Building, and Town and Country Planning


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The Independent Online

What courses? Building surveying; construction management; quantity surveying; building technology; construction; building studies; land economy; city and regional planning; building services engineering; real estate management; urban planning; urban studies; town and country planning; planning and development; urban & regional planning; environment and planning; planning and property development.

What do you come out with? A BA or BSC, or an MA in Scotland. An MPlan will give you chartered status as a town planner.

Why do it? "The achievements of the construction industry make modern life possible – from the water and sustainable energy needed in our homes and workplaces, to essential transport infrastructure, to the landmark structures that provide showcase facilities for every area of life, such as Olympic sports, tourist attractions or civic buildings. The industry needs skilled professionals to design, build and manage projects to completion and within budget. Construction professionals enjoy the variety and challenge of working on projects that leave society with a lasting legacy, and the sense of achievement when handing over a finished project to a satisfied client." - Dr Lisa Swaffield, admissions tutor, school of civil and building engineering, Loughborough University

What's it about? Following on where the architects left off. Although distinctly different disciplines, building and town planning are tied in the sense that they cover all aspects of construction aside from the design. Building courses look at how buildings are physically constructed, taking the design on the blueprints and following it through to completion. Taking in elements of civil engineering, but with a far more practical, on-the-job twist, students in building studies will also look at management, materials and infrastructure. Those on surveying courses will learn to diagnose, investigate, analyse and test all aspects of building performance. Town and country planners, however, take a step back from the frontline of construction and consider the practical, social and environmental implications of building a new development. While town planning still remains a career-orientated course, there’s far more theory involved than building, and you should expect to learn about politics, economics and law as well as industry specifics.

Study options: Strictly, it’s three years full-time study, although most universities offer a sandwich year, and this is essential to further career prospects and usually goes towards a professional qualification. Many courses are accredited by professional bodies, including the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI). Some companies offer sponsorship schemes, in which they pay for you to study part-time while you work as a trainee with them.

What will I need to do it? For building and town planning courses, most universities are rather flexible when it comes to A-levels, with no specific subjects being required. Entry grades obviously vary from place to place – at Nottingham and Loughborough it’s BBC, and at UCL you’ll need ABB. Cambridge asks for A*AA for its land economy course.

What are my job prospects? Pretty good. Because your degrees are practical and career-orientated you should be ready to offer something to industry straight away. Both builders and planners tend to go on to on-the-job training in order to become fully chartered. However, if, once you’ve finished your degree, you decide that the construction industryy’s not for you, you’ll find you have transferrable skills that lend you to a career in business, management or the civil service. According to The Times’ Good University Guide 2012, 54 per cent of building graduates go straight into a graduate-level job, earning an average salary of over £21,000. The same guide suggests that job prospects for town planners aren’t as great, with 39 per cent going straight into graduate-level jobs, earning an average salary of just under £20,000.

Where’s best to do it? UCL came top for building in the Complete University Guide 2012, followed by Loughborough, Nottingham and Liverpool. Cambridge topped the table for town and country planning, with UCL appearing again, this time in second place, before Reading, Sheffield and Birmingham. Building students were most satisfied at Loughborough, Plymouth and Coventry, while Birmingham City, Leeds Met and Birmingham came out best for student satisfaction for town and country planning courses.

Related degrees: Civil engineering; architecture; agriculture.