Advice for Graduates

Career Opportunities

There are a range of career opportunities out there for young planners reflecting the diverse nature of planning. The public sector is where many planners start their career, although opportunities are also available for young planners in the private sector.

Within the public sector, you could become a planner within:

  • Central Government department such as the Department of Conservation or Government agency such as the Historic Places Trust protecting coastal, ecological and heritage values;
  • Central Government transport authority, the New Zealand Transport Agency, in policy and development;
  • Public housing department in policy or development;
  • Public health system developing policy;
  • Regional Council carrying out environmental permitting and monitoring, developing a transport strategy for a region, regional planning policy development, or developing a regional strategy providing for sustainable long term growth of a region; or
  • City Council or District Council processing applications for land use or subdivision, Strategic or District Plan policy development preparing plans for the future development of urban and rural communities.

Opportunities may also become available in the private sector working for:

  • Large multi-disciplinary organisations on a range of planning projects as a consultant providing a service to both public and private sector clients;
  • Private developers;
  • Private planning focussed practices providing planning services to clients;
  • Boutique consultancies with specialist functions such as landscape design or transport engineering combined with planning;
  • Key stakeholder companies in sectors such as energy, water management, mining or other large industries.


Finding Employment

The first step to finding a job is knowing where to look. The best place to start is the NZPI Jobs Online page

New jobs are posted every week and as a member of the NZPI you can receive email alerts of new jobs.

Of course you can also look on the websites of Central Government Departments and Agencies, Local Authorities, Consultancies and other employers for job vacancies.

Its not just about applying for jobs but also sending your CV to employers. Jobs may not always be advertised and its about getting your name out there so you don't miss out on these opportunities.


Transition to Work

The transition from University to the working world can be a fun, stressful, exciting and/or interesting, with some adjusting to work life better than others. As you near the end of your tertiary study, you may find yourself in one of the following situations - Some may find work before finishing their studies. This may bring with it a significant increase in your workload, but the skills you gain in time management can benefit you in the long term. A number of businesses and organisations give time off for employees to complete their studies, which makes the transition a lot easier. Others may choose to have a break between the end of their study and jumping into a career. Bear in mind this only works if you have the funds available to be able to survive without a student allowance. Finally there is the option of completing your studies and diving into work without a grace period - a good way of keeping the brain cells active!

For those who don't have to attend class until at least 10am each week, fulltime work may be a 'wakeup call'.

However, there are numerous benefits including a steady income and experience in the workplace that will provide you with knowledge and practical skills in planning that may not be taught at University. Employers don't expect a graduate to know everything so don't be afraid to ask questions. There will also be opportunities for training as a part of Continuing Professional Development (CPD), and networking with planners within and outside the workplace who can share their experiences and knowledge. Unless you are studying part time or are required to work longer hours you will also have more time, particularly in the evenings or on weekends when you may have otherwise been doing assignments.


Tips for your 1st Day

On the first day of your new job you are likely to meet a number of people so it is important you make a good first impression - arrive on time and be alert. There may also be an induction process, particularly in Local Authorities, with information provided about the organisation, its structure and procedures.

One of the first tasks may be to familiarise yourself with planning documents such as the District Plan. You will be provided with a lot of information in the first weeks of a new job and it can be difficult to remember everything, so we recommend you take notes that you can refer back to.

You may be invited by colleagues for lunch as a way of breaking the ice. There may also be a social club in larger organisations that organise functions and events, providing an opportunity to get to know workmates in an informal situation. It is important to get to know the people you will be working with and forge bonds that may be important in the course of your work.


Getting Sorted

When you are offered a job, one of the first things you will need to do is review the terms and conditions of your contract. You are encouraged to get someone to review your contract before you sign on the dotted line, whether it be family or a friend with experience of employment law, an employment advocate or a legal adviser at a community law centre

Having got a job, you will be paying tax on your salary or wage. To find out the steps you need to take, visit Inland Revenue.

As an employee it is important you know your rights. The Department of Labour has information on its website about your rights including minimum pay, leave, and joining a union amongst other advice.



Networking is about building relationships in planning that can help you in your career. It's a great way to learn more from planning colleagues about current issues, gain insights into others work, and find out about job opportunities. For example, employers may use networking to find someone for a position rather than advertising.

Through attending NZPI branch and Emerging Planners events you can meet other planners as well as keeping in touch with friends from University who may be able to help you or who may come to you for help.


Keeping up your Skills

After finishing University it is important to further your knowledge and skills by attending CPD events (Continuing Professional Development). CPD training can include a range of learning activities that are organised by the NZPI, your local branch, an academic/ professional organisation or a business. NZPI Members receive notification of events via email, there is likely to be a cost of attending events although discounts can apply for NZPI Student or NZPI Graduate members.

To learn more about CPD requirements, click here.


Working Overseas

Many kiwis go on their 'OE' (Overseas experience) and planners are no exception.

To help those of you wanting to work in the UK, the UK branch can be the best starting point.

With so many NZ planners having worked or still working in the UK, most UK planning employers will have a good idea of the work kiwis are capable of and that it won't take long to 'get up to speed'. Any knowledge at all of the UK planning system is highly beneficial. Planning Portal is a useful website for information on the UK planning system. Also refer to the FAQ page.

For New Zealanders on a working holiday in the UK, town planning jobs are more often contract positions. Permanent positions, particularly within the private sector, can be available to those with appropriate Visas. Either way, your CV will need to be updated.

Once you've updated your CV you'll need to get it out there so that you can show you're a candidate deserving of an interview to then land that job

For more advice on working in the UK email the UK branch or join the UK Branch Facebook group.

While there are not branches of the NZPI in other parts of the world, there may be NZPI members who can help you get started.