If you're good with detail and are interested in buildings and construction, a career as a building control surveyor may be for you

Building control surveyors make sure that building regulations and other legislation are followed when houses, offices and other buildings are designed and constructed and when altered, extended or converted.

If a building looks like it will not meet the requirements of the building regulations, a building control surveyor can give advice on how to find a solution to this. On complex projects, they may be involved at the pre-application stage to comment on design and safety issues and suggest alternative processes to reduce the risk of delays and save costs.

Responsibilities

As a building control surveyor, you'll need to:

  • examine plans, drawings, specifications and other documents submitted for approval to make sure they comply with building regulations - using practical guidance set out by the Department for Communities and Local Government
  • inspect buildings, against regulations for public health, fire safety, energy conservation and sustainability and building accessibility
  • where necessary ask the client for further details
  • advise applicants on changes to ensure the legal requirements are met
  • issue conditional approval, subject to other steps being included in the process
  • grant approval for work to commence
  • carry out regular inspections of the building and building methods while works are being completed
  • inspect and test foundations and drainage works
  • take samples of new building materials and assess their suitability
  • keep records of the visits made to site and write reports
  • issue completion certificates when the work has been carried out satisfactorily
  • liaise and communicate with members of the public, councillors, construction professionals and statutory bodies, e.g. highways, planning and environmental health departments
  • liaise with special interest groups such as historic building conservation officers and national heritage organisations, e.g. the National Trust, English Heritage, Historic Scotland and Cadw
  • calculate the fee to be charged to the client
  • keep up to date with current regulations and legislation
  • prosecute builders if non-compliance has occurred, although this is a last resort
  • approve demolitions and carry out surveys of potentially dangerous buildings - you may occasionally have responsibility for this if you work in local government.

Salary

  • Average starting salaries for building control surveyors range from £22,000 to £28,000.
  • With a number of years' experience salaries can range from £30,000 to £40,000.
  • At a senior level, typically when the surveyor has more than ten years' experience, salaries can reach £40,000 to £60,000. If director or partner level is reached, salaries may be higher.

Salaries vary considerably according to the location, sector and size of the employing organisation, with salaries normally higher in London and the South East.

Gaining professional membership with an organisation can lead to higher salaries. See the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

Many companies offer additional incentives as part of the remuneration package. This can include pension schemes, private healthcare, childcare vouchers and training support.

Income figures are intended as guide only.

Working hours

Surveyors in local authorities normally work a 35 to 37-hour week, Monday to Friday, with flexi-time generally being available. Working hours in the private sector may vary, with some weekend working and 24 hour on-call cover to deal with emergencies, for example where there is an unstable building.

Part-time work or career breaks may be possible but you need to make sure that you're up to date with legislation when returning to work.

What to expect

  • The work is carried out in offices and on building sites. Site visits and inspections are conducted outside in all weathers.
  • There may be considerable travel within a working day, although absence from home overnight is uncommon. A company car is not usually offered, but mileage for site visits may be paid.
  • Self-employment and freelance work are possible but not widespread. If you have full corporate membership of a professional body and extensive work experience, you may operate as a non-corporate approved inspector.
  • The dress code tends to be conservative, and surveyors are expected to be smartly dressed even when visiting sites.
  • A reasonable level of fitness and mobility is required as the work can be physically demanding. Site inspections may involve climbing ladders and scaffolding to examine roofs and climbing down into excavated areas to check foundations and drains.

Qualifications

The role of a building control surveyor is open to graduates of all degrees; however, particularly relevant subjects include:

  • architecture
  • building control
  • building surveying
  • civil engineering
  • construction studies
  • structural engineering
  • town planning.

Degrees that are accredited by a professional body, such as the RICS or the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) are well recognised and can help if you would like to gain professional qualifications further down the line.

Relevant accredited courses can be found at:

If you don't have a relevant or accredited degree, you can take a postgraduate conversion course that can provide the skills and knowledge required for further professional qualifications. These courses can also be found on the above sites.

A degree is not essential for entering this area of work and those with a HND, HNC or diploma can also become building control surveyors. However, if you wish to gain professional recognition by becoming a chartered surveyor with the RICS or a corporate member of the Chartered Association of Building Engineers (CABE), certain requirements, such as having a relevant accredited degree, will need to be met.

Check with the Skills Funding Agency to see if you're eligible to undertake a surveying apprenticeship. Another possibility is completing further study on a part-time basis while working for an employer.

Skills

You will need to show evidence of the following:

  • excellent communication skills, written and oral, as the work demands constant contact with people at all levels
  • diplomacy and the ability to be persuasive and tactful while remaining independent
  • good judgement to help you decide when to insist on corrections, when to persuade or negotiate, and when to compromise
  • the ability to be firm, for example, when explaining why work is not up to standard and must be done again
  • knowledge of the technical and legal aspects of building
  • IT skills
  • a full driving licence - this will usually be required as you will be expected to visit building sites and meet with clients.

Work experience

Pre-entry experience is always highly valued by employers and can help you to stand out in interviews against those who have little or no experience.

Many building control surveyors enter the career after having worked in another area of building and construction, but you can also gain relevant experience alongside your studies. This may be through a placement year, part-time or vacation work, or a period of work shadowing.

As well as showing potential employers that you have the necessary skills and interest, work experience can give you a good insight into what the job and the industry will be like.

Employers

Building control is a statutory duty of local authorities so the major employers of building control surveyors are the building control departments of local authorities throughout the UK.

Councils may have separate building control departments or departments providing a range of property-related services. For more information, see the Local Authority Building Control (LABC), which represents local authority building control in England and Wales.

The private sector is able to undertake building control duties in England and Wales, meaning individual firms of consultants are also employers of building control surveyors.

Within Northern Ireland the building control function is entirely administered and controlled by the local authority district councils. This is the case in Scotland, too, where all local authorities are members of the Local Authorities Building Standards in Scotland (LABSS).

With experience and suitable qualifications, you could become a self-employed approved inspector and work independently. To do this you would need to be registered on the Approved Inspector Register of the Construction Industry Council (CIC).

Look for job vacancies at:

Recruitment agencies, such as Macdonald and Company, also handle vacancies.

Professional development

You'll usually receive relevant on-the-job training from your employer. If you are not fully qualified or have been employed at a lower level you may be supported through release for part-time study to full professional qualification.

You can also work towards getting accreditation with a relevant professional body. If you have completed an accredited degree or postgraduate conversion course, you can complete two years of RICS structured training, known as the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC). Successful completion of this allows you to become a chartered surveyor. Ongoing continuing professional development (CPD) is important to the work of building control surveyors as knowledge of current legislations and regulations needs to be maintained.

One of the available pathways is the Graduate Portfolio Diary Route. A portfolio must be built up over a minimum period of one year and it, along with the professional interview, must demonstrate that key competencies have been met.

Alternatively, you may decide to follow a membership route with the CABE.

Career prospects

The career development route you take can depend on the sector in which you work. Within local authorities, there are often many opportunities to progress to more senior posts, as there tends to be large building control departments with well-established promotion routes. You may find that you want to move between local authorities to gain broader experience.

If you're working in the private sector your progression is likely to depend on the size of the employer you work for. It may be possible to advance through the firm's structure to a more senior position, or you may need to move to a larger company to progress.

It's possible to move into lecturing work in universities that offer courses in built environment subjects. You could also consider working in building control surveying abroad, as the professional qualifications offered by the relevant main institutions are recognised and respected in many countries.

Surveying is a diverse profession, and there are opportunities to transfer to other areas of surveying as a career move. Self-employment as an approved inspector is also possible.