It may not be an obvious career choice, but urban planning is definitely worth considering as an option. With graduate employment rates typically close to 90%, this industry offers good prospects, an interesting and varied work load and the possibility of working in the private, public or even charitable sectors.
It is also an excellent choice for women wanting a profession that offers good promotion prospects and that values good communication skills and the ability to negotiate – so perfect for working mums.
It’s not all humdrum
Most people think that urban planners spend most of their time scrutinising planning applications big and small, but in fact the sector has expanded in recent years, with legislation on land use and development transformed in response to economic, demographic and climate issues. A typical planner can expect to be involved in consultations with stakeholders on specific building and development projects, collecting and analysing data, writing reports to aid decision makers as well as doing presentations and possibly using CAD and other design software. There is often a chance to be creative in devising original solutions and even to become involved with raising public awareness of urban planning issues or tackling the consequences of global warning.
Opportunities for women
For many women, an attractive aspect of the profession is that there are several routes into it, depending on whether you decide to study at under or post-graduate level. Some professional bodies have strict entry requirements, so you need to make sure your chosen course has the right mix of modules. For example, it is advisable to study both general (spatial) planning and a more specialised area (e.g. planning law or design).
Climbing the urban planning ladder
So, once you have decided that you want to be a master of urban planning (or should that be mistress?), the big question is where? As with any course of study you need to consider the quality and style of the teaching, as well as the location of the institution. You also need to decide on whether you would prefer a course based in a faculty of geography (which has traditionally attracted a substantial proportion of women) or one based in a faculty of the built environment, where you would have the advantage of getting to know the sort of people (e.g. architects, surveyors) you would be working with in the future.
It might also be worth thinking about studying abroad. International centres like London, Dubai and Singapore all offer world class teaching at this level. There are also the invaluable advantages of foreign study such as making future contact with professionals from all round the world, the unique knowledge of possible experience in a different environment and the acquisition of foreign language skills. And you may find that the cost of study, once fees have been included, is less than you think.
With a growing global population and the increasing need to regulate and sustain efficient land use, there is little chance of any ambitious woman failing to succeed in this field. So, what’s your plan going to be?