According to the 2020 Graduate Survey of almost 72,000 students, which was conducted by the research business of TARGETjobs’ parent company, 79% of students interested in property employers thought that a high starting salary was an ‘important’ or ‘very important’ factor when choosing an employer. But what constitutes a high starting salary for graduates in property?
Starting salaries for graduate property surveyors
When searching for a graduate job in property, you’ll see most employers advertising ‘competitive’ pay or ‘structured’ salary packages. In effect this means a typical starting salary of somewhere between £20,000 and £30,000, depending on the role and location.
What do property employers say about pay for graduate surveyors?
Over the years, a few graduate employers have broken their silence on their salaries, but they are the exception rather than the rule. Last year, JLL confirmed that it paid graduates £23,000–£30,000, depending on the scheme and location, but this year it returned to saying ‘competitive’. House builder Barratt Developments, which includes a property acquisition and development stream in its graduate programme, offers a starting salary of £24,000 in most locations, rising to £27,000 in London and Aberdeen. Its rival, the Berkeley Group, is also said to offer salaries ranging between £24,000 and £27,000.
What do annual salary surveys say about pay for graduate surveyors?
The 2020 annual survey report from the Institute of Student Employers (ISE), meanwhile, cites the median starting salary for graduates working in the built environment as £27,500. However, bear in mind that this survey sample is comprised of self-selecting members of the ISE – these tend to be the largest graduate employers, of which built environment companies (and property firms in particular) are a small number. Other annual surveys conducted in the profession put starting salaries at a slightly lower figure and emphasise that they differ according to location and to surveying specialism.
The Hays UK Salary & Recruiting Trends 2020 compiles the typical salaries of candidates the recruitment agency Hays placed in roles over the previous 12 months. It reveals that graduate surveyors’ typical starting salaries are between £19,500 and £27,000. The lowest salaries are typically found in Northern Ireland and the highest in London. It is worth noting that graduate commercial and development surveyors’ salaries are slightly higher than those of graduate general practice surveyors and valuation surveyors, and property managers.
The RICS and Macdonald & Company 2020/21 annual salary, which surveyed 5,807 property professionals in the UK, groups junior salaries differently, as graduate/assistant/in training and so might take into account not just starting salaries but also any pay rises awarded before qualification. The average base salary outside of London was £25,000 and £29,000 in London, but it did find considerable differences according to surveyor specialism. For example:
- Agency/leasing: £22,000 outside of London and £35,500 in London
- Corporate real estate: £25,000 outside of London and £28,200 in London
- Development consultancy: £26,550 outside of London and £27,000 in London
- Development management: £23,250 outside of London and £32,000 in London
- Land/acquisitions: £27,000 outside of London and £35,000 in London
- Landlord and tenant: £23,500 outside of London and £30,500 in London
- Planning: £24,000 outside of London and £28,000 in London
- Property management: £25,000 outside of London and £27,000 in London
- Valuation: £23,000 outside of London and £30,000 in London
Higher salaries take into account higher living costs in certain areas and living costs are highest in London. More details on the differences between working in London and in the regions for graduate surveyors can be found here.
When we talk to graduate property professionals, they sometimes suggest that the most important thing to look for when choosing a firm is whether it can give you the breadth and depth of work you need to gain chartership with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) or the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) – not the level of remuneration available. This is because career progression opportunities and earnings improve when you are chartered. Once you’ve gained your professional qualifications, they argue, salary expectations become more relevant.
Salaries for experienced and chartered surveyors
Graduates on internet forums have indicated that the salaries at their firms increase when you pass your APC, and the annual salary surveys bear this out.
The Hays survey found that newly qualified surveyors can command salaries ranging from £29,000 (most typically in Wales and Scotland) to £42,500 (most typically in London). The RICS survey, meanwhile, put the average base salary for a qualified surveyor – note, not newly qualified – as £40,000 outside of London and £44,850 in London. Across both surveys, the highest salaries could be found in the investment, development and commercial specialisms.
And how might salaries rise from there? The Hays survey found that associates typically earn a figure between £49,500 (most often in Northern Ireland) and £73,000 (most often in London), with development surveyors commanding the highest pay packets. However, the RICS survey had the average base salary of an associate/senior manager/head of role at £50,000 outside of London and £63,000 inside. The slight variation may be due to the two salaries not comparing like with like.
At director and partner level, there is a little variation between the two surveys. Hays put the typical salary at somewhere between £65,000 (most frequently the typical rate in Wales and north-east England) and £85,000 (most frequently the rate in London). The RICS survey went higher with the average base salary: £75,000 outside of London and £101,700 inside.
Regardless of the differences between the two surveys, they show that there is significant scope for pay rises as you progress.
The RICS survey indicated that, across all levels of seniority, those who are professionally qualified earn more than those who aren’t. The median salary of those qualified with the RICS is £60,000, the median salary of those qualified with the RTPI is £48,000 and the median salary of those who have no professional qualifications is £40,500. However, bear in mind that these figures may also be due to the level of experience the survey respondents had, not just their qualifications.
Bonuses and commission for property surveyors
The RICS survey revealed that 56% of their UK respondents receive a performance-related bonus or commission as part of their employment package, although 37% received no bonus for 2019–20 due to the impact of Covid-19.
Some bonuses may not be offered to brand new joiners to a firm straight away; you may need to have worked at the employer for a certain length of time. The property firms that do offer bonuses to graduates include JLL, BNP Paribas Real Estate and Montagu Evans.
If an employer does offer a base salary with the opportunity for commission, which is relatively common in agency work, look out for ‘OTE’ on the job advertisement or in your employment contract. This stands for ‘on top earnings’ and is not guaranteed; it depends on whether you meet performance criteria. Check the details of your terms of employment carefully before signing.
Other benefits, and perks for property surveyors
The RICS survey showed that, aside from bonuses, the most frequently offered/taken up perks in the UK are:
- employer pension
- professional membership fees paid for
- private healthcare
- flexible work location
- flexible hours
- car allowance
- wellbeing schemes.
It’s worth looking at the benefits package in addition to the base salary when considering a job offer because a slightly lower salary may be made up for in better perks. For example, a lower salary with a car allowance may work out more cost effective for a graduate on a higher salary who needs to fund their own car; cars are deemed essential for some property jobs in some areas of the country.
Last updated: February 2021.