Quantity surveying and building surveying

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You can study an RICS conversion course while being employed as a surveyor

How graduates with any degree subject can start a career in quantity surveying or building surveying

Careers in quantity and building surveying are open to graduates from all degree disciplines. If you haven’t got a relevant degree, you’ll need to ‘convert’ to surveying by studying an RICS-accredited postgraduate conversion course.
Practise explaining your reasons for wanting to become a surveyor – think specific career objectives rather than vague assertions.

It is possible for graduates from any degree discipline to get into a career in quantity surveying or building surveying. If you haven’t studied a degree course that has been accredited by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) you’ll need to take a postgraduate conversion course that has been. You can:

  • either do this before looking for a job and self-fund your way through the course
  • or you can get a job with an employer who hires you as a ‘non-cognate’ (that is, without an RICS-accredited degree) and then pays for you to complete the conversion course while you work for the organisation.

Is it better to apply for a non-cognate graduate scheme or self-fund a postgraduate course?

Joining a non-cognate graduate scheme saves you money (as the employer will fund the course), but if you do this you will need to combine working with studying for the course and potentially also studying for the RICS chartership qualification, the assessment of professional competence (APC). This will be quite a commitment. However, as this route in will combine practical-on-the-job experience with academic learning and save you money, we suggest that it is probably best to try this way first.

Most quantity surveying graduate schemes are aimed at people with an RICS-accredited undergraduate or postgraduate quantity surveying degree, but there are some graduate employers who do accept applications from non-cognates (see below).

There appears to be fewer graduate schemes for building surveyors than quantity surveyors, and these can mostly be found with property firms or specialist chartered surveying firms. The majority of these do ask for an RICS-accredited degree, but there are a few schemes for non-cognates (see below).

The employers who hire graduates without an RICS degree

The quantity surveying, cost consultancy and/or building surveying employers who typically hire non-cognate graduates include:

NB: Degree requirements of employers vary from year to year, so do check on their recruitment advertisements and websites before applying.

How to get an employer to sponsor you through the quantity or building surveying conversion course

Recruiters offering non-cognate schemes like the fact that non-cognates have made a conscious choice to join the industry and they appreciate the different, non-technical skills that another degree background can bring. However, you will need to put in an excellent application and interview performance to gain a place on the schemes. Here’s how:

  • Make sure you know what the day-to-day work of a quantity or building surveyor actually involves with different employers. Aspiring quantity surveyors: know the difference between contractors and consultants. Building surveyors: research how the work will differ if you work for a large commercial property firm or a small housebuilder.
  • Practise explaining your reasons for wanting to become a surveyor and with that company – think specific career objectives rather than vague assertions. Flesh out reasons such as ‘I want to do something practical’ with added details about the day-to-day work of surveyors. Explain how a quantity/building surveying career in particular (as opposed to a construction management or commercial property surveying career, for instance) would fit in with your career objectives.
  • Keep up to date with what is happening within the construction industry in order to prove your interest to employers. Keep an eye on how events in the wider economy or society – such as changes in legislation – can affect the construction industry. Read industry press (such as Building magazine) and the broadsheets, in print or online. Your careers service should have a subscription to leading industry news sites.
  • Have good examples of your skills: as a non-cognate, you won’t be asked the technical questions that those with related degrees might face, but you will be asked about all the non-technical skills that will help you in the job. Anthony Judge, a law graduate who was hired by BAM Construct UK and put through a conversion course, recalls: ‘I think it helped my employment chances that I’d worked behind my parents’ bar and so was used to communicating with different people, which I believe is very important in this industry.’ When a non-cognate applicant at Wates was asked about her negotiation skills, she talked about bartering with local street vendors on her gap year abroad. Read about the non-technical skills you’ll need as a quantity surveyor or building surveyor.
  • Try to get work experience in surveying before applying for a job: it will boost your applications by giving you some real-life experiences to draw upon. You could find it difficult to find large employers offering a formal placement scheme to non-cognate students, so it might be worth focusing more time on applying speculatively to smaller employers for work experience (here's how to apply speculatively), networking with surveying professionals (here’s how) or volunteering on a construction or conservation project (if you can afford it).

What you need to know about RICS postgraduate conversion courses

If you are self-funding a postgraduate course, look carefully at the types of courses available. You need to find a course with the best delivery method for you – full time, part time or via distance learning/online – and investigate the course’s employability record and the careers advice it provides its graduates.

Most importantly, however, you need to choose an RICS-accredited course so that you can go on to work towards your APC – the professional qualification required to become a chartered surveyor. The RICS website provides a search function to find the courses they’ve accredited, so this is a good place to start your research.