Readers will know that highly-paid jobs with the best career prospects are mostly located in and around cities, especially London. But city life doesn’t suit everyone. So here are some things to consider if you prefer to live and work in a rural area.
Choice of career?
If you want to work in investment banking, or to be a professional musician in a major orchestra, you will probably need to work in London or another big city.
Other industries and subject specialisms tend to be based in rural areas. There are few nuclear power stations in major cities. Marine science laboratories tend to be on the coast for some reason – almost always in attractive locations. And forestry jobs in major cities are relatively rare.
Jobs in local government, in teaching, or in healthcare are needed everywhere. But in medicine for example, a GP will have more choice of work location than a specialist needing the facilities of a major teaching hospital.
And academics have a wide choice of locations. If you want an academic career, think about the Universities in which you would like to work.
Have a look at, for example, Bangor, Lancaster, Cumbria, Sheffield, Aberystwyth or Exeter for easy access to national parks.
Other universities, such as Hull or Lincoln, do not have such attractive countryside but are located in areas with relatively low-cost housing. So if an early step onto the housing ladder is one of your priorities, look at local housing costs when choosing where to apply for jobs.
Some rural areas have established Science Parks to attract and retain high-value businesses and to provide graduate-level jobs. Examples include Westlakes on the edge of the Lake District, or the Menai Science Park being built over the next couple of years in North Wales to attract and develop businesses related to energy and the environment.
More information on Science Parks, and a nearly-complete list of UK Science Parks, can be obtained from the UK Science Parks Association (UKSPA), and the website is listed below.
- Choice of interests?
Some researchers are completely dedicated to their work. Others prefer a balanced life, matching work with other interests. Some of these interests naturally fit certain locations better than others. Essex does have at least one mountain bike track and Ipswich does have a mountaineering club, but they may not be the best places for these activities.
If you are a nightclub disco-bunny, or are a regular theatre-goer, you may find Lampeter, now part of the University of Wales Trinity St.David, a bit quiet. But it may be the one of the best spots in the UK for amateur astronomers requiring ‘dark skies’.
Some activities may be possible anywhere. But if the activity benefits from group involvement, do consider whether or not the local population will include enough people with similar interests to form an active club or group. Teams from sports clubs in rural areas may need to travel quite long distances for matches against other clubs.
And if you have reached a very high standard in your chosen sport, you may need to live and work near to specialist facilities or training venues.
- But surely I can just commute?
Well, you can. If you really want to.
Commuting may appear to offer the advantages of city jobs and career prospects with the attractions of living in rural areas.
But in the UK you need to commute long distances to achieve this. Commuting long distances is expensive. And even if your salary enables you to afford it, you will never get back the time involved.
The hassle of commuting also takes its toll; too many commuters spend their weekends recovering from the week rather than enjoying their lives outside work. Do you really want that pre-dawn start to get a seat on the train, only getting home in time to eat and sleep?
- Beware of the ‘career trap’.
If the rural life suits you and you can get a graduate-level job in a nice area, fairly soon you won’t want to leave. In most ways this is a good thing – not everyone manages to work in a place where they want to live.
But do be aware of the ‘career trap’. In a city you can get a job with a different graduate employer without having to move house; in a rural area this isn’t always possible. And your employer will know this, so, even if you don’t want to change employers, those pay rises and/or promotions won’t arrive quite as often as they will in cities with many employers and a competitive labour market.
If you are in a sector such as IT, where most people are expected to change employers regularly in the early stages of their career, do bear this in mind.
You may decide to move anyway, either commuting (see above) or moving house to take up the next job. But moving to a new area is costly and time-consuming. And if you’ve bought that four-bedroom house in rural Lincolnshire, you may not want to swap it for the same-priced tiny flat in one of the less-attractive parts of London.
- Dual-career couples.
All of the above issues are even more relevant to dual-career couples. Two people can easily each have careers in a major city; it is much more difficult to arrange this in a rural area. So make sure you are both prepared for the compromises involved – either in one of you accepting a lower-level job or in both of you accepting reduced career prospects – if you seek the rural lifestyle.
And if one of you is willing to make financial sacrifices to enjoy the rural lifestyle but the other is determined to have the salary and career prospects only available in a major city, then the very best of luck to you both. You will need it!
Nigel Peacock is a research and training consultant in areas related to business and management. A physicist originally, he started his career working on EU collaborative research projects at BT Labs, Martlesham, and developed an interest in R&D management. Following a mid-career MBA at Henley he moved to Bangor University, serving as Director of Business Development & Enterprise. His current interests include skills development and research into work-life balance.