If you're passionate about working in the countryside and would enjoy advising on rural property and agricultural matters, then a career as a rural practice surveyor could be for you

Rural practice surveyors provide practical and strategic knowledge to a range of clients involved in rural land and property. They can work across a number of areas or specialise in one or two including:

  • agriculture
  • auctioneering and valuation
  • environmental regulations and practices
  • forests
  • property management.

They also give professional and technical advice, as well as working in business/resource management and consultancy for the land, property and construction industries. Some of the work relates to estate management and professional consultancy and alternative job titles include land agent, forester, environmental consultant and property manager.

Responsibilities

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 are working 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 land owners to ensure that they are aware of developments in their business or any problems that are looming
  • represent clients, make planning applications and 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.

Salary

  • Starting salaries for rural practice surveyors range from £22,000 to £25,000.
  • With experience, rural surveyors can earn in the region of £30,000 to £40,000, and being chartered and in a senior position can increase income up to £55,000.
  • The 2017 RICS and Macdonalds & Company UK Rewards & Attitudes Survey reports that the average salary for rural practice is £38,987, with average bonuses of £5,763.

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.

Working hours

While standard working hours are usually 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, the average working week can actually be over 40 hours. Surveyors are required to fit in with clients' work patterns as necessary, which may involve evening or weekend work, depending 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 out of doors, 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.

Qualifications

This area of work is open to all graduates, but the following subjects are particularly relevant:

  • agriculture
  • estate management
  • forestry
  • land economy
  • land management
  • land/estate surveying
  • property management
  • surveying.

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 Courses.

Studying an accredited course shortens the length of time you 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. The employer may pay the fees for the RICS Assessment of Professional Competence (APC), which needs to be completed 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 will 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. Search for postgraduate courses in land and building surveying.

Skills

You will 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 in how industries/companies work within it
  • the ability to deal with a range of different problems
  • good teamworking skills.

Work experience

You should try to secure pre-entry work experience on a farm, or at least on land. 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, gaining this experience will also boost your confidence in dealing with land owners and other members of the rural community.

Employers

The majority of 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:

A list of firms, which outlines the professional and geographical areas covered by each partnership, can be found at RICS Find a Surveyor and you can use this for making speculative approaches. You can also find lists of members through CAAV.

Some firms give information of vacancies to departments at universities that run accredited degrees.

Professional development

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 linked to your chosen branch of surveying. During your training, you will have to carry out a number of relevant work assignments and complete a logbook. Towards the end of your training period, you will have to produce a written report, which is used as the basis for an oral examination by an assessment panel. If you are successful in the assessment, you are able to refer to yourself using the term '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 HND and two years' experience, four years' experience in industry, or a relevant degree with 12 months' experience.

Career prospects

Career development begins when you choose the firm or organisation where you will complete your APC. Once you are 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. It may also be possible to work as an agricultural consultant, if you gain enough experience in agriculture. As a consultant you would advise farmers on all aspects of their business, most likely working on a self-employed basis.