Building surveyors provide professional advice on property and construction, which spans across residential, commercial, industrial, leisure and agriculture projects.
They work on the design and development of new buildings as well as the restoration and maintenance of existing ones. This is a very wide field and may include advising on various aspects of buildings at different stages.
The nature of the work may range from the design of large, multimillion-pound structures to modest adaptations and repairs, and sometimes includes working with buildings of architectural or historic importance.
Building surveyors often work on preventative measures to keep buildings in good condition and look for ways to make buildings sustainable.
They may be called upon to give evidence in court in cases where building regulations have been breached and as expert witnesses on building defects and dilapidations.
Building surveyors work in many areas of property and construction so the work is diverse and rarely routine. Tasks often involve:
- ensuring projects are completed on budget and to schedule;
- advising clients on schemes and projects and determining requirements;
- preparing scheme designs with costings, programmes for completion of projects and specification of works;
- organising documents for tender and advising on appointing contractors, designers and procurement routes;
- determining the condition of existing buildings, identifying and analysing defects, including proposals for repair;
- advising on energy efficiency, environmental impact and sustainable construction;
- instructing on the preservation/conservation of historic buildings;
- advising on the management and supervision of maintenance of buildings;
- dealing with planning applications and advising on property legislation and building regulations;
- assessing and designing buildings to meet the needs of people with disabilities;
- instructing on construction design and management regulations;
- negotiating dilapidations (when there is a legal liability for a property's state of disrepair);
- carrying out feasibility studies;
- advising on the health and safety aspects of buildings;
- advising on boundary and rights of light disputes and party wall procedures;
- preparing insurance assessments and claims.
- Graduate building surveyors can expect to earn around £18,500 to £22,000, although in London this may be higher. Chartered building surveyors are likely to start on a higher salary than non-chartered surveyors. Chartered surveyors earn 15% more than those who haven't reached chartered status according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
- Chartered surveyors may be able to reach salaries of around £48,000 within five years and up to about £60,000 at senior level. Partners and directors have the potential to reach six figure salaries.
Salaries vary depending on location, with central London offering the highest
Additional benefits often include a company car, mobile telephone and pension.
Income data from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). Figures are intended as a guide only.
Working hours are generally nine to five, although you may be required to work longer hours. Meeting and socialising with clients can sometimes require out-of-hours working.
The work is much less desk bound than some branches of surveying, with a large proportion of the working day spent on site. This may require working alone for significant periods of time.
What to expect
- A reasonable level of fitness and mobility is required, as the job may involve working on scaffolding and in difficult spaces. However, physically disabled surveyors are to be found within the profession.
- Jobs are available in most areas of the country, especially if you reach chartered status.
- Self-employment/freelance work is common in private practice, specialising in building surveying, or working with other specialists such as architects and quantity surveyors. In the longer term, there may be opportunities to establish your own consultancy or become a partner or corporate director.
- Local/regional travel within a working day is frequent. This may be to meet with contractors to discuss technical documents or to visit clients/members of the public who have no knowledge of construction. This means that good communication will be required at all times. Overnight absence from home is uncommon.
- Overseas work or travel is occasional.
Although this area of work is open to all graduates, a degree in building surveying, combined with technical knowledge will improve your chances. Other subjects that may help to provide relevant knowledge include:
- urban and land studies;
- social sciences.
Degrees are available in a range of property and construction related subjects, accredited by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). Studying a RICS accredited degree will qualify you to take the relevant training to become a chartered surveyor.
If your degree is in an unrelated topic or is not accredited you can go on to take a RICS accredited Masters degree, which will lead on to the chartered training. Some employers will support you through this postgraduate training while working and may be able to help with funding. For a full list of courses, see RICS Courses.
HND entry is available at surveying technician level. Technical property-related subjects, such as building surveying and building/construction, may improve your chances. The work of a surveying technician usually involves less complex tasks and comes with less responsibility. To reach the level of full surveyor further qualifications would need to be taken while working.
Another entry route provides 16 to 24 year olds with tutor supported surveying apprenticeships, this is provided by the Chartered Surveyors Training Trust.
