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Salary Report 2017Q3: UK Quantity Surveyors

This report is written specifically in relation to UK based main contractors and sub contractors.

QUICK FACTS

Typical Salary Packages

Quantity Surveyors in the UK have been in high demand and short supply for some time now and salaries have risen over recent years to reflect this. Whilst salaries have generally risen, the largest increases (by %) can be seen in the Assistant to intermediate level roles compared to more senior roles.

For the purpose of reviewing Quantity Surveyor salaries, we must first split the data into 2 categories. Those are 'London based' and 'Other UK based'.  London Quantity Surveying roles typically pay more than other parts of the country. Other UK would represent all other parts of the UK, including the Midlands, North, Scotland and Wales.

London Based:

  • 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 Based:

  • 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 contractors would also offer a car, car allowance or a travel allowance as part of your package. With new laws coming in to place relating to Pensions, all contractors, regardless of size, should now be offering some form of Pension scheme also.

It is reasonably common in construction for Quantity Surveyors to also be offered private medical cover as part of their package, although not all clients 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 Much More Can be Earned in London?

Quantity Surveyors with comparable experience are typically earning between 20% - 25% more in London based roles compared their counterparts in other parts of the UK.

Experience Most in Demand?

Quantity Surveyors with circa 2 - 5 years of good experience.

Contractors are looking for the best and most cost effective Quantity Surveyors who can manage or assist commercially on their projects. A commonly used phrase I hear from clients is "we need someone who can hit the ground running".

This is true; Contractors would ideally like to hire Quantity Surveyors who have had a couple of years experience under their belt and have a good working knowledge of how to perform many of the day-to-day duties of a Quantity Surveyor.

Many companies seem to be targeting Quantity Surveyors who have been adequately trained at another contractor. The logic is that this is often the quickest and most cost effective way finding staff who can make a meaningful impact within their team from day 1.

Is Being Chartered Advantageous?

I would always advise 'Yes' to this question.

However, I will concede that typically our Main Contractor and Sub Contractor clients seem less concerned by whether a Quantity Surveyor is Chartered compared to the Consultancy clients who often demand this as part of their criteria for identifying suitable candidates.

That being said, I have spoken to a several main contractors who have specifically requested that I try to find them Chartered Quantity Surveyors in the last 12 months.

The explanation for this was that they really wanted their business to be seen as one that was willing to support its Surveyors in becoming Chartered and to do that they needed Chartered Surveyors in the business as well as RICS Assessors.

In my experience being a Chartered Quantity Surveyor will certainly aid you in your career. It demonstrates a level of commitment and competence in the profession and as a Recruiter it is certainly something that I see as a positive when reviewing CV's and I'm certain many employers feel the same.

Q&A

Q1. How will my qualifications will affect my salary expectations as a Quantity Surveyor?

The vast majority of Quantity Surveyors that I work with are Degree qualified or hold a similar equivalent qualification. This seems to have become the industry norm and a benchmark for Quantity Surveyors in today's market.

Working with main contractors and sub contractors, I rarely experience employers justifying lower / higher offers based on qualifications specifically. Your ability to perform in the role is still the most important factor in determining your worth in the UK market.

However, it is relevant to point out, that I do see a correlation between none Degree qualified Quantity Surveyors typically taking longer to progress their career compared to their Degree qualified counterparts. Quantity Surveyors who hold no relevant qualifications whatsoever may particularly struggle to advance their career beyond the more junior levels of Quantity Surveying.

Post Graduate qualifications that are common in Quantity Surveying include becoming chartered and doing a Masters or Post Graduate Diploma in Law and Arbitration (or similar qualifications).

Many Quantity Surveyors find that continued personal development helps them to become better in their role and also more attractive to employers. Having such qualifications can certainly help to give you more options in your career including, moving into working for a Professional Quantity Surveying company or a specialist Claims and Disputes company. The latter in particular, can offer lucrative salaries in the long term.

Q2. Which locations are Quantity Surveyors most in demand?

