Around the world
See menu (left) for links to information on Australia, USA and New Zealand and specialist briefings on Exchange and Volunteering.
(i) Support for short visits The Commonwealth Foundation runs two schemes of interest to professionally qualified people: a fellowship programme which supports a study visit of about a month to another Commonwealth country, and a volunteers scheme. The Fellowship is not offered to UK nationals every year. There is information about the Commonwealth Fellowship and Commonwealth Partnership programmes here and about the Commonwealth Service Abroad programme here.
(ii) Australia & New Zealand To read separate detailed notes on finding work in Australia and New Zealand, please click the country name. Exchanges with planners in Australia and New Zealand allowqualified planners to work in a planning office for a year or two. RTPI publishes a briefing on exchanges which will help you decide whether this step is for you.
(iii) Other Commonwealth countries The RTPI is linked through the Commonwealth Association of Planners to sister institutes in Commonwealth countries where UK qualifications will be widely recognised. Basic contact details are given in the country-by-country table of world-wide planning associations on this website, and more detailed information is available from the RTPI International Affairs Officer.
In some provinces of Canada, planning is a registered profession and compliance with provincial legislation on registration may be required. There are links to the Provincial and Regional Affiliates on the website of the (federal) Canadian Institute of Planners - Institut Canadien des Urbanistes in Ottawa. An RTPI member has provided a short personal account of job-hunting in Canada: please click here to read it.
Middle East/West Asia
RTPI members working in the region report that in the unprecedented development boom there is now a shortage of skilled and experienced planners across the region. The main opportunities are in urban design, master planning and contract / program management of international planning and architecture consultants. The benefits can be considerable in terms of tax free salaries, but there are major cultural issues to be addressed and the impact on families can be significant. For expatriates, there may be high housing costs, limited personal mobility and a period of cultural adjustment is required where extremes of poverty and wealth go side by side. They also note that there are no entry-level jobs - It is unlikely that those with less than 5 years experience would be considered for employment.
The key difference for UK planners wishing to work in the Middle East is the strong influence of U.S. practice. Familiarity with the use of building codes, zoning and the work of the major international architectural / engineering consultancies is required. The type of work is large-scale and can vary from planning major resorts to complete new cities and developing iconic buildings and whole new neighbourhoods with more than 3,000 homes. Concepts familiar from UK practice - such as pedestrian-friendly development and an emphasis on mixed communities are not prevalent because of climatic and cultural differences.
The quality of life can vary considerably depending on location. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are glamorous, fast-paced and expensive, Saudi Arabia has very tight security where expatriates live in separate secure (armed) compounds. Anyone considering a move to the Middle East should research living conditions thoroughly via the expatriate web-sites and information issued by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.
Employment opportunities can be found through the international recruitment agencies specialising in architecture and civil engineering personnel. Recruitment agencies have contacts with the main employers and will actively market qualified and experienced candidates. In addition, the major international planning, architectural and engineering consultancies notify vacancies on their web-sites and also welcome speculative applications.
Most employment opportunities are on a fixed term contract basis and may require working across several countries in the region, which can make for a rather foot-loose lifestyle. However, the opportunity to work on major projects with the leading planning and architectural practices can be fascinating and rewarding.
The legal position for planners and other professionals wishing to work in EU countries appears complicated, but the following account attempts to summarise and simplify it. Since the European directive on mutual recognition of diplomas (89/48/EEC) came into effect in January 1991, your British qualification must be recognised as an appropriate professional qualification throughout the Community, except that you may be required to comply with an adaptation mechanism in countries where the profession is regulated by a competent authority. An adaptation mechanism could be a test of your knowledge of the local planning system, for example.
Regulation is a technical term in the directive, meaning that entry to the profession is controlled by law or another statutory process. In the EU, only the UK, Ireland and now France have a regulated planning profession in this sense. The two Institutes can confer chartered status on suitably qualified and experienced planners. Thus a planner from another EU country wishing to become a chartered town planner must comply with the RTPI requirements, including showing understanding of the UK planning system, possibly taking a professional aptitude test. However, they may of course practice as a planner without this step, as long as they do not try to pass themselves off as a Chartered Planner.
In the UK, the RTPI is the competent authority referred to in the European directive. If you wish to work as a planner in another EU Member State, you should establish whether there is a competent authority and, if there is one, find out its requirements.
In most EU member states, planning is not regulated, and recognition is largely a matter for individual employers. This ought to make it easier for UK planners to obtain jobs abroad, but in fact it is a real obstacle. It creates problems in Spain, for example, where the architects have the dominant position in town planning: an employer would be distinctly puzzled by a British planner without a first degree in architecture or perhaps civil engineering.
The European Union is committed to making it simpler for appropriately qualified planners to work in other Member States, but it is clear that it is a slow, long-term process. If you apply for a job and find that the prospective employer makes difficulties, you should contact the RTPI for advice. The UK Government and the European Commission have stated their willingness to investigate difficulties in recognition channelled through the RTPI and the European Council of Spatial Planners respectively. The RTPI would be delighted to hear of any success stories, too; indeed, feedback of any kind would be welcome.
Several publications from the European Commission cover information on living and working elsewhere in the EU, and are available from the EU web-site.
If you know in which EU member state you would like to work, we can put you in touch with the planners organisation in that country, and suggest local people (including RTPI members) you might like to talk to. That choice is likely to be influenced by language skills: there are unlikely to be jobs anywhere in the EU unless you have a good knowledge of at least one other Community language, including a very good grasp of planning terminology.
Another factor in the choice of country might be the type of planning system: the Dutch system is the one most like the UK one. You might like to look at material on the planning systems in other EU countries (see the information on finding out about planning systems in the main Working Abroad article).