Quantity surveyor: job description

Quantity surveyors are responsible for managing all aspects of the contractual and financial side of construction projects.

St. Modwen

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St. Modwen

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What does a quantity surveyor do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Quantity surveyors manage the costs on a construction project. They help to ensure that the construction project is completed within its projected budget. Alternative job titles for a quantity surveyor include ‘cost consultant’, ‘commercial manager’, ‘cost manager’ and ‘cost engineer’.

The tasks quantity surveyors complete will differ according to whether they are working on the design or the construction stage of a project (and therefore whether they are working for a consultancy – which focuses on the design stage – or the contractor, who builds the project). Depending on the stage of the project and their employer, they might:

  • price/forecast the cost of the different materials needed for the project
  • prepare tender documents, contracts, budgets, bills of quantities and other documentation
  • track changes to the design and/or construction work and adjust budget projections accordingly
  • procure or agree the services of contractors and/or subcontractors who work on the construction of the project
  • measure and value the work done on site
  • pay subcontractors
  • liaise with the client and other construction professionals, such as site managers , project managers and site engineers
  • select and/or source construction materials
  • write reports.

Read further details of what a quantity surveyor does and where the career could take you.

Quantity surveyors who work for consultancies tend to be office-based and work typical office hours; those who are employed by contractors tend to be based in temporary offices on construction sites and go out on site often. They tend to work longer hours and may be required to work shifts. Find out more about the differences between working for a consultancy and a contractor.

Go to our graduate construction salary round-up to discover how much quantity surveyors can earn.

Typical employers of quantity surveyors

The main employers for quantity surveyors are:

  • specialist cost management/quantity surveying consultancies working within the construction industry
  • construction and engineering companies (consultants and contractors).

However, quantity surveyors may also find a few vacancies with these types of employers:

  • property firms and property developers
  • architectural practices
  • infrastructure and utility companies, eg Network Rail and Scottish Water
  • public sector organisations.

Vacancies are typically advertised on TARGETjobs, in TARGETjobs Property , by careers services, by specialist recruitment agencies, by construction and property industry news outlets (in print and online) and via relevant professional bodies such as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) or the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB).

Qualifications and training required

There are routes into a career as a quantity surveyor for both university graduates and school leavers. For school leavers , there are apprenticeships and training programmes available: see the TARGETcareers website for more details.

In most cases, graduates will need:

  • either an undergraduate degree accredited by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) in quantity surveying, commercial management or a related construction subject
  • or a postgraduate conversion course (usually a Pg Dip or a masters) accredited by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)

However, some employers will hire graduates with a non-accredited degree and sponsor them through the postgraduate conversion course. Read up on how to get an employer to do this.

Graduates either apply for an individual vacancy or for a graduate scheme in quantity surveying, cost management or commercial management.

Once employed, quantity surveyors are expected to work towards a chartership professional qualification with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. Find out more about gaining your quantity surveying professional qualification.

Key skills for chartered surveyors

  • Numeracy
  • A good working knowledge of MS Excel and the ability to learn how to use specialist software
  • Excellent relationship-building and interpersonal skills
  • The ability to work in a team
  • The ability to negotiate
  • Attention to detail and a methodical approach to work.

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