Employers will look for the following skills:
- technical knowledge and competence with a logical and practical mind;
- good communication skills, both written and oral as the work requires interaction at all levels;
- ability to build lasting relationships with clients and colleagues;
- negotiation, presentation and report writing skills;
- ability to analyse problems in order to identify solutions;
- commercial awareness and ability to ensure you are adding maximum value to clients' businesses;
- ability to take on high levels of responsibility and be enthusiastic and motivated.
A driving licence is usually essential for most roles, as are IT skills, particularly computer-aided design (CAD), especially if you are going to be involved in a design role.
Pre-entry experience is desirable. Graduates who have completed a sandwich year in industry are at a considerable advantage and are better placed in the job market. However, work experience gained in vacations, placements or even basic construction work can help.
Building surveying is required in a wide variety of real estate markets, including residential, commercial, leisure, agricultural and industrial markets.
As a chartered building surveyor, you could work in the private, corporate, public or voluntary sectors. Typical employers include:
- specialised private practices, e.g. surveying firms, specialist property consultancies and construction companies;
- central government, e.g. valuation office;
- local government, e.g. local authorities;
- large property-owning organisations, such as housing associations, retailers, leisure groups etc;
- public-private organisations;
- loss adjusters.
It is also possible for building surveyors to become self-employed and set up their own private practice.Professional qualifications in surveying are recognised worldwide and with a range of international property and construction firms there are opportunities to work abroad.
Opportunities in surveying are linked very closely to the health of the economy and the state of the property market and construction industries.
Although the property market almost came to standstill following the recession, in recent times there has been considerable growth in the housing market and many building projects are underway again meaning there is plenty of demand for surveyors.
Many large, private practice firms have an annual intake of graduates and may have closing dates as early as December or January of your final year. Others will accept speculative applications slightly later. Contact smaller employers on a speculative basis from around Easter. Public sector organisations rarely accept speculative applications and usually advertise vacancies as they occur.
Look for job vacancies at;
- Careers in Construction
- Estates Gazette
- Opportunities: The Public Sector Media
- Property Jobs
- Property Week Jobs
- RICS Recruit
Recruitment consultants often handle vacancies in this area including Macdonald and Company, which is endorsed by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
Graduates working as trainee surveyors having successfully completed a degree or Masters accredited by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) can work towards chartered status. This is achieved through the completion of the RICS Assessment of Professional Competence (APC), which is a work-based professional training scheme that usually takes two to three years.
The scheme consists of on-the-job learning, which must be evidenced, regular meetings with a supervisor, a set amount of hours of professional development and ends with an assessment interview. Completion of the APC along with academic qualifications leads to RICS membership and chartered surveyor status.
Continuing professional development (CPD) is an important aspect of the surveyor role as you need to maintain professional competencies and practice standards. RICS supports CPD and can help provide ideas for CPD qualifying activities as well as how to keep accurate records.
There are many training courses available that support and enhance the work of a building surveyor. RICS offers a range of courses that cover technical topics as well as personal development, management and leadership, and business skills.
Other professional qualifications and training opportunities are available from the:
- Chartered Association of Building Engineers (CABE)
- British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM)
- Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB)
- Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors (ICES)
Being a member of a professional body can also aid CPD as it provides access to professional journals, electronic communications and a network of professional colleagues.
Within the public sector, building surveyors may move between local authorities, universities, hospital trusts and government posts in order to gain broader experience and to increase the likelihood of achieving a more senior position. Progression is often achieved by changing employer.
Most large organisations have formal channels of promotion for increased technical and managerial responsibility. These will be based on merit.
With experience, building surveyors may progress to full project management, taking responsibility for the planning, control and coordination of projects from inception to completion. Success in these roles can bring the opportunity to be a departmental head or manager in the public sector and, in private practice, a director or partner.
Building surveyors may wish to specialise and become an expert in one particular area, such as building defects or sustainability, or in a particular sector such as residential or retail.
It is not uncommon for chartered building surveyors to develop their careers by setting up their own private practice.