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How to Become a Quantity Surveyor

You could easily be forgiven for not knowing what a Quantity Surveyor is or does. Whilst the construction industry is responsible for approximately a tenth of all employment in the UK, many are unfamiliar with the role of a Quantity Surveyor compared to more obvious construction roles such as bricklayers, electricians and Project Managers.

What does a Quantity Surveyor do?

A Quantity Surveyor is a technical construction professional whose primary responsibility is to manage the cost of projects. They are an integral part of any major construction process in the UK and most other developed Countries.

They can typically work for one of several parties involved in the construction process; the contractor, the client or the consultant. Their specific role in the construction process will vary slightly dependant on their employer.

In general terms, their purpose is to manage the financial aspects of the project as well as dealing with the contractual issues within the project.

What do Quantity Surveyors typically earn?

Quantity Surveying is a relatively well paid profession and starting salaries are typically £22,000 or above. With experience, you will find your salary can potentially rise very quickly. A full breakdown of expected salaries dependant on your seniority as a Quantity Surveyor can be viewed below:

London & South East:

  • Assistant Quantity Surveyor: £28k - £35k p/a
  • Quantity Surveyor:  £35k - £50k p/a
  • Senior Quantity Surveyor: £50k - £70k p/a
  • Commercial Manager: £70k - £105k p/a
  • Senior Commercial Manager: £105k+ p/a

Other UK (e.g. Midlands, North etc)

  • Assistant Quantity Surveyor: £22k - £30k p/a
  • Quantity Surveyor: £30k - £42k p/a
  • Senior Quantity Surveyor: £42k - £57k p/a
  • Commercial Manager: £57k - £70k p/a
  • Senior Commercial Manager: £70k+ p/a

In addition to the salaries mentioned above, most construction companies would also offer a car, car allowance or a travel allowance as part of your package.

It is reasonably common in construction for Quantity Surveyors to also be offered private medical cover as part of their package, although not all companies offer this as a benefit.

Finally, you can also expect some form of Bonus scheme based on either your individual performance, the company's performance or both.

How do I get started as a Quantity Surveyor?

Whilst there are multiple routes to becoming a Quantity Surveyor, the most typical route into the profession is via studying a relevant to Degree Course (or similar equivalent qualification).

A typical Quantity Surveying Degree can take between 3 - 4 years when it is studied full-time, and typically 5 years if part-time.

What key skills do I need to become a Quantity Surveyor?

There are a combination of skills that one would need to become a Quantity Surveyor, possibly the most important would be strong commercial acumen. With the purpose of the role being to manage the financial side of construction projects, it is critical that a Quantity Surveyor is able to manage costs effectively and keep them in line or lower than the planned budget.

Another aspect of the role would be the interaction with fellow professional involved on the project(s). This will be done both verbally and via written communications. Such communications often relate to high level contractual discussions and as such, you will need to have excellent communication skills.

In this day and age, construction has become very technology reliant and any QS will need good knowledge of common computer programs such as MS Office and especially Excel.

Finally, the ability to work promptly, accurately and be highly organised are all key skills to become a good Quantity Surveyor. Regularly keeping records and reports on progress are highly important daily tasks as a QS and as such anyone venturing into the profession would need to adhere to these processes.

What do Quantity Surveyors do day-to-day?

As mentioned earlier, a Quantity Surveyors duties can vary slightly based on what type of company they are working for within the construction process, as well as their seniority.  However, some of the common duties will include:

  • Regularly producing cost reports
  • Procurement
  • Measuring
  • Dealing with contractual issues
  • Preparing valuations for elements of the work
  • Providing commercial advice to the project team
  • Arranging payments

Once I’m a Quantity Surveyor, what career progression is available?

One of the positives about Quantity Surveying is there is often a clear career path mapped out for you, if you are willing to work for it. The vast majority of Quantity Surveyors are able to reach the Senior QS / Commercial Management level where they are often responsible for their projects and managing junior members of the commercial team.

Once you reach the Senior Commercial Management level of the profession, the role often can become more focussed on strategic decision making and management rather than typical day-to-day duties.

The typical progression would look something like this:

  • Assistant / Trainee Quantity Surveyor
  • Intermediate Quantity Surveyor
  • Senior / Project Quantity Surveyor
  • Commercial Manager
  • Senior Commercial Manager

What are the best bits about being a Quantity Surveyor?

Being a Quantity Surveyor can be an extremely rewarding profession. As well being a financially rewarding occupation, some Quantity Surveyor will get the opportunity to work on major projects in the UK and Overseas.

What a fantastic thing to tell the grandkids that you were involved in the building of the Shard or the Crossrail project which has been well documented on TV of late.

This is a highly prestigious job role with some Quantity Surveyors often managing projects valued in the tens of millions of pounds, in some instances even into the hundreds of millions and even billions.

It's a sought after profession worldwide with British Quantity Surveyors being highly sought after in construction hot spots around the World, such as the Middle East and South East Asia.

There is currently a huge skills shortage in Quantity Surveyors in the UK and it shows no signs of improving any time soon with new major projects continually being announced. This makes for a fantastic time to join a buoyant sector with plenty of opportunities.

What are the challenges of being a Quantity Surveyor?

Whilst Quantity Surveying is a well paid and rewarding profession, it is also a demanding profession and hours can often be long

Some of the challenges of being a Quantity Surveyor can include:

  1. Long working hours: Workings hours for a Quantity Surveyor can be, and usually are longer than yours standard 9 - 5. Particularly working for a Contractor, working hours are typically closer to 8 - 6 than 9 - 5 with some QS's typically working later than this on occasions.
  2. Travel: Quantity Surveyors typically work on a project basis and this can be difficult for some. Some companies do carry out work over a large radius and QS's can often be expected to travel to site(s) well over an hour commute from the office or home.

A combination of long hours and potentially lengthy commutes can make for a challenging work-life balance.

This career is for you if…

If you're a bright, confident, personable individual with a love for numbers then Quantity Surveying could be a great profession for you.

If you like the idea of going to work in a suit and doing a professional role, but don't want to be stuck in the office all day, every day then Quantity Surveying can provide a great mix of office based work along with some travelling to sites to make sure everything is running smoothly.

You'll need to be prepared to put in the hours and do the travel where necessary, as well as work to tight deadline. However, if you can handle this and like the sound of working in a construction professional role then you could make a very nice career from becoming a Quantity Surveyor.


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Stuart Hackett
Senior Recruitment Consultant, UK
I have 10+ years experience recruiting construction professionals in the UK and Middle East. I am based in the Leicestershire office and recruit nationwide for Quantity Surveyors, Project Managers, Site Managers, Planners, and Estimators.
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Email: stuart@maximrecruitment.com

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