This post is part of a series describing what various types of chartered surveyors do for a living. If you think you can say it better than me, offer a unique perspective, or have some essential tips for others who might stumble across Surveyors HQ, please visit the submit an article page for more information. I’m always happy to hear from those involved in the profession.
A quantity surveyor is often thought of as being responsible for estimating the amount of bricks or cement needed for a construction project, but like everything in life, the role is a bit more complex than that. The job itself goes beyond simple estimating and number work, with involvement in all aspects of construction and civil engineering projects from start to finish.
With this in mind, although the role is office based, your office might well be on a construction site, allowing you to be close to the action, but within striking distance of a coffee machine and a radiator. Whilst you’re sitting in the aforementioned office, you’ll first and foremost be responsible for making sure the projects you’re working on comply with the relevant building regulations. Although a developer or third-party may want a building to be completed as quickly as possible, there are of course tragic consequences when a construction project is rushed, such as this example from Seoul in 1995. What this means in practice for a QS day-to-day is that you get to seriously make a difference with this career.
Once everybody is happy that the project won’t fall over, the QS then takes a look at quality and cost control, ensuring that a project is completed to a high standard, commensurate with the design brief and expectations of the end-user, but within budget. This is where you might get the idea that a QS spends days measuring plots of land, and then calculates how many bricks can fit inside. This has some truth, but extends to cover everything from cement to wiring. It’s not surprising that there are a few other job titles that cover the same role as a quantity surveyor, such as:
- Cost Consultant
- Commercial Manager
- Civil Cost Surveyor
A combination of academic education and on the job experience will prepare you to undertake the job of a quantity surveyor. Like building surveyors, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) also offers membership to quantity surveyors, and effectively oversees the development of the profession at large. RICS accredits courses, apprenticeships and continuing professional development (CPD) for members.
Being a quantity surveyor is a responsible, professional occupation, and the salaries on offer are commensurate with this status. Quantity surveying also tends to have higher entry requirements relative to other branches of surveying, largely because of the greater use of mathematics. A quantity surveyor on a training contract can expect to earn between £24,000 and £30,000. Once you’ve passed your APC (assessment of professional competence) and have earned the AssocRICS title, you can expect a pay bump up to around £33-37,000, depending upon where you are located. After further progression over another five years or so, you are then eligible to try to obtain MRICS status. Again, you should see your pay jump, to around £40-50,000. Beyond this, increases in responsibility equal an increase in pay. Firms in London and the south-east of the UK tend to pay higher salaries, but the higher costs of living in this part of the UK can offset these gains. When looking at vacancies for surveyors, quantitiy surveyors tend to be in greater demand, both in the UK and internationally. There are a preponderance of positions available in the middle east and Hong Kong. Those with an entrepreneurial bent can increase their earning power yet further by setting up on their own. Many firms will also have a process for the best people to become partners in the business, in a similar fashion to those in law. There is also scope to branch out into related professions, such as project management.
Unlike other professions, such as law, medicine or finance, quantity surveyors are fairly likely to be home for dinner in the evening and able to sit down with the family, particularly in the public sector. The private sector however can sometimes place greater demands on employees as business dictates. This is offset by better pay.
Take a look at our Do I Qualify page to see if you could qualify to become a chartered quantity surveyor.