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Welcome to the third in our Surveyor 101 series, where we aim to give you a comprehensive guide to becoming a surveyor in the UK. In this article, we’ll look at the varied roles within the surveying industry and what each type of surveyor does.

The surveying industry consists of a wide range of job roles, each one serving a particular, often very specific purpose within the wider context of surveying. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer diversity of the roles on offer, so we decided to break down the different types of surveyors and what they do in their respective sectors.

What are the different types of surveyors?

Surveying is a diverse profession with no two roles the same. If you’re looking to embark upon a career in surveying, it’s good to know what position suits you best, as the duties of each will vary. Of the many specialisms available, the most common roles in surveying are as follows:

  • Land surveyor
  • Environmental surveyor
  • Rural Practice surveyor
  • Quantity surveyor
  • Party Wall surveyor
  • Planning and Development surveyor
  • Valuation surveyor
  • Commercial surveyor
  • Residential surveyor
  • Building surveyor
  • Chartered surveyor
  • And many more

Although the duties of each role are for the most part universal, depending on the employer you may well find that other duties come into play, too. Some specialisms may call for more fieldwork while others will be more office focused, others will strike a balance between the two. Whatever the case may be, each role within the industry is indeed varied and fulfilling, as shown by the growing number of surveyors entering the profession.

As a surveyor progresses through their career, they may also see a wealth of new opportunities before them. Most surveyors will work with teams across the different industries and sectors, such as in architecture, health and safety, or construction, to name a few. Because of this, it can open doors to numerous opportunities and benefits, not to mention new career pathways. 

What is a land surveyor?

If you’re fond of the outdoors, becoming a land surveyor might be for you. A land surveyor, which is sometimes known as a geomatics surveyor, is involved in the surveying of sites that are being primed for development.

The type of site you’ll be surveying will depend on your employer or specialism, but it can include heavy industry sites like mines, residential developments, transport hubs like airports and train stations, or commercial spaces, among many others.

Land surveyors conduct a variety of tasks, like measuring and updating boundary lines and producing plots. These are important because they ultimately help settle boundary line disputes, determine the location of construction sites and infrastructure, and also play a role in the creation of maps and plans. Land surveying involves a great deal of precision, so it requires licensing and plenty of training.

What is an environmental surveyor?

The role of an environmental surveyor is to measure the impact construction will have on the surrounding area and the environmental impact on real estate. Roles include environmental management and auditing, risk management, contaminated land, urban regeneration and town planning.

What is a rural practice surveyor?

Rural practice surveyors offer professional and technical consultative advice to stakeholders of rural land such as farmers and landowners. They advise on unlocking the value of their assets, selling livestock, change of land use and rural management. Rural practice surveyors have expertise in consultancy and planning, real estate, environmental management, rental and lease reviews, auctioning and valuation.

What is a quantity surveyor?

A quantity surveyor manages the costs and budgets associated with building projects. Quantity surveyors are responsible for managing the contractual and financial surveying needs of building projects, ensuring that they are completed within a determined budget.

Due to the numerical complexity of the role, an analytical and mathematical skill set is required to carry out the work of a quantity surveyor. Negotiation skills are often prized in this role too, as it requires a great deal of communication between stakeholders in the construction project, as well as suppliers and contractors.  

What is a party wall surveyor?

A party wall surveyor is a specialist in the Party Wall etc. Act 1996, an act that outlines the prevention and resolution of anything that may arise due to party walls and boundary disputes. 

The act covers the following:

  • new building on or at the boundary of 2 properties
  • work to an existing party wall or party structure
  • excavation near to and below the foundation level of neighbouring buildings

The party wall surveyor helps to resolve disputes between neighbouring parties in a fair way, free from bias and personal gain. If two parties lodge a dispute, they can each appoint a surveyor to come to an agreement, known as an Award, regarding the boundary lines or party walls of neighbouring properties or lands. 

What is a planning and development surveyor?

Planning and development surveyors advise on the most effective use of land and property resources. They assess the physical and social impact of the built environment, including design, build quality, IT, climate, transport, and sources of renewable energy. Typical employers for these types of practitioners include planning consultants, property developers and house-builders, local authorities and government bodies, banks and real estate investment funds.

What is a valuation surveyor?

A valuation surveyor will carry out valuations on any type of property, such as residential, industrial or commercial properties. Sometimes they are known as commercial or residential surveyors if they have trained under a certain specialism. The valuation surveyor will typically inspect buildings or land to assess their value. Considering the size, location, condition and other things which factor into the overall valuation of a property. Valuation surveyors are also known to advise on rental costs or business rates, organise the sale of a property, and produce homebuyer reports.

What is a commercial surveyor?

Commercial property surveyors value, purchase, sell, manage and lease commercial real estate. They negotiate between landlords and tenants, and strategically manage corporate property portfolios. Commercial surveyors generally work for property consultancies and agencies in both the private and public sectors.

What is a residential surveyor?

The role of a residential surveyor is similar to that of a commercial they buy and sell residential property either privately or through auction, strategically manage residential portfolios, value and survey property and give advice on investment and development.

What is a building surveyor?

As we covered in the first part of this guide, a building surveyor will typically take measurements and assess the quality of certain aspects of a building before producing a report which can be used in legal paperwork. Building surveyors will also look at boundary lines, land restrictions, building age and quality, structure size, and much more. As building surveyors are often involved in many aspects of the property and construction timeline, building surveying is known to be one of the most varied professions within surveying.

What is a chartered surveyor?

A chartered surveyor is a member of a professional surveyor body, such as the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) in the UK. Many countries have membership groups or organisations, often protected by law. RICS exists to develop highly trained, professional surveyors in a range of professions and job specialisms, like chartered quantity surveyor or chartered building surveyor, for example.

To achieve Fellow or Member status, surveyors must undergo training, accreditation, assessments and continuing professional development to display a thorough competency for their role. As a result of this, chartered surveyors often command a higher salary than their non-chartered counterparts.

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.

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