Building Surveyor

The Job and What's Involved

Building surveyors use their expertise to advise property and construction clients. This can range from supervising the design and development of new buildings and home extensions, to advising on the restoration and conservation of historic buildings. Clients range from individual homeowners to large residential, commercial, industrial, leisure and retail property developers.

Their duties may include:

  • Advising clients about technical, financial, legal, environmental, building regulation and restoration matters.
  • Completing property and land surveys and valuations, identifying potential issues, such as structural faults or potential planning issues.
  • Writing up technical reports/recommendations.
  • Preparing plans, contracts, budgets and other documentation.
  • Dealing with planning applications and submitting grant requests.
  • Advising on property legislation and building regulations.
  • Overseeing building work
  • Managing projects and multidisciplinary teams, including surveying assistants/technicians.
  • Identifying building defects, offering advice for remedial work.

Building surveyors may also give advice on legal and potentially contentious issues, for instance:

  • Assessing insurance claim damage, such as fire or flood damage.
  • Assessing liability for building repair costs.
  • Advising clients on issues like property boundary disputes.
  • Acting as an expert legal witness.
  • Inspecting properties to ensure they meet current building regulations, including fire safety and accessibility.
  • Assessing residential homes for energy efficiency, producing Home Condition Reports (HCRs) and Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs).

Building surveyors usually work Monday to Friday, between 35 and 40 hours a week. Depending on work volumes and client visits, early starts, late finishes and weekend work may be required to meet deadlines.

Building surveyors divide their time between the office and construction sites. On site tasks might involve assessing damaged buildings and dangerous structures, in all weather conditions. Inspections could involve climbing ladders and scaffolding. Some projects may require staying away from home overnight.

This job requires personal transport.

Wearing personal safety equipment, such as hard hats, boots and high-visibility jackets, is required on site.

Graduate trainee building surveyors may start on £20,000 to £26,000 a year. An experienced building surveyor is likely to earn between £38,000 and £50,000.

Chartered building surveyors can earn up to £70,000.

Extra allowances are often provided to surveyors working overseas.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has approximately 25,000 members in its building surveying professional group. Jobs exist across the UK and overseas.

Key employers include local authorities, construction, engineering and property development firms, building conservation bodies and specialist surveying practices.

Placements and any relevant experience gained via vacation work or an internship can be particularly beneficial.

Intake for training positions is competitive. Larger practices operate annual graduate intake schemes. The application deadlines are usually around December and January each year. Local authorities usually advertise vacancies as they occur.

Vacancies are widely advertised by careers services, construction recruitment agencies and on the internet. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has an official recruitment website (www.ricsrecruit.com). Job vacancies may also appear in industry magazines such Property Week, Chartered Surveyor Monthly, Estates Gazette, Building, and Estates Times.

Education and Training

In practice, most building surveyors are chartered. This means following one of the routes that RICS or the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) approves. For RICS chartered status, routes include:

An RICS-accredited degree in subjects such as surveying, construction, civil or building engineering, followed by a duration of supervised training (Assessment of Professional Competence). Accredited qualifications are listed on the RICS website.

A postgraduate conversion course for graduates whose degree is not RICS-accredited. People with more than 10 years' surveying-related experience may qualify for membership (subject to conditions).

Direct entry into the job as a trainee or surveying technician with GCSE's and A levels. This is usually followed by part-time study for a Higher National Certificate/Diploma (HNC/D) or foundation degree in surveying or construction, and a period of supervised structured training (Assessment of Technical Competence). Successful completion leads to Associate member of RICS (AssocRICS). English, maths, economics, law, business studies and design and technology are preferred A level subjects.

The Diploma in construction and the built environment may provide a useful introduction to this area of work, particularly for those taking the RICS Associate entry-level qualification.

It may be possible to enter this area of work through an Advanced Apprenticeship in surveying and go on to further study. The Chartered Surveyors Training Trust (CSTT) offers a limited number of building surveying Apprenticeships each year.

Applicants must be between 16 and 24, should have at least four GCSE's (A*-C), preferably including maths, English and science and should ideally have at least 40 UCAS points.

Trainees work towards an HNC in construction or NVQ Level 3 in surveying, property and maintenance and may then progress to an RICS-accredited degree course. Visit the CSTT website for details.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

To achieve RICS Chartered status, supervised structured training on the job continues with part time study, for at least two years, until completion of the RICS Assessment of Professional Competence (APC). This involves passing a panel assessment interview. Successful completion of the APC entitles the holder to use the letters MRICS after their name and receive full RICS Building Surveying membership benefits.

For CIOB chartered status, an accredited honours degree and two years' relevant work experience is needed.

Continuing professional development (CPD) is required once chartered status has been achieved. Both RICS and CIOB offer a range of training programmes that count towards CPD.

It is also possible to work towards the Level 3 and 4 NVQ in built environment development and control or the Level 3 NVQ/Diploma in surveying, property and maintenance.

All staff on construction sites, including building surveyors, must now hold a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card or equivalent, to prove their understanding of site health and safety. Chartered Members of RICS and CIOB can apply for the CSCS Professionally Qualified Persons (PQP) Card, valid for five years. Applicants must pass the Managerial and Professional Health and Safety test.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Building surveyors should have:

  • Good technical skills.
  • An understanding of the building process and a comprehensive knowledge of planning and environmental legislation and building regulations.
  • Strong negotiation and influencing skills.
  • Creative problem-solving ability.
  • Accuracy and attention to detail.
  • Excellent interpersonal, verbal and written communication skills.
  • A high level of computer literacy, particularly surveying technology, architectural drawings and computer-aided design (CAD).
  • Good teamwork skills.
  • Adaptability.
  • Planning and time management skills.
  • A second language (particularly useful when working overseas for international clients).

Your Long Term Prospects

Most large surveying firms have a formal progression structure leading to more senior positions. In smaller firms it may be necessary to relocate or move employers to progress.

With experience, some building surveyors move into project management, contract management or specialise further in a particular aspect of surveying.

Building surveying is a global occupation and RICS chartered status is recognised internationally.

There are good opportunities to become self-employed and to work overseas.

Get Further Information

The Association of Building Engineers (ABE), Lutyens House,
Billing Brook Road, Weston Favell, Northampton NN3 8NW
Tel: 0845 126 1058
Website: www.abe.org.uk

Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB),
Englemere, Kings Ride, Ascot, Berkshire SL5 7TB
Tel: 01344 630700
Website: www.ciob.org.uk

Chartered Surveyors Training Trust (CSTT),
16th Floor, The Tower Building, 11 York Road, London SE1 7NX
Tel: 0207 871 0454
Website: www.cstt.org.uk

ConstructionSkills
Tel: 0844 844 0046
Websites: www.cskills.org and www.bconstructive.co.uk

ConstructionSkills Certification Scheme (CSCS)
Tel: 0844 576 8777
Website: www.cscs.uk.com

Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS),
Parliament Square, London SW1P 3AD
Tel: 0870 333 1600
Website: www.rics.org

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