A day in the life of a Quantity Surveyor


A Quantity Surveyor’s job is to manage all costs related to building and civil engineering projects and making sure their clients get value for money. They also ensure that projects conform to legal regulations and are up to standard in terms of quality.

Typical tasks for a Quantity Surveyor include:

Contracts and procurement: Tasks include recording and monitoring variations to the contract, and ascertaining the costs involved. The amount of time you spend on this can vary from a week working on an interim valuation to a couple of hours a day updating a list of variations.

Measurement: Measuring construction works on site also involves recording progress and valuing the work, based on agreed contract rates. How long this takes depends on the size of the project: measuring brickwork can take anything from an afternoon to a full day, including calculations back in the office.

Cost forecasting (part of pricing): This involves forecasting the final costs of projects or work packages (individual contracts within a project). You will review tender documents and contract variations and use this to calculate the final figure payable. It can take two or three days to calculate, depending on how many packages are involved and how accurate the forecast needs to be: a project near completion needs to be very accurate.

Monitoring profit and loss (also part of pricing): This involves compiling monthly reports to show the progress of a project. Tasks include recording costs incurred and future costs, producing summaries showing monies coming in and going out, monitoring risks, and reporting on factors likely to affect profitability.

Liaising with clients: You will need to attend meetings with clients and advise them on any commercial issues that arise. Throughout a project you will probably meet with the client either every week or every fortnight and these meetings may last for between one and three hours.

In practice, what you will be doing will vary hugely depending on whether you are working on the design phase of a project or the construction phase, and whether you work for a consultant or a contractor.

When you join a quantity surveying firm, you will usually be known as a ‘graduate quantity surveyor’, ‘assistant surveyor’ or ‘commercial management trainee’, depending on the firm. You are likely to keep your initial job title until you’ve passed your APC, which takes around two years if you pass first time.

As a newly chartered surveyor, you will take on greater responsibility for projects and often begin to line manage graduate surveyors. Typical job titles at this stage include ‘quantity surveyor’, ‘intermediate quantity surveyor’ and ‘project surveyor’. You can then progress to senior quantity surveyor status or work towards a full commercial or project management role. In most organisations, commercial managers take on wider responsibility for all aspects of the commercial aspects of the project, including the supply chain, and for the people management aspects of a team. The role usually requires chartership and at least eight years’ experience. Depending on the organisation you work for, you may later become a commercial director or even a partner of the firm, in which roles you are responsible for the overall performance of the division and/or organisation.