Jonathan Hill: planning for the present and future

Building on an inspiring undergraduate placement, Jonathan's experience studying MSc Planning has set him up for a rewarding career in the industry

Jonathan Hill, MSc Planning graduate

Jonathan Hill

MSc Planning graduate 2017 | Ten minute read | 1 May 2018 

“Undertaking a postgraduate degree with Plymouth was the best decision I have ever made, as it has opened so many doors and enhanced my career prospects.”

Planning my career after graduating

For those who know me well, I tend to plan things in considerable detail and am very happy with how things have turned out since I graduated from Plymouth. 

I managed to defer starting as a graduate planner at Arup – an independent firm of designers, planners, engineers, consultants and technical specialists, until January 2018, allowing me a year to travel around the world. I travelled throughout Europe, China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, before returning via the States on Christmas Eve.

I started at Arup in the Bristol office in early January and have specialised in NSIPs (Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects), predominantly in the South West region.

Working on NSIPs has to be the most exciting part of my job. Being able to help shape infrastructure projects which sit within the public domain is both exciting and challenging.

I have been able to work on numerous projects, both large and small scale, which I have found very fulfilling. Recently, I have also worked upon a number of cases for Bristol City Council in order to gain a broader experience of the public and private sectors. Being able to help shape the built environment in which I live and see on the news is very rewarding.

The benefits of choosing Plymouth

Plymouth is a very contemporary campus and benefits from a high degree of internationalism, a characteristic which I really value. I chose to embark on a masters in planning at Plymouth because the degree was accredited by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI). Without a planning-related degree this simply wouldn’t be possible, so undertaking postgraduate study with Plymouth has massively enhanced my career prospects. I was already a student at the University and had a very supportive group of friends and teammates, plus an influential lecturer in Dr Stephen Essex, who played a large role in my decision to stay at Plymouth.

Although my degree was very structured, I was able to choose my own path and tailor make an experience which suited me with the help of my lecturers, and for this reason alone, I would recommend the University to any prospective student. 

Plymouth gave me the opportunity to learn from a broad range of experiences and an opportunity to engage with top quality research.

A balance of academic and professional lectures provided me with both a practical and theoretical understanding that built up a resilience which has helped with certain challenges I have had to face. 

I had the opportunity in learning from two very good lecturers who both gave me excellent academic and personal advice. The planning department was co-managed by Professor Christopher Balch, whose wealth of experience within the private sector of planning was very useful.

Academically, I really found my feet during the latter half of my undergraduate degree. Although I enjoyed it, I never appreciated where my undergraduate degree in geography could take me until undertaking an employability module. I would highly recommend everyone to undertake a placement year if the option is available to you.

I was diagnosed with dyslexia in my second year during my undergraduate degree and received tutorial help for one or two hours a week. Since receiving this help, my grades went in an upward trajectory from a 2.2 to mostly first class honours. Without this support network, I would not have been able to perform as I did, or had the motivation for the subject.

Jonathan Hill, MSc Planning graduate – graduating on Plymouth Hoe
Graduating on Plymouth Hoe
Jonathan Hill, MSc Planning graduate – travelling after graduating
Visiting Hong Kong on a field trip
Jonathan Hill, MSc Planning graduate – playing for the University rugby football club
Playing in the rugby varsity
Jonathan Hill, MSc Planning graduate – travelling after graduating  
Travelling the world after graduation

Finding my focus on placements

I didn’t have any definitive career aspirations during the first and second year of my undergraduate degree, but the employability module during my second year was a major turning point, making me realise I could end up completing the degree with no onward plan. 

I subsequently applied for a number of placement opportunities with private companies and a number of local government authorities. I was successful in an application to become a Planning Policy Assistant at Sedgemoor District Council, and this is where I got my first insight of planning. With no planning experience or understanding of what planners did, I found the role to be really informative and interesting.

It was this placement year which shaped my long term career plans and motivated me to apply for a masters degree in planning, in order to increase my employability and gain accreditation in the long run. Studying at Plymouth and having a support network which is equally as focused on employability as the academic side was invaluable in helping realise my career aspirations.

I was also encouraged by my tutor to apply for a private sector opportunity and I was successful in landing a short term role with Savills estate agents on their Planning Insight Programme during April 2016. 

Although I had gained a good understanding of the profession during my time with Sedgemoor District Council, it was this placement which motivated me to seek private sector graduate jobs. I particularly enjoyed the fast paced lifestyle and the large scale projects in which private sector companies, such as Arup, are able to tender for. 

Making memories

I have many happy memories from Plymouth.

I particularly enjoyed overseas fieldwork in France and Hong Kong and playing in the first XV rugby varsity in 2016 and 2017. 

I wish though I had taken part in more social activities in my first and second years and joined the rugby team earlier

Undertaking a postgraduate degree with Plymouth was the best decision I have ever made as it has opened so many doors, enhanced my career prospects and allowed me to work toward my RTPI (Royal Town Planning Institute) accreditation. 

For both my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees I completed two high quality dissertations which I am currently in the process of publishing with the assistance of Dr Mark Holton

I will look back at my time at Plymouth with a lot of fond memories.

Low angle view of vertical garden-BioWall or living wall is a wall covered with living plants on high rise residential building with heliostat of motorised mirrors, Sydney Australia. Image courtesy of Getty Images.

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