How To Become a Transport Planner in the UK

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 21 October 2022

Published 25 June 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

The job of a transport planner requires a wide range of knowledge and skills. If you're analytically minded, have an eye for data and are capable of devising solutions, this career may be a good choice for you. To pursue a career as a transport planner, it's important to understand what the job entails and how you can work towards gaining the appropriate qualifications.

In this article, we discuss what a transport planner is and what they do, describe their work environment, discuss some of the qualifications and skills they need, explain the steps for becoming a transport planner, look at some related career paths and see how much you can expect to earn in this career.

What is a transport planner?

A transport planner, also known as a transportation planner, is a kind of urban planner who specialises in transport networks and works towards the long-term development of transport systems at a local, regional or national level. The job description of a transport planner may include research into transport-related factors such as road congestion, traffic accidents and the effects that transport schemes have on the economy and environment.

What does a transport planner do?

The specific duties of a transport planner are likely to vary according to your employer and industry. However, there are certain responsibilities which are common among many transport planners. These include:

  • Appraising transport schemes to improve general quality of life

  • Predicting potential transport problems or trends using computer-modelling techniques

  • Analysing the potential effects of proposed traffic-management strategies

  • Analysing and recommending solutions to traffic problems such as accidents and congestion

  • Analysing and interpreting transport-related data

  • Contributing to the development of local, regional or national transport policy

  • Forecasting the impact that developments such as shopping centres, housing developments, schools and hospitals might have on traffic flows

  • Conducting research such as surveys

  • Presenting reports based on research

  • Communicating with various authorities and interested parties

  • Promoting healthier alternatives to private motoring, such as cycling, walking and public transport

Related: What does a city planner do? (With tips)

Transport planner work environment

Transport planners may work in both the public and the private sectors. Public sector positions are often with local authorities, in which capacity you might consult residents and developers in the area to create local transport plans. Other public sector positions are available in government departments or agencies. In the private sector, opportunities are available with consultancies of all sizes, in which you might work with development firms, schools or hospitals. Other private sector positions might include architectural companies, transit operators and other groups with transport concerns.

Much of a transport planner's work takes place in an office setting. They generally work 40 hours per week, from Monday to Friday, though there may be occasional evening and weekend requirements when consulting on new projects. They often work with a small team or in collaboration with colleagues from other disciplines, such as architects and town planners. They may also travel outside the office to visit development sites, to collect data or to speak with members of the community.

Related: A Guide To Civil Service Jobs

Transport planner requirements

Transport planners often have a university degree. You can enter the field with a degree in any discipline, but a degree in a subject relevant to the discipline can improve your candidacy. Such subjects include:

  • Civil engineering

  • Geography

  • Planning

  • Maths

  • Economics

  • Environmental science

Postgraduate degrees are common among transport planners, and some employers would prefer you have one. If you're interested in further education to elevate your chances for entry into transport planning, you might consider masters courses in transport planning as well as related courses in engineering, environmental science and sustainable development.

An alternative route for entry is apprenticeship in transport planning, potentially with a local authority or private company. This allows you to gain on-the-job training while earning a salary. For example, the Chartered Institute of Highways & Transportation offers a Level 3 Transport Planning Technician apprenticeship and a Level 6 Planning Degree Apprenticeship.

Related: Vocational Training: Definitions and Examples

Transport planner skills

The following are some skills which are useful in the field of transport planning:

  • Numeracy and data interpretation skills: The job of a transport planner involves substantial research in statistics and reports. Thus, aptitude with numbers and the ability to comprehend information are key.

  • Written and oral communication skills: Transport planners prepare reports and make recommendations to interested parties based on the data they interpret. The ability to convey information clearly and accurately helps others to understand complex concepts.

  • Negotiation skills: Negotiation skills may be necessary to promote agreement between parties. For example, the community and the town councillors may disagree about the advantages of a proposed transport scheme, so the transport planner might help each side to see the other's point of view.

  • Critical-thinking and problem-solving skills: In order to find solutions to transport-related problems, transport planners should be able to analyse the effects of potential options and recommend optimal solutions.

  • Collaboration and teamwork: Transport planners often work in small teams and with colleagues from other authorities. Senior transport planners may even manage teams to complete transport-related projects.

Related: What Are Communication Skills?

How to become a transport planner

Whether you take the university route or an alternative route, you can follow these steps to work towards entry in the field of transport planning:

1. Complete your education or training

As mentioned, many transport planners enter the field after earning a degree. Education requirements for a relevant degree usually include two to three A levels. Many employers also prefer that you have a postgraduate degree in transport planning or a related subject.

If you plan to take the apprenticeship route, the requirements typically include five General Certificate of Secondary Education courses, including English, science and maths, with grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) or equivalent. For a degree apprenticeship, you may also need A levels.

Related: GCSE Equivalent Qualifications

2. Gain work experience

Previous work experience in a related field or a similar environment can improve your candidacy for transport planner positions. Consider seeking administrative work in an office setting, where you might perform functions such as answering telephone calls, inputting data and organising tasks. These activities are directly transferable to the role of a transport planner.

3. Earn a professional qualification

In addition to your degree, professional qualification verifies that you possess the skills and knowledge to work as a transport planner and have demonstrated commitment to excellence and growth in your field. For transport planners, the most well-known qualification is the Transport Planning Professional, or TPP, which is jointly awarded by the Transport Planning Society and the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation. Normally, the TPP is a three-stage process:

  1. Obtain technical knowledge. Those with a relevant masters degree have already demonstrated such learning, but others can complete this stage by other means, such as completing the Professional Development Scheme offered by the Transportation Planning Society, submitting a TPP Portfolio of Technical Knowledge or submitting a TPP Technical Report.

  2. Complete a TPP Portfolio of Evidence and Professional Review. This demonstrates your professional and managerial abilities in various contexts.

  3. Complete an interview. Senior members of the transport planning profession review your knowledge and portfolio and determine whether award you the TPP.

Transport planner career paths

There are several career paths for transport planners. Many decide to advance to the level of senior transport planner, or they specialise within the field of transport planning, focusing on one of the following aspects:

  • Transport modelling

  • Travel planning

  • Sustainable transport

Other career paths for transport planners include:

  • Traffic engineering

  • Town planning

  • Environmental consultancy

  • Policy development

Transport planner salary

The average annual base salary for transport planners in the UK is £28,084 per year, but specific salary may vary depending on various factors, including your level of education or experience, your employer, your location and the industry or sector in which you work. Generally, areas with larger populations and thus greater transport concerns offer higher remuneration. For example, transport planners in London, England, can expect to earn above the average salary at £35,454, whereas those in Armagh, Northern Ireland, might expect a lower salary at £26,424 per year.

Experienced transport planners often become town planners, who earn a higher average base salary of £34,333 per year in the UK. Again, areas with larger populations may offer higher earnings. In the aforementioned cities, town planners can expect to earn an average of £37,470 and £32,647, respectively.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Related:

  • How to become a transportation manager (with skills)


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