When you get a job as a graduate quantity surveyor or graduate building surveyor you’ll be expected to qualify as a chartered surveyor with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). Gaining chartership involves completing a structured on-the-job training scheme and passing the assessment of professional competence (APC). It is an essential part of your professional development, as it provides you with industry-ratified proof of your professional ability and is often followed by a promotion and/or pay rise of around £3,000–£6,000.
To start studying for chartership as a graduate, you need to be employed in surveying and have:
- either graduated from an RICS-accredited undergraduate or postgraduate degree
- or been hired by an employer as a non-cognate (that is, with a degree that wasn’t accredited by RICS) and be studying for your postgraduate conversion course while working. In this situation, you can choose whether to study for your APC and postgraduate course at the same time or whether to complete the postgraduate course first. Studying them both simultaneously is said to be hard going, but you’ll be able to qualify at the same time as your friends who studied an RICS-accredited degree.
Sitting the APC: pathways, competencies and assessment
RICS offers a range of different surveying specialisms or pathways to study. Your employer will advise you on the best option to take, but it’s likely that you’ll choose either the ‘building surveying’ or ‘quantity surveying and construction’ route. Passing the APC involves attaining specified levels of competencies in technical areas, as well as in business skills and professional ethics.
To complete the APC, you must:
- provide 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 – the RICS recommends meeting quarterly.
- submit a 3,000-word critical analysis essay prior to the final assessment. This should focus on a project with which you’ve been personally involved.
- sit a final assessment interview of one hour (with ten minutes of preparation time). This will start with a presentation on your critical analysis essay and follow with questions designed to ascertain whether you have an acceptable perception of the roles and responsibilities of a chartered surveyor and have reached the required levels of competence.
- have completed 48 hours of professional development per year while undertaking the APC.
Sitting the APC: how long it takes
If you have no or little experience in the industry, you can complete the APC in a minimum of 24 months (during which you must complete a minimum of 96 hours' continuing professional development). You can defer your final assessment if you’re not ready to take it.
You can begin to study for your APC on your work placement (and some employers will allow you to do this – especially if they are employing you after you’ve graduated), but a minimum of 12 months’ experience needs to be accrued after graduation.
If you have previously worked in the industry for five years or more, the APC can take just 12 months.
Sitting the APC: the support from your graduate employer
The APC is renowned for its rigour and it’s not unusual to fail the first time. The support given to you by your employer can be instrumental in helping you through it, so it’s worth investigating this when choosing who to apply to or deciding which job offer to accept.
Most employers will pay your RICS fees and provide you with an APC superviser (who will oversee your APC work) with whom you should have regular reviews. They are usually a chartered surveyor and someone with whom you work closely. You may also be given a mentor or buddy, with whom you can also discuss any concerns.
All employers should allow you to attend RICS-run training and/or networking events if they don’t provide their own.
However, to get the best out of your employer, you will need to evaluate your own progress; if you don’t believe you are getting sufficient experience to attain the required competencies, raise the matter with your line manager and APC superviser. It may be that you can be moved to a different project, get involved with a different type of work or be seconded to a different organisation.
Use your knowledge of the RICS qualification in graduate job applications and interviews
If you are applying for a graduate job or work experience in quantity or building surveying, you can use your knowledge of the APC:
- as part of your answers to many application and interview questions, such as: ‘What do you know about the job of a quantity/building surveyor?’, ‘What do you think will be your biggest challenge in the first two years of the job?’, ‘Why do you want to be a surveyor?’ and ‘Why have you applied to us?’
- to compare employers when deciding who to apply to or which job offer to accept.
- to come up with questions to ask employers at careers fairs or at interview, such as: ‘I’ve read on your website that you provide [X support] for getting chartered – can you tell me a little more about how that works?’ or ‘How do your graduates find juggling work commitments with studying for their APC?’
Calling upon your knowledge of the APC in these ways will show you to be an informed job applicant – recruiters’ favourite kind.