlord, an occupier or anyone else with control of premises used for employment or public services to take responsibility for fire safety.

Many local authorities who manage a number of residential properties and other public spaces recruit their own fire risk assessor whereas a smaller business would hire the services of a fire risk assessor on a consultancy basis. Charitable organisations operating social housing schemes also recruit fire risk assessors.

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Large housing associations or property management companies often employ fire risk assessors because of the volume of work that is needed in this area. Residential properties require the highest level of risk assessment because lives are most at risk from fire when people are sleeping. Learn more

Planning and Development Surveyor

Planning and development surveyors roles include planning and development surveyor is to advise on all aspects of planning and development in order to help your clients make informed choices about investment. This can include issues such as site planning, development, conservation and transport options.

Working in the public or private sector, you’ll consider a range of complex economic, social and environmental factors when providing clients with critical information. Your expertise is particularly critical where development funds are coming from the public purse, and careful planning and financial consideration needs to be evidenced.

You may find success with speculative applications, particularly when applying to smaller firms in the private sector. Larger employers may visit campuses and target certain degree courses to recruit final year undergraduates. Many of the larger graduate schemes have deadlines in November or December, although you’re advised to apply as early as possible.

There are considerable opportunities for advancement within the profession as well as varied career paths, dependent on the organisation you’re working for. Generally, graduates start in trainee surveyor positions, progressing to experienced and senior surveyor roles.

After this, there is the potential to take up management positions (including associate, partner and directorial roles in some organisations) or pursue further specialisms. Surveyors who can demonstrate significant achievements in their careers can achieve Fellowship of RICS (FRICS). Learn more

Landscape Architect

As a landscape architect, you will create landscapes and plan, design and manage open spaces, including both natural and built environments. Your work will provide innovative and aesthetically-pleasing environments for people to enjoy while ensuring that changes to the natural environment are appropriate, sensitive and sustainable.

Collaborating closely with other professionals, you’ll work on a diverse range of projects in both urban and rural settings – from parks, gardens and housing estates to city-centre design, sporting sites and motorway construction.

The ways in which you can progress your career as a landscape architect include taking on greater responsibility, taking charge of projects, managing a team or becoming a specialist in a certain area. The rate of progression will depend on how ambitious you are and how quickly you acquire additional knowledge and skills.

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With substantial experience and strong commercial awareness, you may progress to leading consultancy roles, become a partner in private practice, or set up your own business. To be successful in private practice, you’ll need a good client and contact base as well as excellent experience, knowledge and skills. Learn more

Estates Manager

As an estates manager, you’ll be concerned with the historical or heritage preservation of a site and your aim will be to enable an estate to run as effectively as possible. Through careful management and coordination, you’ll seek to solve problems and maximise financial returns from the estate.

You will also work to improve other areas, such as health outcomes or improved social integration. The nature of this role can vary according to the type of employer and estate you work for. For example, an estates manager for the National Trust will have quite a different role to an NHS estate and facilities manager.

An important part of your work will be to ensure that longer-term issues are planned for. For instance, if an estate is looking to increase visitor numbers using a house and gardens, there could be a need for improved access, parking and toilet facilities, or you may be required to facilitate an additional service within a hospital estate, without additional buildings.

Career development will very much depend of the type of estates management you are moving into. You’ll find opportunities to work in organisations within an estates and facilities team, where you’ll have the opportunity to progress from a graduate role into management.

Specialisation in a particular area may be possible too. Organisations such as the National Trust will offer a number of graduate-entry positions that will then lead to more senior-level positions with experience. Learn more

Remember that you need to keep up to date with current planning, built environment and wider environmental issues if you want to pursue a career in planning. You also need to be able to express a passion for making better places.

Try to get work experience through relevant part-time or temporary jobs, voluntary positions or internships. Some local authorities and private sector employers offer work placements in planning departments and they may also have opportunities for work shadowing or workplace visits.

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About the author

I am Adegboyega Tunde Temitayo. A registered Town Planner with the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP) and Town Planners Registration Council (TOPREC).

I love to think differently and possibly on various Urban and Regional Planning issues to proffer solutions to Urban and Rural Environmental Problems. You can subscribe to my YouTube Channel

As the Chief Editor of Town Planners Diary, I humbly welcome you to this platform which is about enhancing Planning Education through research on various Town Planning and Environmental issues.

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