Transitioning to City Job?


Hi all, trying to get a feel for possibly transitioning out of architecture into plan review checking? I am a designer with <5 years of experience at the job that I got right after graduating college. I've enjoyed my job and what I've learned from it, but I think it might be time to leave due to increasing difficulty to handle anxiety from the job ( I understand this is a me problem) and how my current work environment is (lots of internal lay offs, and current job market isn't good enough to leave to a different position at the moment). I am thinking about trying to find a more stable position, albeit more boring, but still relative to what I've learned about the built environment through permit checking / code analysis. Is this a feasible career transition? I understand that it's boring and working for the city has its own drawbacks, but I am trying to do what's important for my health overall. Any advice would be appreciated.

Apr 2, 24 9:13 pm
value engineer

I made a similar switch to acting as a City Engineer. Major pros and cons, but less stress is a huge pro. I am very happy working public. See list starting with Pro: 

  • Soft deadlines unless working on a grant project. 
  • Higher Pay and many many days off :) 
  • Freedom to work on a wide variety of City projects, initiative, teams
  • Ability to manage consultants to do grunt work that you no longer prefer 
  • Ability to set design codes
  • Ability to see projects and programs out long term. How to residents use something.


  • If your supervisor is bad or will not retire, you will never move up
  • Small wage increases
  • Technical staff on the whole are not as … technical. They excel more at PMing. This is okay if you have a license/PE, but will hinder you early in your career.
  • Development review can get boring. YOU must have others to train at some point to do work (even student interns).
  • Look at the City, what is their funding like. This determines potential for layoff and ability to do the “cool” projects.

Apr 3, 24 11:47 pm  · 
4  · 

Thank you so much for your input, I appreciate insight from someone that made the switch early. I will definitely research more about the city that I am planning to apply to's funding plan is looking like.

Apr 5, 24 1:43 am  · 

If a pension plan is offered, that can go along way to offsetting lower wages in a government service position.   Several former colleagues of mine are working in government now for that reason.  The ones working in code review and historic district design review do look like they work no overtime and have low stress.

Apr 4, 24 11:04 am  · 
1  · 

Ayy, something I can actually sort of help with. I effectively made this transition before I ever worked in an office. During school I got a job working as the planning tech with the local City. I got in good with the Building Official and had him agree to send me to code classes (I figured it would help me with my arch program). Long story short, I got licensed for residential inspection and plan review. Because of my "initiative" among other things, I was promoted to Planning Director/code official. While I think I would enjoy being an architect, I truly love my situation at the moment and am planning to see how far it will take me. I still hang out here because I love architecture but honestly my pay is on par with some mid-career architects. 

Pros: Stable, freedom to work on what I need to work on at my own pace (outside of the odd publishing deadline), engaging work that has real cause & effect, community building, economic development, working with the public. 

Cons: When the public is upset about something they are REALLY upset about something and it can be a challenge to separate facts from the rumor mill, limited mobility unless you move or someone else moves/retires/dies, working with the public. 

Apr 4, 24 12:27 pm  · 
3  · 

Thank you for your insight, I'm glad that it sounds like a worthwhile transition to get into on the stability + effectiveness of the position. I will research more into the public pushback of certain infrastructure for this city. Again, much appreciated

Apr 5, 24 1:45 am  · 
1  · 

It depends on your longer term goals.  I spent several years in the early part of my career in the planning department of a local municipality.  less mundane than a plan checker and quite a bit more variety and influence on projects which I felt good about.  Still too much "processing" for me but the big goal was what I learned about project developments IE Subdivision processing / rezoning / Development permits and building permit and the steps for project approval.  

The ability to negotiate that process is critical to being a successful developer  / architect and has been a huge benefit to our office as many know very little about how to actually execute on project processing and move a project forward.  Gained many job prospects from Developers who recognized the benefit of working with someone knowledgeable about not just design but getting a project through the authorities.

Apr 5, 24 12:55 pm  · 
4  · 

This is fantastic insight. Are the benefits of municipal/government positions worthwhile in comparison to third party groups?

Apr 6, 24 5:39 am  · 

Thank you for your insight, ultimately I'm looking for something permanent out of architecture after realizing some of my own professional constraints but I appreciate that there seems to be something to gain if I were to consider switching back. As per your comment and other's, I am researching the city that I would be applying to.

Apr 6, 24 5:30 pm  · 
value engineer

Real Lacquer - the responses seem to demonstrate you can carve out an interesting albeit unglamorous career in plan/dev review. Thanks for spurring this conversation. Sometimes users on this forum seek career changes that are over complicated. Hope you stumbled upon something satisfying. Happy Trails.

Apr 6, 24 1:32 am  · 
2  · 

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