What is transport planning and how do I become one?

Transport planning is about preparing, assessing and implementing policies, plans and projects to improve and manage our transport systems. There is a need for transport planning on a local, regional, national and international level. It involves understanding the link between transport and land use, in particular the future shape of our towns and cities, and the activities which people want to undertake to meet quality of life objectives. It is critical to the future of the  economy, the state of our environment and how we tackle climate change.  It is also about changing people's attitudes towards travel to encourage use of sustainable modes, often replacing journeys by car.

What sort of things do transport planners do?

Transport planners have to consider what the future will be like, and recognise that their actions as transport planners will help to shape it.  They have to devise ways to address some of the most serious and complex problems facing us all.  At different times they will have to think like a behavioural psychologist, a civil engineer, a vehicle engineer, a development planner, a computer analyst, an environmental scientist, a social scientist, a fitness expert, and at least two sorts of economist.  They have to be able to work across disciplines and put the pieces of the transport jigsaw all together.  They have to make transparent decisions and communicate complex issues to the public, to key stakeholders, and to politicians.

Transport planning therefore includes a very wide range of disciplines – in fact the wide range of work is one of the big attractions. The work of transport planners touches almost every aspect of our day-to-day lives.

Who do transport planners work for?

Transport planners work in the public and private sectors, as well as the academic, research, public interest and voluntary sectors.  Many switch between sectors as their careers, and interests, develop.

Most of those in the public sector work for local authorities - others work for government departments and agencies.

Most private sector jobs are with consultants, and some are with train and bus and coach operators or developers, architect and financing companies with transport interests.  The range of consultants employing transport planners is wide, from large multi-disciplinary consultants operating around the world through medium sized companies specialising in transport planning to small, niche companies with a particular focus.

How do I become a transport planner?

Whether you are an undergraduate, a recent graduate, a career changer or a school leaver, the best way is to talk with someone already doing the job, preferably with one of the major employers.  Indeed, it might be a good idea to talk with both private and public sector employers, to give you an idea of what you might be doing with them, as well as their conditions of employment.  Click here for employers who are Stakeholder members of the Transport Planning Society.

Many employers offer apprenticeships and for graduates the Transport Planning Society’s Professional Development Scheme (PDS), to ensure their staff obtain a broad range of expertise in the early stages of their career. 

There is now a full range of professional qualifications available: Transport Planning Technician (TPTech); Incorporated Transport Planner (IncTP); and Transport Planning Professional (TPP).  All of these are mapped to the same content so you can move from one to the other as your career progresses.  From 2019, an additional chartered title became available to holders of the TPP – the Chartered Transport Planning Professional, CTPP.  It is not available through any other route, and TPP holders can acquire it automatically with no additional academic or experience requirements. 

The transport planning apprenticeships also use the same content as the professional so the knowledge and experience you gain can be used throughout your professional life.

Although some transport planners do not have a degree, many do.  There is a strong tradition of transport planning Masters degrees, and many of these cover the same content as the qualifications set out above.  Further information on degrees can be found here.

What career prospects are there?

Transport planners have many career options;  some choose to become experts in a particular aspect of transport planning – for example in transport modelling, sustainable transport, travel planning and behavioural change – while others prefer to work across a wide range of transport planning activities, achieving breadth as well as depth of competence.

Most transport planners aspire to leading and managing projects, and some to wider management roles, for which the key skills of analytic and communications abilities provide a sound foundation. 

Although some transport planners do not have a degree, most do.  Further information on degrees can be found here.

Where can I find further information?

You can download a TPS brochure about careers in transport planning here and you can contact us at info@tps.org.uk.

TPS also has a leaflet "Standing out from the crowd"  providing advice on getting ready for job applications, preparing job applications and managing job interviews.


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