Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Quantity surveyor

Quantity surveyors manage and plan all costs associated with all types of construction projects, from outset until completion. Above all, quantity surveyors are concerned with doing the best possible job at the best possible price.

A diverse, exciting and potentially well-paid career, quantity surveying offers the ideal opportunity to enjoy both the commercial and practical elements of construction.

Most quantity surveyors work in private practice, for local authorities or for a contractor. They work both on new builds and refurbishment projects.

The role of quantity surveyor has changed significantly in recent years. Private practices in particular have had to be prepared to take on a broader remit of work and a greater range of projects. As a quantity surveyor, you could be working on anything from a pothole to a £1-million scheme.

Modern quantity surveyors no longer just price up and measure jobs – their role has become more strategic and they are now involved in everything from producing tender documents and planning costs to preparing final bills of quantities. They ensure all work at every stage of a project is completed on time, within budget and to the correct standard. Each project is different, and comes with its own challenges.

Ben Lane, a quantity surveyor for Amey maintaining roads, bridges and streetlights in Hertfordshire says: “Understand and follow the contract on a project and you’ll not go far wrong.”


Professionals in the field made on average from £44,100 to £48,600 in 2008, and from £47,700 to £51,900 in 2009, according to figures from jobs posted on

Hours and environment

Occasional weekend and evening work may be needed to meet deadlines, and the days can be long. A quantity surveyor for a contractor working on site might work between 7:30 am and 6 pm, while for those in private practice or with a local government department, the hours can be slightly shorter.

You’ll probably spend most of your time in an office. If your office is not on or near the site, you may well have day visits, possibly with early starts and late finishes. Alternatively overnight stays or much longer secondments are common, so a willingness to travel and flexibility are important.

Skills and interests

Quantity surveyors have to negotiate with all kinds of people, from site workers to directors, professionally and fairly, so you’ll need to express yourself well, both when speaking and in writing. Quantity surveyors also have to work well in a team.

You’ll need to be able to read architectural drawings and have an appreciation of construction processes, along with excellent numerical and IT skills. You’ll also have to get your head around building law and regulations, as well as health and safety matters, tax and insurance and contract law, so that you understand the legal implications of any decisions.

Employers expect a broad range of building, managerial and communication skills, along with sound commercial awareness. You’ll need enthusiasm and leadership potential, since you’ll probably be managing sub-contractors, and be able to think in an innovative way. Practically minded people who approach problem solving in a methodical and logical way make good quantity surveyors.

Prospective employers look for a genuine interest in, and enthusiasm for, the construction industry. If you’re able to get some work experience with a surveying company before you start employment proper, that shows commitment.
The industry

Although quantity surveying has traditionally been male-dominated, women are increasingly joining the profession.

There are growing opportunities for the self-employed, since more and more companies are making use of agency or freelance staff. Equally, there are now more opportunities abroad. The commercial management aspect of the role is also set to be a growth area.

While quantity surveying is as recession-sensitive as any other career in the construction industry, the way the profession has adapted has helped it to survive the downturn, and talented graduates will always been in demand.

Quantity surveyors working for local and central government have enjoyed greater job security than those in private practice.


The most obvious route in is to study for a university degree in quantity or building surveying or a construction-related subject. Make sure your course is accredited by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) or the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB).

Many companies offer graduate trainee schemes. Once you're in a trainee role, you can register for the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC), the final step to becoming a Chartered Surveyor. You can sit it following at least two years’ structured learning in employment, and, once you’ve passed, you’ll have the letters MRICS after your name.

Training, other qualifications and advancement

It’s possible to become a quantity surveyor if your degree is in an unrelated subject. A full-time conversion course takes a year, or you can study part-time or with distance learning for two years. Often your employer will sponsor you to do this. You can even work towards the RICS professional assessment interview — the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) — at the same time. RICS also offers an entry-level, non-chartered associate grade of membership. It provides an opportunity for those with work experience and relevant vocational qualifications to gain recognition of their skills in quantity surveying. For those wishing to progress to chartered status, the associate qualification will also provide a stepping stone to chartered membership (MRICS).

The CIOB also runs a professional development programme under which you complete a personal development record over three years, based on a skills and competency requirement. This is followed by a professional interview.

As they gain experience, some quantity surveyors develop more strategic roles in value engineering and risk assessment, while others specialise in areas like contractual disputes. Once they have some experience, quantity surveyors may also choose to go into project management, which gives them control of a whole project for a client, from initial design to completion.

Getting ahead in quantity surveying is about taking on as much responsibility as possible as early on in your career as you can, even if the rewards for doing so do not appear instant.

Progression is also about remaining professional at all times, and selling yourself to the right people in the right way.

Top employers

It’s possible to work as a quantity surveyor all over the UK. You could be based with a local authority, with a contractor or in private practice.

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