A quantity surveyor manages all costs relating to building and civil engineering projects, from the initial calculations to the final figures. Surveyors seek to minimise the costs of a project and enhance value for money, while still achieving the required standards and quality. Many of these are specified by statutory building regulations, which the surveyor needs to understand and adhere to.
A quantity surveyor may work for either the client or the contractor, working in an office or on-site. They are involved in a project from the start, preparing estimates and costs of the work. When the project is in progress, quantity surveyors keep track of any variations to the contract that may affect costs and create reports to show profitability.
The title of the job may also be referred to as a construction cost consultant or commercial manager.
Tasks vary depending on the nature of the project being worked on and the point in the process it's at. Typical activities throughout the stages can include:
Areas that may be worked on once the surveyor has experience and specialised knowledge include:
Salary figures are intended as a guide only.
Degrees are available in quantity surveying, which are accredited by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) but you do not have to have studied this subject to enter the profession.
Graduates from other degree subjects can take a postgraduate conversion course which is also accredited by RICS. The first degree can be in any subject but those which may help to provide relevant knowledge include:
The RICS accredited postgraduate courses will enable the graduate to work as a quantity surveyor. A list of relevant courses is available at RICS Courses .
The postgraduate course takes one year to complete full time and around two years part time. Some employers may take on graduates and support and fund them through the postgraduate course.
Those without a degree may start in the industry as a technical surveyor. But, to secure work as a quantity surveyor they will need to complete a degree (possibly through part-time study while working) and if it's in a non-related subject they'll also need to do the conversion course.
Further study is essential in order to gain chartership and membership of RICS. Relevant work experience, either on site or within an office, gives you a valuable start.
Employers will look for the following in candidates:
Work experience is extremely helpful when trying to secure a job. Employers look for your dedication and enthusiasm for the field and any working knowledge you may have. Work experience is also good for confirming you're following the right career path for you. Many firms offer structured placements which may last from a few days to a whole summer vacation. Check firms' websites for details or apply speculatively. Use the RICS Find a Surveyor facility for contact information.
For more information, see work experience and internships and search courses and research.
Once you are working as a trainee quantity surveyor the next step is to work towards obtaining Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) membership to become a fully qualified chartered surveyor.
In order to do this, you must successfully complete the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) which is offered by RICS. This is a structured training programme that usually lasts around two years (unless you have significant previous work experience). You will need to evidence your training in logbooks and records and have regular meetings with a supervisor. It also involves a set amount of hours of professional development and ends with an assessment interview.
Continuing professional development (CPD) is an important aspect of maintaining professional competencies and practice standards. RICS have established a lifelong learning programme for recording any professional development. The process may include open learning, private study (academic papers/industry publications), attending conferences and events, running workshops and further study or in-house training. Developing and maintaining professional competencies throughout your career is vital for progression.
Once you have become a chartered quantity surveyor, you may wish to continue working across a broad range of disciplines throughout your career. Others may choose to specialise in a certain area and develop an in-depth knowledge of that particular field. For example, you could specialise in project management, effectively controlling the whole of a project from initial design through to completion. Or you may wish to work on value engineering or risk assessment. Other specialist areas include capital allowances and tax, supply chain management and legal services such as contractual disputes.
You could also aid career progression by becoming a member of other relevant institutes such as the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) , The Association of Cost Engineers (ACostE) and the Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors (ICES) (particularly useful for those who want to work in the engineering construction industries).
There are opportunities for working abroad. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) advertises vacancies with international employers through the jobs section of their website, RICS Recruit .
The major employers of quantity surveyors are the offices of private practice quantity surveyors (PQS), the surveying sections of building and civil engineering contractors, and local authorities and government agencies.
Many of these employers operate as multidisciplinary teams or departments, so quantity surveyors are likely to be working alongside other surveying professionals, such as civil engineers and architects. Quantity surveyors who work for contractors are often likely to be based on-site, working with site agents or contract managers.
Other types of organisations likely to employ quantity surveyors include large engineering consultancies and housing associations. Specialist house builders seek the expertise of quantity surveyors, as do some commercial companies, or indeed any public body with a large property portfolio.
Large international mechanical contractors and petroleum engineering companies often recruit quantity surveyors under the alternative title of cost engineer.
Academic departments may also be approached by employers, so it is worthwhile keeping in touch with tutors.
Specialist recruitment agencies include Macdonald and Company , which is endorsed by RICS. Information on other recruitment agencies is available from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) where you can search by town and the type of work handled. The local and national press also sometimes advertise vacancies.
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