The phrase ‘built environment’ refers to an environment that has been designed and built, be it an individual private building, a public space, a neighbourhood or wider landscape.
There are many careers to consider in the built environment industry. However, there are six identifiable core jobs, which also have other related or even more specialised jobs that qualified candidates can move into.
Firstly there are architects themselves, who design buildings and the surrounding area.
Landscape architects design outside environments such as town squares and parkland, and are also involved in big projects such as the Olympic sites. They draw on their knowledge of environment, art and design to do so.
The job of a civil engineer is to plan, manage and supervise construction projects in both built and natural environments. This can cover bridges, tunnels, power stations, roads and beyond. Civil engineers are responsible for the infrastructure of transport, energy and industry. They create detailed designs of the planned structure to be implemented, and manage the people, resources and budget in a project to ensure that it is carried out safely and correctly.
Planners manage and make decisions about the development of settlements and the countryside. Their aim is to find the best compromise between different factors such as housing, recreation and industry, ensuring balance in environments by approving the most appropriate planned developments.
Surveyors, according to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, “essentially measure, value, protect and enhance all the world's physical assets”.
Urban designers work to create successful communities through design and collaboration with inhabitants. They gain an understanding of such factors as the political, social and economic landscapes of a community, as well as its physical aspects, in order to do this.
How to get into built environment
To become a landscape architect, a candidate needs an undergraduate or postgraduate degree in the subject from a Landscape Institute-accredited course, followed by two or three years working in the industry whilst being mentored as part of the ‘Pathway to Chartership’. The candidate will eventually take their final exams, and if they pass, they become a Chartered Landscape Architect.
To qualify as a civil engineer, it is necessary to take a degree in the subject that usually lasts three or four years. Upon graduation, a candidate gains their professional qualification from the Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE) after they have gained some professional experience. This experience can happen in one of three ways. Firstly they can undertake Initial Professional Development (IPD), which is mentored experience in the workplace, with an employer whose scheme is approved by the ICE. Secondly, if a candidate is working somewhere that’s not approved by the ICE, they can still gain accreditation by applying for a Career Appraisal of their achievements. Finally, a candidate who has taken NVQs in Civil Engineering up to Levels 4 and 5 also satisfy the requirements for IPD.
Candidates for planning must gain accreditation from the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI). This can be achieved by taking either a four-year undergraduate degree that has been approved by the RTPI, or a postgraduate degree that lasts one to three years. Upon graduation from either of these courses, a candidate must gain two years of professional experience before they are professionally recognised by the RTPI.
A candidate who is interested in surveying must gain accreditation from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). They can study an RICS accredited undergraduate degree, or take a postgraduate degree in surveying following another unrelated undergraduate course. Following graduation, they can then move onto their traineeship with an employer, and sign up to take the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC), a minimum of 400 days practical experience in the industry, before becoming certified.
An urban designer can take any undergraduate degree relating to the built environment, followed by a postgraduate course specialising in urban design.
Qualifications and experience
A degree course relating to Landscape Architecture requires at least five GCSEs, including English and Maths or Science, and two A-Levels. Geography, Art, Environmental Science and Biology are all subjects that are viewed favourably.
For civil engineering, A-Levels in Maths, Technology and Science – especially Physics – are helpful. Specific subject and grade requirements vary between institutions.
To study planning as an undergraduate degree, a minimum of two A-Levels are needed, although specific requirements will change between courses. For the postgraduate course, an undergraduate degree is needed.
A degree in surveying requires three A-Levels. Check specific requirements with the universities you are interested in studying at.
A landscape architect’s starting salary is usually in the region of £20,000, which can go up to £30,000 after five years’ experience, reaching £45,000 or above further down the line.
The starting salary for a civil engineer is approximately £21,000, with remuneration being able to reach £80,000 for more senior figures.
Town planners can expect to earn about £18,000 for their starting salary, and this can go up to between £55,000 and £80,000 in the later stages of their career.
For surveying, a starting salary for a non-graduate is approximately £14,000, and a graduate around £18,000. Once a candidate has achieved chartered status, level of pay is usually between £27,000 to £34,000, which can raise up to an excess of £70,000 later in their career.
The average starting salary for an urban designer is £20,000, which can rise to £35,000 or above after five years.