Quantity Surveyor

The Job and What's Involved

Quantity surveyors deal with the financial side of building and civil engineering projects. Their role involves managing the costs and contractual aspects of a project, usually:

  • For the contractor (the construction company that is doing the work), or
  • For the client (the organisation that has commissioned the work).

They may sometimes be known as commercial managers or cost consultants.

Quantity surveyors are usually involved right from the beginning of a project, when they prepare estimates and cost plans that list the labour and materials needed for the project as well as the estimated costs. Contractors use these to prepare their tenders. Once the project is under way, the quantity surveyor continually monitors the actual costs being incurred, drawing attention to any variations from the estimate.

Their main tasks include:

  • Agreeing the budget with the architects, design engineers and the client.
  • Calculating the estimated costs of the project.
  • Analysing competing designs.
  • Drawing up a bill of quantity, listing the costs involved, from site preparation to completion.
  • Advising on which tender to accept.
  • Preparing the contract, work schedules and payment arrangements.
  • Visiting sites regularly to check the work done against the agreed schedule.
  • Checking invoices from the contractors and suppliers, and overseeing payment.
  • Managing any variations from the agreed design and specification.

The work of quantity surveyors is central to the profitability of construction projects. Through negotiation and constant monitoring, effective quantity surveyors can save large amounts of money for their clients or employers.

Quantity surveyors deal with a wide variety of people, including clients, construction managers, engineers, planners and buyers.

Quantity surveyors based at construction sites may work from 8am to 6pm. Others, working in offices, may work from 8.30am to 5.30pm. Occasional weekend work may be required. Part-time work is possible, although not very common.

Quantity surveyors are generally office based, although their offices may be on construction sites. Most quantity surveyors are likely to make some site visits, which means wearing safety equipment such as hard hats and boots.

Travel and occasional overnight stays away from home may be required depending on the project.

The starting salary for a graduate quantity surveyor may be around £25,000 a year. On top of their salary, a quantity surveyor may receive an annual bonus, a company car, a pension scheme and private health insurance.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are around 40,000 quantity surveyors working in the UK.

Although many work in private practices, there are also lots of opportunities with construction and civil engineering contractors, consultancies, the property divisions of large organisations, local government and other public sector bodies, and housing associations.

Jobs are available throughout the UK. The demand for quantity surveyors is strong, and there is a shortage of people with the right skills.

Jobs are advertised in the local and national press, by specialist recruitment agencies and in trade publications.

Education and Training

The main route into quantity surveying is by taking a degree - normally in quantity surveying or a closely related subject - accredited by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) or the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB). It is also possible to study for a relevant postgraduate course after taking a degree in another subject.

The qualifications for a RICS or CIOB-accredited degree course are generally two or three A levels/three or four H grades, or a BTEC national certificate or diploma/SQA national award, plus five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3). Check specific requirements with individual institutions. Useful A level/H grade subjects include English, maths, geography, physical science, geology, economics, law, ICT, art, business studies, design and technology, and languages.

For a RICS-accredited postgraduate conversion course, applicants need to have a first degree, although this does not need to be in a subject related to surveying or the built environment. With a degree, it is also possible to take a three-year graduate diploma accredited by the CIOB while working for a construction company.

Candidates without the appropriate academic qualifications for degree courses may be able to study BTEC HNC/HND courses or Foundation degrees. These can be supplemented with further study for RICS or CIOB-accredited degrees.

The Chartered Surveyors Training Trust offers work-based training for young people aged between 16 and 24. Applicants must have at least four GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3) or equivalent qualifications. Trainees work towards an Advanced Apprenticeship and an HNC/HND in Construction. They then continue to study on an accredited degree course.

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

Accredited degrees and postgraduate courses can be studied full or part time, or by distance learning. This means it is possible to gain practical experience with an employer while studying for relevant qualifications.

After completing a RICS or CIOB-accredited degree or diploma, it is necessary to gain further practical experience before becoming fully qualified:

  • For RICS, this involves at least two years of structured learning in employment, leading to a RICS professional assessment interview, known as the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC). Successful completion of the APC entitles the holder to use the letters MRICS after their name.
  • The CIOB has a professional development programme in which candidates complete a personal development record over three years, based on a skills and competency requirements. This is followed by a professional interview.

RICS and CIOB are the main professional institutions, and quantity surveyors must be members of one of them to have chartered status. It is also possible to join the Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors. Some surveyors are members of more than one institution.

Quantity surveyors also undertake Continuing Professional Development (CPD), which may include gaining additional qualifications.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A quantity surveyor should:

  • Be good at maths.
  • Be able to communicate clearly, both in speech and writing.
  • Be logical.
  • Have a methodical approach.
  • Have strong negotiating skills.
  • Know a lot about construction technology and cost planning.
  • Understand business and legal matters.
  • Have a working knowledge of ICT.
  • Be commercially aware.
  • Work well in a team.

Your Long Term Prospects

With relevant professional and commercial experience, quantity surveyors may become project managers. They can also move into specialist areas such as legal services, risk management or facilities management.

Self-employment and freelance work are quite common, and there are good opportunities to work abroad.

Get Further Information

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

Chartered Surveyors Training Trust,
New Broad Street House,
35 New Broad Street,
London EC2M 1NH
Tel: 020 7194 7952
Website: www.cstt.org.uk

Bircham Newton, Kings Lynn,
Norfolk PE31 6RH
Tel: 01485 577577
Website: www.bconstructive.co.uk

Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors,
Dominion House, Sibson Road, Sale M33 7PP
Tel: 0161 972 3100
Website: www.ices.org.uk

Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS),
Surveyor Court, Westwood Way,
Coventry CV4 8JE
Tel: 0870 333 1600
Website: www.rics.org

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