Rural practice surveyors advise on rural property and agricultural matters to help farmers and other clients manage their businesses
As a rural practice surveyor, you'll give professional and technical advice about land and assets, helping farms and estates to realise their development potential and make the most of what they own.
The work is varied and can involve property valuations, tax, investments and resource management. You may also work in business/resource management and consultancy for the land, property and construction industries.
Types of rural practice surveying work
You can work across several areas, or specialise in one or two, including:
- auctioneering and valuation
- environmental regulations and practices
- property management.
As a rural practice surveyor, you'll need to:
- manage rural estates, which may comprise any combination of farms, tenanted dwellings, farm buildings let as workshops, businesses and leisure enterprises - this work often includes direct management of estate staff
- oversee the development of farming/leisure facilities to ensure they're operating efficiently and considering alternative uses for redundant farm buildings
- find new uses for properties - if working as an agent
- value rural land and property, crops, machinery, livestock and trees
- discuss with clients the most effective way to market and sell their property and other assets
- help clients who wish to buy rural properties, such as farms or smallholdings, by providing detailed information about the property, the land and other assets, noting problems that might arise or legal questions that might need to be asked
- provide professional advice on how emerging regulations and practices may affect business plans
- peruse farm accounts and use financial expertise to interpret them and advise on taxation
- issue contracts for various aspects of land management
- keep in regular contact with landowners to ensure that they're aware of developments in their business, or any problems that are looming
- represent clients, make planning applications and submit appeals
- build and maintain good relationships with the rural community and stay well informed on all issues affecting the countryside
- keep up to date with new national or EU regulations that are likely to affect land use
- provide advice to government departments, councils, special interest groups and land users on policy issues
- advise on grants and farming subsidies relating to environmental work and agri-environment schemes
- advise on enhancing landscapes, if working in conservation.
- The salary for a graduate/assistant rural practice surveyor is around £25,000 to £32,000.
- As a chartered senior rural surveyor with experience, you can earn in the region of £40,000 to £50,000.
- At director/partner level salaries can reach £60,000.
Occasionally, free or subsidised accommodation is available for rural practice surveyors who manage an estate, but these opportunities are few and far between. Other benefits, such as a contributory pension scheme, health insurance and a company car or car allowance, are sometimes offered.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
While standard working hours are usually 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, in practice your average working week can be over 40 hours.
You'll need to fit in with clients' work patterns, which can involve evening or weekend work, depending on their agricultural demands. Auctions may also take place at weekends.
What to expect
- Offices are usually based in market towns or on rural estates, but a great deal of the work is outdoors, regardless of the weather or the season.
- Surveying remains a male-dominated profession, both in terms of senior posts and client groups. However, the proportion of women in surveying is growing faster in rural practice than other areas. There are initiatives to attract more women into the profession by encouraging flexible working.
- One of the distinguishing features of the work is the broad mix of clients and professional contacts surveyors work with. This includes liaising with lawyers and accountants on clients' behalf and, when managing estates, dealing with tenant farmers, gamekeepers or owners of other rural businesses.
- A surveyor may cover a large geographical area, perhaps crossing several counties, so a lot of driving and working long hours is to be expected.
This area of work is open to all graduates, but the following subjects are particularly relevant:
- estate management
- land economy
- land management
- land/estate surveying
- property management
Many candidates enter the profession with a degree accredited by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). A full list of accredited courses is available at RICS Course.
Studying an accredited course reduces the length of time you'll have to spend in professional training, which lasts at least one year. Some courses include a placement year, which may be with an employer approved by RICS. Your employer might cover the cost of the RICS Assessment of Professional Competence (APC), which you need to complete in order to become a chartered surveyor.
Some HND and foundation degrees in land and property studies are acceptable for Associate/RICS status, but they'll usually have to be topped-up to degree level in a relevant subject to earn chartered status.
Accredited postgraduate conversion courses are offered for those who did not complete an accredited first degree. Distance learning part-time courses are also available for those who may want to study while working.
It's also possible to undertake an apprenticeship, such as the part-time BSc Chartered Surveyor (Rural) Degree Apprenticeship offered by Harper Adams University. For more information see apprenticeships.
You'll need to have:
- a full driving licence
- the ability to negotiate tactfully and diplomatically with people at all levels
- the capacity to analyse and present statistical information
- an understanding of the distinction between different varieties of crops and breeds of animals in assessing their economic viability
- skill in forward planning, often using computers
- a genuine interest in the countryside, and how industries/companies work within it
- the ability to deal with a range of different problems
- good teamworking skills.
Securing some pre-entry work experience on a farm, or at least on land, is helpful, as competition is fierce in this field and candidates will be expected to have gained some relevant experience during their undergraduate course.
As well as increasing your job prospects, undertaking work experience will also boost your confidence in dealing with landowners and other members of the rural community.
Find out more about the different kinds of work experience and internships that are available.
Most rural practice surveyors work for private firms of chartered surveyors. These vary in size, some being quite small firms while others have multiple branches around the UK.
The National Trust recruits trainee rural surveyors and employs surveyors up to director level in each of its regions. Property development companies, utilities, charities, countryside groups and national parks are also occasional recruiters. There are also limited opportunities to work in lecturing in agricultural colleges, and some opportunities occur in central and local government departments and conservation bodies.
Look for job vacancies at:
- Central Association of Agricultural Valuers (CAAV)
- Estates Gazette
- National Trust Jobs
- Property Week Jobs
- RICS Recruit
Some firms give information of vacancies to departments at universities that run accredited degrees.
Having completed a degree or postgraduate course, your route to professional qualification and chartered status is via the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC). Details about the different routes to accreditation can be found on the RICS website.
The APC is built around specific assignments, which are linked to your chosen branch of surveying. During your training, you'll have to carry out relevant work assignments and complete a log book. Towards the end of your training, you'll produce a written report, which is used as the basis for an oral examination by an assessment panel. If you're successful in the assessment, you can then refer to yourself as a chartered surveyor.
It's essential that you complete the necessary continuing professional development (CPD) activities throughout your degree, to ensure you stay up to date with industry developments and keep your skills fresh. RICS, CAAV and your own employer will help you with this.
RICS offers technical surveyor membership (ASSOC/RICS) to anyone with a relevant degree and 12 months' experience, a relevant HND and two years' experience or four years' experience in industry.
Career development begins when you choose the firm or organisation where you'll complete your APC. Once you're committed to rural practice, your choice of career path is narrowed, but career development can be swift. Achieving chartered status increases opportunities for more responsibility and promotion.
Large firms with significant rural practice interests can sometimes offer the opportunity to specialise in a very specific aspect of rural practice, such as land agency or pure agriculture. Alternatively, they may provide the chance to work on innovative projects, such as examining the impact of renewable energy sources on land-based economies.
Smaller firms generally offer a broader mix of experience but fewer opportunities to develop highly specialised knowledge and expertise.
It's possible to move between the public and private sectors, although the public sector has reduced in size, as some of its former consultants have set up private companies.
With enough experience in agriculture, you could work as an agricultural consultant, most likely in a self-employed capacity, advising farmers on all aspects of their business.