Are you considering a career in quantity surveying? This Go Construct guide will provide you with everything you need to know to break into the field.
Quantity surveyors are respected as key players in construction and civil engineering projects of all shapes and sizes. Consequently, they can demand high salaries: trainees and graduates often start with salaries of around £25,000, rising to £65,000+ with experience and specialisms.
Additionally, quantity surveyors are highly sought after, with 66% of construction firms reporting shortages of qualified quantity surveyors. This is echoed around the world, from Australia to South Africa.
This makes quantity surveying an ideal profession for anyone – from career starters to career changers – looking for a rewarding, fast-paced career path.
But how do you get started? Below, we outline the required qualifications, skills, and accreditations needed.
What are the required qualifications?
To become a quantity surveyor, you will usually need a degree in quantity surveying or commercial management accredited by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), although this isn’t always the case.
To study for a degree, you will usually need A levels (or equivalent). An aspiring quantity surveyor will find the below A-level subjects useful preparation:
- Business studies
- Design & technology
This list is by no means comprehensive, but a quantity surveyor will use skills learned from all of these subjects during their working life.
Back to degrees, undergraduate programs in quantity surveying or commercial management are the most common route to becoming a quantity surveyor. Often, you can study a degree that combines the two, which covers essential elements of surveying such as construction management, building studies, building engineering, engineering management, building technology, and more.
Many courses also incorporate a year-long industry placement, giving you essential work experience alongside your studies.
However, a degree in quantity surveying or commercial management isn’t essential. If you have an undergraduate degree in a different subject, you can take an RICS-accredited postgraduate conversion course. Relevant undergraduate subjects which could be converted include:
- Building or construction
- Civil engineering
- Project management
- Structural engineering
- Urban and land studies.
The postgraduate course usually takes one year to complete, or two years if you are taking it part-time. Postgraduate conversion is a common route into the field, with many deciding to change careers later on in life, and achieving a master in surveying is a highly valued qualification.
You can also take this route after taking a completely unrelated subject and undergraduate level, as having a completely different view on land and property is sought after by employers. Some quantity surveyor employers may take on graduates with a non-RICS accredited degree – they are called non-cognates – and support and fund them through the postgraduate course.
If you haven’t got a degree, you could join a RICS-approved Chartered Surveyor Degree Apprenticeship program. This will lead to the same level of qualification and accreditation as studying for a degree, but comes with numerous benefits that many find more beneficial than solely going to university:
- You accrue no debt throughout your program
- You are paid – usually between £18,000 – £20,000 a year, earning a higher salary once qualified
- Much of your time will be spent in the workplace, giving you practical experience
- Just as valued by employers as other routes.
Quantity surveying degree apprenticeships usually take around five years to complete, and you will need to find an employer to support you throughout the program. They comprise a mix of practical experience with academic learning, working under qualified quantity surveyors to learn the tricks of the trade, as well as studying at an appropriate learning provider.
The entry requirements are usually slightly less stringent than degrees, although this will depend on the learning provider.
Assessment of Professional Competence (APC)
The final part of becoming a fully qualified, chartered quantity surveyor is to obtain RICS membership. In order to do this, you must successfully complete the RICS Assessment of Professional Competence program. On completion, you will be able to display MRICS after your name, informing clients and colleagues alike that you are a chartered quantity surveyor.
If you take a quantity surveying degree apprenticeship, sitting the APC is part of the program and you should receive MRICS status when you complete your course.
However, for those with less than 5 years of practical experience, such as those entering the profession via university, becoming chartered involves completing the APC by gaining a minimum of 24 months of postgraduate experience with an employer.
Securing a role as a graduate quantity surveyor can be relatively straightforward as many firms are looking for people with RICS accredited degrees. Once you’ve landed a suitable role, you can start your APC straight away. The APC is a structured program that requires you to evidence your training in logbooks and have regular meetings with a supervisor. The program ends with an assessment interview with an industry professional.
Continuous professional development (CPD)
CPD is an important aspect of maintaining high standards once you have become qualified and chartered. Members of RICS must complete at least 20 hours of CPD annually, which could include attending conferences and events, professional courses, running workshops, private study of academic papers or in-house training.
Additionally, becoming a member of other relevant institutes can enhance your career progression opportunities. Some examples include:
- Association of Cost Engineers (ACostE)
- Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB)
- Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors (ICES)
Skills you will need
Quantity surveying is a highly skilled profession, and you will need to be able to demonstrate the below skills:
- Understanding of engineering science and technology
- Ability to use your initiative
- Strong maths knowledge
- Excellent attention to detail
- Analytical thinking skills
- Thorough and good attention to detail
- Knowledge of building and construction
- Project management skills
- Resilience, determination, and the ability to work well under pressure
- Good commercial awareness
- A practical, logical, and methodical approach to work.
Suitable work experience options
Work experience is extremely beneficial when trying to secure a job in any field. It’s a good way to demonstrate your dedication and enthusiasm for the job, as well as confirm that you are following the right career path.
Many companies offer placements which may vary from a few days to months. Check their websites or apply speculatively. Alternatively, use the RICS Find a Surveyor service for contact information.