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Town planning masters degree - worth doing?

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    I'd like to do something broadly concerned with construction, and the masters degrees I'm mainly considering are town planning, surveying and perhaps landscape architecture.

    As town planning seems to be a relatively small profession, when I've searched for opinions on it, there doesn't seem to be much and the posts I have come across on various forums seem to be negative, with people mostly complaining about the lack of jobs available in planning and the relatively low salaries compared with other professions that require a masters degree.

    I've had a look at what planning jobs there are on different job search sites and to be honest it seems quite limited, especially for a graduate planner with no experience.

    In contrast, there seems to be vastly more jobs available for graduate surveyors and even landscape architects seem to be more sought after than planners.

    Another problem is that as planning is mostly public sector, mainly local authority based, recruitment seems quite limited at the moment due to government cuts and it seems unlikely that that situation is going to change for the remainder of this government.

    Basically my question is do people here think a masters degree in town planning is worth doing and is it likely to lead to a stable and reasonably paying career, or should I just forget town planning and study something frankly more widespread and sought after?

    I wouldn't be so negative about a possible career in town planning.

    The irony of the current programme of government cutbacks on local authority budgets is that councils have to 'hire in' more planners to deal with the growing number of planning applications (and associated policy-making). This has led to increasing demand for graduate planners in the private sector and to the use of short-term contracts by local councils. This unforseen(?!) outcome of government myopia provides very useful experience to kick-start more permanent careers in planning. Recent cohorts of planning students graduating from Reading have had all gained relevant professional employment within 6 months of graduating, most having a job secured BEFORE they finish the course.

    The work is often diverse and intellectually stimulating and (inter)nationally important for achieving the triple bottom line of sustainable development (i.e. a balanced integration of environmental, social and economic objectives). The salaries are comparable with most other areas of built environment employment and you can rise quite quickly into senior positions, in both the private and public sector (these days).

    It is true that the current government's view of planning is not very positive, but we have been in this situation before. Every time they say that the property market can solve our problems without planning, the outcomes show quite clearly that it can't! Also, as planning is the 'soft tissue' of the development process mediating a range of conflicting interests, it is not surprising that planners get a bit of a bashing. Without that soft tissue however, the bones of society/economy would seize-up with painful arthritis!

    Joe (Doak) MRTPI
    UG Admissions Tutor for Real Estate & Planning,
    University of Reading
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