Building surveyors advise clients about the design and construction of new buildings and the maintenance, repair, renovation and conservation of existing ones. Clients can range from home owners to large commercial and industrial companies with property assets.
Your work as a surveyor would usually focus on three main areas – surveying, legal work, and planning and inspection. Your duties could include:
surveying properties, identifying structural faults and making recommendations for repairs
assessing damage for insurance purposes, for example as a result of fire or flooding
assessing dilapidation liability (who is responsible for building repair costs)
advising clients on issues such as property boundary disputes
acting as a client’s advocate or standing as an expert witness during legal proceedings
checking properties to make sure they meet Building Regulations, and fire safety and accessibility standards
dealing with planning applications, and improvement or conservation grants
assessing homes for energy efficiency and producing Home Condition Reports (see the profile for a Domestic Energy Assessor for more details).
Depending on the size of your company, you may cover all of these tasks, or you might specialise in just one.
Other duties would include supervising a surveying team made up of assistants and technicians.
Normal working hours would be between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday. Your time would be split between office and sitework. Some contracts may involve spending periods of time away from home.
Sitework would take place in all weather conditions, and you may have to work at heights and on dangerous structures. You would wear protective clothing whilst on site.
Newly qualified graduates earn between £18,000 and £22,000 a year.
Experienced surveyors earn between £23,000 and £38,000.
Senior staff with chartered status can earn in excess of £50,000.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
To qualify as a building surveyor, you should complete a degree course accredited by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), followed by professional development (see the training and development section below). Relevant RICS accredited degrees are available in subjects such as:
To search accredited qualifications, see the RICS Courses website.
You could also start work in a trainee position with a surveying firm, and study for qualifications while you are working.
If you have a non-accredited degree, you will need to take a postgraduate course in surveying. You can do this through a company graduate traineeship, or by studying full-time at an RICS-accredited university. If you are working in engineering or construction, you could take a distance learning postgraduate conversion course with the College of Estate Management (CEM). For more details about this, see the CEM website.
College of Estate Management (CEM)
With a BTEC HNC/HND or a foundation degree in surveying or construction, you may be able to start working as a surveying technician and take further qualifications in order to become a building surveyor. See the Technical Surveyor profile for details about this route.
Contact the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Chartered Institute of Building’s (CIOB) Faculty for Architecture and Surveying for more details about surveying careers and accredited degree programmes.
You are likely to need a driving licence in this job to visit sites and clients.
Training and Development
You would be expected to continue your professional development by working towards chartered status. You can achieve this through the RICS or the Chartered Institute of Building’s (CIOB) Faculty for Architecture and Surveying.
With a RICS-accredited qualification, you can complete the RICS Assessment of Professional Competence (APC). This is a period of supervised practical training to build up your professional knowledge and skills. It can take between two and six years to pass the APC, which leads to chartered status.
The CIOB has a variety of routes to chartered membership of its organisation depending on your qualifications and experience. You would work through a Professional Development Programme (normally around three years) followed by a Professional Review.
You could also work towards relevant NVQs and diploma awards. The exact qualifications will depend on your job, but could include the following:
Surveying, Property and Maintenance Levels 3 and 4
Built Environment Development and Control Level 4.
Skills and Knowledge
good problem-solving skills
a working knowledge of surveying technology, IT and computer aided design
the ability to work to a high degree of accuracy
the ability to interpret data
strong communication, negotiation and presentation skills
the ability to prioritise and plan effectively
an understanding of the client’s business needs
a commitment to continuing professional development
the ability to work as part of a team
a comprehensive knowledge of Building Regulations
an understanding of planning legislation, and health and safety.
Language skills may be useful if you want to work overseas or for a company with international clients.
You can find jobs with local authorities, construction and engineering firms, building conservation bodies and specialist surveying practices.
Your progression options include project or senior management, partnership in private practice, self-employment as a consultant, or working in related fields, for example building control. For more details about this role, see the profile for Building Control Officer.
You may find the following useful for job vacancies and general reading: (links open in a new window)
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Industrial Rope Access Trade Association (IRATA)
Ganders Business Park
Tel: 01420 471619
Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
Tel: 0870 333 1600
College of Estate Management
Tel: 0800 019 9697
2 The Courtyard
48 New North Road
Helpline: 08000 567160
Chartered Institute of Building
Tel: 01344 630700