Professional qualifications for property surveyors: all about the APC
Becoming chartered with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) is a key milestone in a surveyor’s professional development. If you’re starting out in the profession, it proves that you’re an expert in your field, entitles you to put MRICS after your name and is usually rewarded with a substantial pay rise.
Getting chartered involves passing the APC, for which you need to be employed as a surveyor and have an RICS accredited degree. If you have been employed as a graduate without an RICS degree and are being sponsored through an accredited postgraduate conversion course, you can complete the APC at the same time as you study your postgraduate course. However, you can also put your APC on hold until after you've finished your academic study. Both the APC and the conversion course are serious time commitments, so you may find it more manageable to finish your postgraduate study before embarking on the APC.
What will I be assessed on?
The APC is based on competencies – the key skills you need to do the job. These include personal skills (eg communication), business skills and specialist professional skills. You will also need to know about subjects such as professional ethics and RICS rules. There are different competencies for the different disciplines, overseen by the various RICS faculties. Your employer will assess your competences before drawing up a programme of training for you.
How long does the APC take?
For graduates with no or limited practical experience, the APC must take a minimum of 24 months (during which you must complete a minimum of 400 days’ practical experience). If graduates have previously worked in the industry for five years or more, the APC can take less time.
Most large property firms run two-year graduate training schemes and the aim is that you’ll be ready to sit the final elements of the APC after this. However, the RICS allows you to defer the date of your final assessment if you’re not ready.
It is possible to begin studying for your APC while on a work experience placement, but at least 12 months of study needs to take place while on your graduate training scheme.
What will I do during the assessment of professional competence?
To complete the APC, you must:
- Show evidence that you’ve understood and applied the required competencies in your daily work through filling in RICS records.
- Have regular reviews with your APC superviser (see ‘What will my employer do to help me pass my APC?’ below).
- Submit a 3,000-word critical analysis essay prior to the final assessment.
- Sit a final assessment interview.
- Have completed 96 hours of continuing professional development (CPD) per year while undertaking the APC.
Assessment for the APC is famously rigorous and many recently qualified surveyors have told us that it is among the hardest things they have ever done. Not all graduates pass the first time, but your employer can do a lot to support you through the process, so do find out about the support offered by each employer when you apply.
Choosing your APC pathway
The exact nature of the competencies depends on which of the specific pathways that you decide to follow. The pathways include:
- commercial property
- facilities management
- housing management and development
- planning and development
- project management
- property finance and investment
- residential property practice
- residential survey and valuation
As evidence of your competencies has to be found from your day job, your decision will be partly guided by the employers you choose to apply to: naturally, if you apply to a property recruiter that purely specialises in commercial property, you won’t be able to take a residential or rural pathway. Some firms, such as Cushman & Wakefield, only offer graduate jobs in specific pathways. At other property firms, the decision may be placed more in your hands and it can be possible to change your specialism at one of your reviews.
What will my employer do to help me pass the APC?
This depends on the employer. All employers should appoint you an APC counsellor or superviser, who takes charge of your development and is usually a chartered surveyor themselves. All employers should also give you the time to attend RICS lectures and/or networking events to enhance your knowledge, if they don’t provide their own. It's important that you take an active interest in your own progress on the APC and notify your superviser if you do not feel that you are gaining sufficient exposure to a particular competency. That way, your employer is in a position to rectify this early on in your studies.
Should I choose a rotational or non-rotational scheme?
To meet the APC's competency requirements, you need to undertake a broad variety of work. Many property firms ensure you do this by operating rotational training schemes; others will do this by placing you in one relevant department but ensuring you receive a range of work. There are pros and cons to each method and you should really decide which method you prefer before applying to schemes; different methods work best for different types of people.
Non-rotational schemes may allow you early responsibility and recognition, give you a greater sense of continuity during your time as a trainee, and enable you to develop deep insight into your chosen field. However, if you don’t think you’re gaining a broad enough range of experiences for passing your APC, you’ll need to be proactive and raise your concerns with your supervisor.