Minerals and waste policy officer, Devon County Council
Andy Hill completed an MSc in sustainable development at the University of Exeter in September and is awaiting the result.
"The course strengthened my understanding of the wider context for minerals and waste development and how they can contribute positively to other policy areas," he says.
Core modules covered the principles of sustainable development and research methods. Optional modules included climate change, business, energy and regeneration.
"The course opened up opportunities for discussion with people from a range of careers and backgrounds and contact with teaching staff with expertise in different fields," says Hill.
"It was refreshing to explore other areas of the sustainability agenda and view my own field from other people's perspectives."
Attendance at lectures and seminars took half a day a week, but extra time was needed for reading, assignments and a dissertation. Devon County Council paid for course fees and a book grant and allowed study leave. Hill says the course could broaden his career horizons.
"I've been asked by the university to lecture on minerals planning, which is something else to put on my CV."
Planning officer, Melton Borough Council
Leicestershire-based planner Denise Knipe has spent the past two years on a postgraduate programme in urban and regional studies at Shefield Hallam University.
Knipe had previously built up her academic credentials through a certificate in planning studies.
The masters course covered modules on development management, economic and social sustainability, professional management services, planning policy and evaluation, design and development and spatial plan-making.
"The course opened up my mind to other sections of the built environment profession such as housing, architecture and surveying. I am now working towards full membership of the RTPI, which was not possible prior to getting the right qualification," she explains.
Knipe is full of praise for the financial and emotional support she has been given by her employers.
"My colleagues were supportive and I got to meet up with other departments within the council through the various assignments I was given," she reports.
"This has helped establish good links across the authority, which has assist ed me in dealing with planning applications."
Team Leader, Mid Bedfordshire District Council
In just six years at Mid Bedfordshire District Council, Andrew Goodchild has progressed from trainee planning assistant to leader of a team delivering thousands of new homes in six major projects.
His team of four officers is working on a new village of 4,500 homes called Wixams, a 1,300-home scheme at Fairfield Park and major urban extensions at Biggleswade and Stotfold. He leads negotiations on legal agreements that produce vital community facilities as well as guiding masterplans, design codes, sustainability strategies and planning applications through the system.
Goodchild followed his degree in mapping science and regional planning and development at the University of Luton with an MA in town planning at the University of Westminster on day release. "My role is significant for the delivery of housing in this district, which is one of the government's priorities," he says.
Goodchild is in no doubt that he has made the right career choice. "It is a good time to be a planner," he says. "The growth agenda coupled with the desire for quality makes the job challenging and stimulating. There are good career prospects here in Mid Bedfordshire and, as I understand it, across the wider planning arena."