What do planners get paid?
What can you expect to earn as a professional planner? A salary survey conducted by the Royal Town Planning Institute suggests that rewards in planning compare with those in other professions
The government’s National Careers Service website suggests a starting salary of around £18,000 for planners, comparable to £16,650 for a solicitor, £15,000 for a journalist and £16,000 for a local government officer.
This rises to £34,000 for a senior planner and £55,000 to £80,000 for a chief planner. The Royal Town Planning Institute’s own survey of more than 5,000 members – conducted in late 2013 – confirms this. What it shows is that planners have a wide range of incomes: 14 per cent of qualified planners earn up to £25,000, 28 per cent from £25 to 35,000, and 23 per cent take home £35 to 45,000 a year.
Roughly one in six planners earns more than £55,000. The survey showed that salary increased with experience, and also with Chartered Membership of the RTPI (recognition of a high level of ability by the membership body - see pages 12-13). However, there is regional variation in earnings and if you work in the south-east of England you’re likely to earn more than elsewhere in the UK.
Planners’ earnings in England and Scotland generally tend to be higher than in Wales and Northern Ireland – although a greater proportion of planners working in the Republic of Ireland and overseas are earning top-level salaries. Within England itself, where three quarters of the RTPI’s 23,000 members work, salary differences can be marked. Planners working in London and the South are paid more – for example, in London, 30 per cent of planners reported earning £55,000 or more. In Yorkshire, only 12 per cent earn that.
How do a planner’s earnings compare?
According to the Office for National Statistics Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings, the median salary for full-time employees up to April 2015 was £27,600 a year. Most planners earn more than this; the RTPI survey suggests that nearly half of planners earn £35,000 or above. How does that compare with other skilled professions? As a solicitor, average earnings are in the region of £46,000, as a journalist £34,600 and local government officers typically earn from £22-28,000. At senior level, a marketing director can earn up to £83,000 - similar to a chief planner or consultancy partner.
It’s not all about salary
Salary is not the only factor to consider when looking for jobs in planning. Around 43 per cent of RTPI members work in the private sector, 54 per cent in the public sector and 3 per cent in the ‘third’ sector (for example, charities). Public and third-sector employment often includes greater holiday entitlement and a more generous pension scheme than the private sector. Other benefits may include more flexible working hours and home-based working. On the other hand, the private sector has greater flexibility to offer performance-related pay and profit-sharing. Your choice of where you work as a planner may depend on the kind of rewards that motivate you personally. But with time and experience, you can expect to make a decent living as a professional planner in the UK or overseas.