A rural practice surveyor provides 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.

The role of a rural practice surveyor includes giving 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, for example:

  • as a conservation adviser enhancing the landscape;
  • as an agent looking for new uses for a property;
  • reusing redundant property;
  • implementing a strategy to bring a nature reserve into a favourable condition.

Rural surveyors may be known by specialist titles such as land agent, forester, environmental consultant, property manager and many others.

Responsibilities

The nature of the work varies depending on the employer. For example, rural practice surveyors working for a professional firm dealing with several clients will have different responsibilities to those who manage particular estates for one or two clients.

In general, the work of a rural surveyor can include some of the following:

  • managing 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;
  • overseeing the development of farming/leisure facilities to ensure they are working efficiently and considering alternative uses for redundant farm buildings;
  • valuing rural land and property, crops, machinery, livestock and trees;
  • discussing with clients the most effective way to market and sell their property and other assets;
  • helping 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;
  • providing professional advice on how emerging regulations and practices may affect business plans;
  • perusing farm accounts and using financial expertise to interpret them and advise on taxation;
  • issuing contracts for various aspects of land management;
  • keeping in regular contact with land owners to ensure that they are aware of developments in their business or any problems that are looming;
  • representing clients, making planning applications and appeals;
  • building and maintaining good relationships with the rural community and staying well informed on all issues affecting the countryside;
  • keeping up to date with new national or EU regulations that are likely to affect land use;
  • providing advice to government departments, councils, special interest groups and land users on policy issues;
  • advising on grants and farming subsidies relating to environmental work and agri-environment schemes.

Salary

  • Starting salaries for rural practice surveyors range from £20,000 to £25,000.
  • With experience rural surveyors can earn £28,000 to £38,000, and being chartered and in a senior position can increase income up to £45,000.
  • The Rewards and Attitudes survey by Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and Macdonald & Company reports that the average salary for rural practice is £41,808, with average bonuses of £7,455.

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 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.

Competition for places can be fierce and experience is important to help make your application stand out.

Skills

Being able to drive is essential for this position.

You will also need:

  • the ability to negotiate tactfully and diplomatically with people at all levels;
  • the capacity to analyse and present statistical information;
  • 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;
  • genuine interest in the countryside and in how industries/companies work within it;
  • ability to deal with and tackle a range of different problems;
  • teamwork.

Work experience

It is recommended to get pre-entry work experience on a farm, or at least on the land. While this is not a formal requirement, most candidates have this kind of experience or are expected to gain it during their undergraduate course. It also increases 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.

A list of firms, which outlines the professional and geographical areas covered by each partnership, can be found at RICS Find a Surveyor. Lists of members can also be found through the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers (CAAV).

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:

Find contact details for speculative approaches at RICS Find a Surveyor.

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

Recruitment agencies do not usually place new graduates but the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) can provide details of agencies that will help experienced surveyors find employment and works closely with Macdonald and Company.

Get more tips on how to find a job, create a successful CV and cover letter, and prepare for interviews.

Professional development

Having completed a degree or postgraduate course, the route to professional qualification and chartered status is via the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC). APC rules are set and monitored by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). There are different routes to accreditation, which 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, which records your training and work experience. You will also have a training supervisor who will be a member of your employer's staff.

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. At the final interview you will give a critical appraisal and oral presentation related to the development, valuation and management of rural property. If you are successful in the assessment, you are able to use the term 'chartered surveyor'.

As with all branches of surveying, RICS will provide ongoing training, as will the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers (CAAV) and your own employer. This is especially useful in areas where there are frequent changes, such as EU farming regulations, changes in planning procedures or landlord and tenant law, and issues of environmental impact of different types of land use.

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 month's experience.

There is a separate two-year Assessment of Technical Competence (ATC) for those who follow this route.

Career prospects

Career development begins when you choose the firm or organisation where you will complete your Assessment of Professional Competence (APC).

Once you are committed to rural practice, your choice of career path is narrowed, but career development can be swift. If you obtain a position with a firm of chartered surveyors, you may find that once you have achieved chartered status you are quickly given more responsibility and opportunities for 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. Or 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 is 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.

Some rural practice surveyors may be able to work as agricultural consultants, if they have gained enough experience in agriculture. As a consultant they would advise farmers on all aspects of their business, most likely working on a self-employed basis.