Transportation planner: job description

Transportation planners (also known as transport planners) assess public, private and commercial transportation needs and analyse and devise new road/transportation schemes.

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Transport planners can work in the private or public sector.

What does a transportation planner do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Career progression | Key skills

Transportation planners are responsible for developing transportation strategies that encompass the needs of all transport users including pedestrians and cyclists, and which consider environmental, efficiency and safety issues. They can work in the private or public sector. Key tasks include:

  • developing potential solutions to problems such as congestion
  • assessing the impact of recent building developments, such as a new housing estate, on transport systems
  • designing research methods and survey techniques
  • modelling traffic flows using mathematical techniques and specialist computer applications
  • analysing and interpreting data
  • preparing reports and publications
  • giving presentations about proposed transportation options
  • acting as an expert witness during public inquiries
  • staying knowledgeable about government transport and planning policy.

Typical employers of transportation planners

  • the Department for Transport
  • local authorities (county, district, borough and city councils)
  • specialist consultancies
  • public transport operators
  • the Transport Research Laboratory.

The numbers of opportunities fluctuate according to government road building and transportation policies. Jobs are advertised online and by careers services and specialist recruitment agencies. They are also advertised in local, national and regional newspapers and in relevant publications including The Surveyor Magazine , as well as their online equivalents. Some consultancies offer opportunities for overseas work.

Find out more about graduate careers in transport planning – including specific employers you could work for – here.

Qualifications and training required

Degree requirements for this industry differ across employers. While some will be specific in the degrees they expect graduates to have, others will offer graduate schemes and/or positions to candidates from a wide variety of degree backgrounds. Below are the undergraduate subjects regarded particularly highly by employers in this sector:

  • civil engineering
  • environmental sciences
  • town planning
  • geography
  • maths.

It's common for those planning on pursuing a career as a transport planner to carry out a masters qualification in transport planning; some employers state a postgraduate qualification as an essential requirement.

It is possible to enter this career as a school leaver, although this is less common. You may be able to find an apprenticeship with a private company or a local authority. For example, Transport for London offers a level three apprenticeship in transport planning, after which you could become an assistant planner and progress in the industry from there.

Career progression

Career progression is possible by gaining chartered status with a professional body – such as the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT), the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation (CIHT) or the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) – or by studying for additional qualifications or transferring employment sector (public or private). Chartership will require plenty of experience: with CIHT, for instance, you’ll generally be required to have worked in transport planning for at least five years.

Key skills for transportation planners

  • teamwork and communication skills
  • numerical skills
  • IT skills
  • analytical skills
  • communication skills (interpersonal, as well as for presentations and written reports)
  • problem solving.

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