Welcome to the first in our Surveyor 101 series, where we aim to give you a comprehensive guide to becoming a building surveyor in the UK. In this article, we’ll look at the industry as a whole, the role of a building surveyor, and how to get started in this fulfilling and varied field.
An overview of the surveying industry
The property industry is an industry in need. Shortages of building surveyors were felt in the second half of 2017, posing a challenge for a sector which despite the skills shortage remains to be in a strong position.
Since then, because of the skills shortage, new entrants into the industry and established surveyors have seen a reasonable salary increase, partly due to them being aware of their market worth, leaving them in a strong position to negotiate.
Sector-wide, the demand for surveying roles is high. Employers are working hard to retain their surveyors, and they have also stepped up in other areas to attract new talent, placing a greater emphasis on competitive pay, a thriving work culture and career development prospects.
As a surveyor’s career moves forward, developing specialisms will set them apart from others in their field. The avenues leading out from surveying, for example, into 3D modelling, analytics, or project management, positions surveyors well should they wish to pivot at any point in their career.
All of this amounts to a satisfying career with excellent progression, good pay and benefits, and a wealth of varying career opportunities to explore.
What’s the difference between a surveyor and a chartered surveyor?
In the UK anyone can become a surveyor. However, a chartered surveyor is someone who is a member of RICS, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors. Under this organisation, a chartered surveyor has to prove that they have the relevant qualifications and a wealth of training, and must adhere to a stringent code of practice.
To become a chartered surveyor, one must pass their tests and act under that code of practice in their professional lives, while continually updating their knowledge and skills through continuing professional development.
As mentioned, all members of RICS must uphold its five ethical standards:
- Act with integrity
- Always provide a high standard of service
- Act in a way that promotes trust in the profession
- Treat others with respect
- Take responsibility
After undertaking specific academic qualifications and passing an assessment, Chartered surveyors are then in a position to advise, with specialist knowledge, in certain areas of building surveying. For example, overseeing construction projects, valuing residential property or commercial property, or even adjudging the environmental impact construction might have on an area of land.
Generally speaking, a chartered surveyor commands a higher price in the UK, as they are normally the best of the best in the surveying world, as evidenced by their qualifications.
What does a building surveyor do?
Surveying is a varied career with hundreds of career options. The blend of fieldwork and office work gives surveyors a diverse work week. Sometimes building surveyors will be on-site, using technology, liaising with clients, or working on projects from the office.
Embarking on a career in surveying also affords the opportunity to work with a diverse team from a wide range of disciplines. Surveyors will regularly have the chance to work with developers, safety inspectors, architects and more, meaning no two projects are the same.
As the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors eloquently puts it: “Surveyors keep traffic flowing, water running and people moving. They shape our roads, bridges and tunnels, our skyscrapers, stations and stadiums. They work in mines and in fields, on cliffs and on beaches. They value the houses we live in and the places we work in. They create safer homes and happier communities.”
Building surveyors can normally be seen on-site in a high-vis, carrying a tripod and a clipboard. They’re most recognisable when you’re buying or selling a house, as they are responsible for some of the paperwork needed to make that happen.
“Surveying is a fantastic career as I love seeing a project progress and knowing that I have played a key role in it. It’s also a very sociable career, whether that be clients or industry professionals, I get to meet extraordinary people on a daily basis.”
Uwais Paderwala, Apprentice of the Year 2018
Typically, a building surveyor will take precise measurements and assess the quality of certain aspects of a property, before producing a report which will be used in legal paperwork. Building surveyors will also look at boundary lines, land restrictions, building age and quality, structure size, and much, much more.
Home surveys conducted by surveyors will conduct a thorough inspection of a property’s overall condition, looking at things like structural defects, subsidence and so on. A home surveyor will communicate the need for repairs or changes to the property, like damp or unstable walls, sometimes going into forensic detail.
All of this amounts to a comprehensive report that helps homebuyers or sellers make better-informed decisions.
How do I become a building surveyor?
There are numerous routes to take if you wish to become a surveyor. Some will choose to go down the apprenticeship or internship route following their GCSEs. The apprenticeship route, where you will take a five-year chartered surveyor apprenticeship, requires three A levels at Grade C or equivalent, including the completion of a Level 3 Surveying Technician apprenticeship. At the end of the apprenticeship, the candidate will become a MRICS.
Another approach would be finding an employer willing to take young people who want to work towards a career in surveying, either through a surveying company, an estate agency, property developers or a construction company. Many of the UK’s property consultancies offer graduate or apprenticeship placements for candidates to work towards their APC but competition for these placements is competitive. Gaining work experience in your summer holidays can help to set you apart.
Alternatively, if obtaining a university degree is a preferred route to a career as a chartered surveyor, budding surveyors can take the following steps:
Step 1: Earn a degree
To work towards being a chartered surveyor, a degree accredited by RICS is recommended (see below). Many institutions across the country offer these types of degrees.
Step 2: Gain work experience
After obtaining a degree, or sometimes during the undertaking of that degree, new entrants to surveying should find employment to develop their industry experience.
Step 3: Take the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC)
After completing some time in employment, surveyors can then take the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC), before becoming a fully-fledged member of RICS.
Step 4: Maintain professional development
It’s then important that fully qualified chartered surveyors continue to expand upon their knowledge and skillset by undertaking continuous professional development (CPD).
Though there are many degrees on offer, the most successful options are in line with either a RICS accredited degree or a RICS training course, as follows:
RICS undergraduate degree
The most popular route is graduation from a RICS accredited degree followed by the APC, The Assessment of Professional Competence. This is a structured training work placement over a minimum period of 24 months to ensure chartered surveyors are competent to practice and maintain the level of standards set by RICS.
RICS post-graduate degree
Candidates can graduate with a non-RICS accredited degree and then undertake a post-graduate RICS accredited degree for one year before embarking on their APC.
RICS fast-tracked APC
Professionals with a degree and with at least five years’ post-degree experience can achieve membership in 12 months through a fast-tracked version of the APC.
RICS Chartered Surveyors Training Trust
RICS recognise that obtaining a degree can be very expensive and not an option for everyone. Young school leavers can therefore sign up to the Chartered Surveyors Training Trust (CSTT), an organisation that helps young people to become surveyors by offering apprenticeship schemes that count towards associate membership (AssocRICS).