You can still get a graduate job in real estate if your undergraduate degree isn’t property-related. You’ll need to get a postgraduate property qualification accredited by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), though, and you can do this in one of two ways:
- You can study an accredited conversion course before applying for jobs.
- You can apply for jobs with some firms as a ‘non-cognate’ (a graduate without an RICS accredited degree) and they will then sponsor you through the qualification while you work.
As the latter route means that your tuition fees will be paid for you by the employer, it’s best to try this way first.
Property firms really do want graduates from other degree backgrounds
While not all firms recruit those without a property-related degree, some do. Vanessa Briggs, the HR manager at Gerald Eve LLP, says: ‘We wish to recruit the best talent, regardless of which degree course they have done.’ Similarly, Amelia Dowty, talent acquisition lead at JLL, says: ‘We have always recruited non-cognates and continued to do so.’ Another graduate recruiter at JLL advised: ‘Don't be overly concerned if you don't have a property degree. Property, and JLL, is welcoming of all skills sets.’ Amelia adds: ‘This year we’ve recruited a broad range of non-cognates including a former army officer and an archaeology graduate.’
The other JLL recruiter we spoke to explained: ‘The transferable skills from degree disciplines such as technology, engineering, maths and business all relay well with the role of a surveyor in a property firm.’ Transferable skills, such as communication, commercial awareness and negotiation, go a long way in the property industry, which is in essence a service industry (property professionals help their clients make money). Recruiters aren’t about to miss out on a great negotiator or a natural client manager because the graduate didn’t do a property-related undergraduate degree. He added: ‘Even if you're studying chemical engineering or computer science, with the advances in how technology is used in property, there is a real opportunity to come into the profession.’
However, taking on a non-cognate is an extra expense for a firm because of the costs of the conversion course; you need to demonstrate that you’re worth the investment. You will need to work hard to show recruiters that your decision to become a surveyor is informed and considered.
Graduates and non-cognates are typically hired onto the same graduate scheme. However, Vanessa adds: ‘The non-cognate route is only more challenging in the sense that the graduate will also be completing a masters on top of their assessment of professional competence (APC), so they will have an additional workload compared to other graduates.’
Which property graduate employers accept applications from students studying other degree disciplines?
Firms that usually hire students and graduates without a property degree include:
- Cushman & Wakefield
- Goldcrest Land
- Gerald Eve LLP
- Knight Frank.
This list is not exhaustive and firms can change their mind from year to year, so do double check on firms’ recruitment websites for the year you’re applying.
How to get sponsored by a property firm as a graduate
Research the profession: ‘We’ve found that, as many non-cognates have not had lots of experience within the profession, they undertake significant research to understand what becoming a chartered surveyor is all about and give well-reasoned answers to why they want to pursue a career in the industry,’ says Amelia. Your work at this stage will pay off because, no matter what degree background you’re from, recruiters are impressed by good research. You’ll need to find out about:
- the work property surveyors can do
- typical career progressions and the route to gaining chartership qualification
- the latest happenings in the industry
- the property firm that you are applying to.
Your careers service or university alumni office will have details of past graduates who are willing to advise current students. ‘We would expect and appreciate a technical gap in knowledge, but independent research should bridge this a little,’ explains Vanessa.
Get work experience: Adding property-related work experience to your CV shows recruiters that you really know what the job involves. You may be able to apply for the formal work experience schemes offered by the larger property firms.
You could contact a recruiter and ask whether you could work shadow (observe) a surveyor, or do some work experience at your local estate agent.
- Heres TARGETjobs’ advice on making enquiries about work experience to businesses that don't run a formal work experience programme.
Start thinking like a surveyor: Surveyors are aware that everything that happens in the economy affects property markets. You need to build up this commercial awareness – check out the property press, the Financial Times and @TjobsBuilding and start thinking about the wider impact of events.
Build your transferable skills set: Use your time at university to develop the skills valued by recruiters. ‘In your applications and at interviews, you’ll need to be able to give good examples of your skills and when you’ve used them to good effect,’ advises Amelia.
Your people skills are essential and Amelia sees the way in which you build rapport at interview as a key indicator of these.
Doing the conversion course on your own? Make sure it’s RICS approved
The variety of property courses for you to choose from is wide, so make sure you research your area of interest thoroughly. An MSc in surveying is a good starting point for students looking for a rounded postgraduate qualification, and is offered at a number of institutions around the UK. Alternative conversion course options include areas such as: real estate, historic building conservation, and planning and sustainability.
When picking a course, the most important thing to check is that it’s accredited by RICS. Visit ricscourses.org for a full list of institutions and courses that RICS supports. It’s also a good idea to check out the employability figures of each course – that is, how many of their students have found work. Ask admissions tutors for information.