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

14 Sept 2023, 16:14

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.

Quantity surveyor working at desk: how to get into a surveying career as a non-cognate

Practise explaining your reasons for wanting to become a surveyor – think specific career objectives rather than vague assertions.

It’s possible for graduates from any degree discipline to get into a career in quantity surveying or building surveying. However, 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 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.

The employers who hire graduates without an RICS degree

Most quantity surveying graduate schemes and building surveying graduate programmes are aimed at people with an RICS-accredited undergraduate or postgraduate surveying degree. However, there are some graduate employers who do accept applications from non-cognates. These include:

  • Faithful+Gould ’s quantity surveying and building surveying schemes: you need to demonstrate ‘commercial and technical acumen’.
  • The Berkeley Group ’s quantity surveying programme: a related degree is preferred, but not essential if you can show you have relevant knowledge and skills).
  • Galliford Try ’s quantity surveying graduate scheme.
  • Gardiner & Theobald LLP ’s cost management scheme.
  • Kier Group ’s quantity surveying graduate scheme: the firm accepts applications from non-cognates with 2.1 (and above) degrees for some of its graduate roles.
  • strong>Transport for London’s quantity surveying graduate scheme.
  • Turner & Townsend ’s cost and commercial management programmes; you will need a 2.1 or a first-class degree.

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

Is it better to apply for a non-cognate surveying 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 before enrolling yourself onto a postgraduate course.

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’ and ‘I am good with numbers’ with added details about the day-to-day work of surveyors. Also be ready to explain how a quantity/building surveying career in particular (as opposed to a construction management or commercial surveying career, for instance) would fit in with your career objectives.
  • Keep up to date with what is happening within the construction industry 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 and Construction News – both available online; your university library or careers service may have a subscription) and the broadsheets.
  • 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.. 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, although this may be hard in the current climate. Take a look at our advice on how to get the construction work experience you need .

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. Take a look at and the postgraduate section of targetjobs to find RICS-accredited courses.

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