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Insights How to start your career as an urban planner in the Middle East

Climate change, digitalization, and population increase are just a few of the themes that are contributing to a shift in norms, and a transformation is beginning in the Middle East. New initiatives are being implemented by governments to ensure greater sustainability and inclusivity for future generations, making urban planners some of the most important and in-demand professionals. 

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), for example, has developed the Saudi Vision 2030, an economic development and diversification strategy aimed at reducing reliance on oil. 

With AtkinsRéalis ’s growing presence in the Middle East, we are in a strong position to lead the way towards a more sustainable future. Urban development is one of our key areas, and we create bright futures for communities through the cities we develop. We’ve positioned ourselves to be a preferred partner for engineering and design solutions in Saudi Arabia, as urban planning comes to the fore with megacities like NEOM on the rise.

Here, we detail how you can start your career as an urban planner in the Middle East and become part of a host of exciting projects.

illustrated city with buildings and green spaces

Obtain your degree

To begin your career as an Urban Planner in the Middle East, the first step you’ll have to take is to study for a relevant degree. The minimum level of education required for an urban planning career is a bachelor’s degree, and these professionals typically work as junior urban planners and work their way up the career ladder.

Urban planners that can lead mega projects in the Middle East independently will often have a master’s degree in urban planning. One of the main benefits of gaining a master’s degree is that you have the option to specialise in a specific area of urban planning. For example, a master’s degree in sustainable urban planning would catapult you ahead of the competition as the Middle East moves towards a more sustainable future.

Apply for an internship

Internships benefit both the student and the employee. On-the-job learning reinforces what you see in the classroom and teaches invaluable skills like time management, communication, working with others, problem-solving, and, most importantly, the willingness to learn.

Most urban planners will seek out a full-time internship once they have received their master’s degree or may work part-time in an internship as they progress through their studies. Internships give you hands-on work experience and allow you to build your network of experienced working professionals.

This is particularly beneficial in the Middle East as the competition is fierce for positions on the region’s range of mega projects. Candidates with more experience and better contacts within the industry have a greater chance of landing a coveted role as an urban planner in the Middle East.

Network to build your connections

While your degree and qualifications will go a long way toward helping you prepare for an urban planning career, there are more resources available for you to tap into. Networking is an integral part of the architecture industry, and social societies and architecture exhibitions are fantastic ways to meet new professionals and build your network.

These people can provide you with valuable career advice and possibly offer an internship or job opportunity further along the line.

Work on your soft skills

As the Urban Planning industry in the Middle East is in a particularly competitive period, it’s important to find each and every way to propel yourself above the competition. One of the best ways to do this is to improve your soft skills which can help you during the interview process and in your first urban planning role. Soft skills that you could improve before looking for your first job include:

  • verbal and written communication

  • IT

  • negotiation and mediation

  • problem-solving

  • impartiality and diplomacy

  • teamwork

Apply for your next urban planning job with AtkinsRéalis

We've been advising, developing, engineering, and managing projects throughout the Middle East for both the public and private sectors for almost half a century, making a genuine difference for future generations. We're searching for innovative, growth-oriented professionals in Saudi Arabia to help us continue futureproofing the environment with a long-term strategy for a brighter tomorrow.

If you’re looking to develop your career on projects at scale, look no further than AtkinsRéalis in KSA. We’re combining creative genius with innovation and technology to provide digital solutions for a better planet. Browse our available architecture and planning roles in the Middle East today and bring your visions to life