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Thread: US urban planner moving to UK

  1. #1
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    US urban planner moving to UK

    Greetings -

    I have my BS in Urban Planning from Cal Poly, no direct planning experience (2 years of redevelopment/economic development experience) and will soon be relocating to my hometown in the UK. I've had no luck finding a planning job here in the US and want to try my luck back home. How difficult do you think it will be to transition into the planning field in London? I understand that i'll virtually be starting over and hope to find myself an apprenticeship in the government sector.

    Thoughts/opinions/advice?

  2. #2
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    Good luck! I completely feel your pain... I'm living in Los Angeles, graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a major in Urban Studies and minor in Environmental Science last year.... no luck at all finding a planning job. I'm currently working downtown at an insurance company and have applied to Cal Poly Pomona for Fall 2013 to get a Masters in Urban & Regional Planning.

    I don't know much about planning in the UK, but based on the current economic situation in California, it seems you are probably making a good choice to try your luck there. Every planning job I've applied to here that I've heard back from has said they have an influx of over-qualified candidates applying (ie. people with Masters Degrees and a couple years of experience applying to entry level positions).

    I wish I had the option of going to another country and trying to get a planning job, I've traveled all throughout Europe and love it there. But, for now I will remain in LA and hopefully be accepted to Cal Poly Pomona to get my graduate degree! Again, good luck with your job search in the UK!

  3. #3
    Cyburbian dw914er's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mthw View post
    Greetings -

    I have my BS in Urban Planning from Cal Poly, no direct planning experience (2 years of redevelopment/economic development experience) and will soon be relocating to my hometown in the UK. I've had no luck finding a planning job here in the US and want to try my luck back home. How difficult do you think it will be to transition into the planning field in London? I understand that i'll virtually be starting over and hope to find myself an apprenticeship in the government sector.

    Thoughts/opinions/advice?
    It is set up differently, but you do have an advantage since you're a UK citizen. Have you thought of an international planning firm? I wish I could make the jump; I studied abroad at Imperial College in London and would love to go back.
    And that concludes staff’s presentation...

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    Hi, maybe I can provide my two cents/pence.

    I'm an American planner and landscape architect who's lived in London for about three years now. I would say (as also mentioned above) a distinct advantage you have is your citizenship here. This was the hardest thing for me to overcome in the job search. Regarding your US qualifications you may be limited based on the RTPI accreditation in which case you'll need a MSc or further experience in the UK.

    On a general note the economy seems just as slow here as in the US. Europe is pretty grim (except Germany and Scandinavia). The UK is cutting many of the non-profit sectors and I have friends being cut from public planning work as well. All that said it's just as bad in the US - so probably not a bad idea to try your luck here.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Coragus's avatar
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    I'm very envious of you! I visited England almost 10 years ago for my honeymoon and thought it was a beautiful country. Have fun, and drink a pint for me!
    Maintaining enthusiasm in the face of crushing apathy.

  6. #6
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    I moved to the UK in 2005 as an American for my graduate planning degree in London and have been here ever since and am a UK citizen now as well. I have worked in both the public and private sectors here and would say that the market for planning jobs, in my opinion, is still pretty strong if you look in the right places (the South East and London). There is a historic shortage of planners here and with 326(?) local authorities there is a lot of plan making and decision making still needed - even with the coalition's budget cuts! Most planners here need a masters in planning to progress beyond graduate planner / planner level and need to go to an RTPI accredited university - I know a number of such planners who work 4 days a week at the local authority and attend graduate school 1 day a week as they work towards their masters degree and the local authority fully funds their education in return for 'golden handcuffs' (which I think is normally 2 years after they graduate they have to remain employed by the Council). I have also heard of planning consultancies doing this as well but less so. Perhaps this is something to consider.

    Having said that, I am hoping to find work in the US this year so that I can move back to the States so would welcome any advice from cyburbians on my chances of making this happen!

    Best of luck on your return to Blighty!

  7. #7
    Hi mthw,

    I am a UK/US citizen educated in the States but currently working in London as a planner.

    I graduated from Berkeley in 2009 with a BA in Urban Studies and then went on to get an MSc in urban planning in the UK due to the completely bleak job situation in California. Since finishing my masters here in 2010, I was able to find a job with a large international engineering/construction company in their planning team. If you're coming in at entry level, the situation here seems much, much better than California, from the impression I've gotten, and I would think you would have a decent shot at a job here.

    Generally there is a larger planning industry in the UK, with many private sector consultancies operating that only deal with planning matters, as the system here is complicated to say the least. There are also numerous public sector jobs, as everything operates at a hyper-local level (meaning more places that need planners), as someone else mentioned.

    If you are coming in at entry level, I don't think the RTPI thing would be an issue. You can get the qualification after 2 years of work, even if your BA or MSc degree wasn't accredited. You might need to convince your employer that you have background knowledge of the UK planning system, but if you are working for an international company, that can be less of an issue.

    Good luck with your search!

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