The UK is generally busy at present, therefore most locations within the UK are still experiencing a shortage of good Quantity Surveyors.

Due to the sheer volume of work being carried out in London and the South East, this region is arguably the most under pressure and in need of Quantity Surveyors at present.

This being said, I'm witnessing a number of my clients based in the northern and southern home counties becoming particularly frustrated when it comes to finding Quantity Surveyors.

The theory is that many Quantity Surveyors living in counties such as Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Surrey may be commuting into London to gain higher salaries rather than working for contractors based outside of London. Therefore leaving a shortage of Quantity Surveyors in these areas outside of the M25.

Q3. Are there differences in Salaries between working for a Main Contractor and Sub Contractor?

Potentially yes. Quantity Surveyors who have strong experience in a particular sector of the construction industry such as Mechanical & Electrical (M&E), Fit-out, Structural Refurbishment, groundwork's etc could potentially find themselves worth more to a relevant sub-contractor specialising in these areas, rather than a main contractor.

The one specialism where I see a definite increase in salaries in the M&E sector. Quantity Surveyors in the M&E sector are often earning the very top end of their relevant salary brackets for their level as a Quantity Surveyor and in some cases exceeding them.

Q4. What opportunities are there for returning British expats?

Given Maxim's presence in the Overseas market, we often get approached by British expatriates working overseas who would like to return to the UK. The UK is rife with opportunities for Quantity Surveyors and whether you are in the UK currently or overseas, your skills are still in demand.

There are a few things British Quantity Surveyors overseas may need to consider when planning to return:

  1. The UK salaries and packages will almost certainly not be attractive as salaries in expat hotspots and low tax environments such as the Middle East and Hong Kong.
  2. British contractors are typically not in favour of telephone interviews. If you want a position in the UK, you need to be prepared to attend interviews face to face.

In general, we have found UK contractors to be very responsive to Assistant, Intermediate and Senior Quantity Surveyors returning to the UK. Whereas we have seen that more senior level Commercial Managers may have struggled more to get back into the UK market. This is really a supply and demand issue. There is more of a demand for QS's at the junior levels, as mentioned earlier in this report.

Companies have tended to prefer to recruit internally for senior level positions. If not, they often prefer candidates to have recent and relevant UK experience.

Q5. Career, progression and training tips?

Here's a few general tips I feel are relevant to mention in this category:

Find a great Line Manager:

Finding a Line Manager you can work closely with and learn from in the early stages of your career is great advice. Arguably more important than choosing your employer should be choosing your direct line manager.

In the earlier stages of your career in particular, you need support. It is critical to have someone training and mentoring you who is both knowledgeable and approachable.

Continue your personal development:

The construction industry is ever evolving. Whether it be new technology, new forms of contract or new systems and procedures, to be the best in your industry you will need to keep up to date with your industry. This can be done by attending training courses your employer offers you or seeking to become more qualifies either by gaining Chartership or doing Diplomas and Masters.

I always believe that doing such things show employers ambition and a passion for bettering yourself and whilst they take a lot of effort, they can be the difference between you being considered a good Quantity Surveyor and a great Quantity Surveyor.

Don't job hop:

The most common objection for not considering a candidate for interview is that they have moved employers too much.

Whilst some will argue that this is unfair and that many career moves are justified, the simple truth is that nearly every company I have dealt with over the years has either advised me not to send them candidates who have 'job hopped' or dismissed a CV for this reason.

I was once told that the industry average is one role every 2 - 3 years and I have always thought that to be a good benchmark to follow.

Q6. Do you have any final advice relating to working as a Quantity Surveyor?

We've talked a lot about salaries in this report and rightly so as achieving our full earning potential is important to us all. However, I feel it important to put this into some context.

Having recruited in the Construction industry for 10 years, I've been witness to the severe downturn that the construction industry saw in 2008 and have since watched it gradually recover to the buoyant market we are have experiencing at present.

It would be wise to plan for future downturns at some point in your Quantity Surveying career, as they have been fairly regular over time in the construction industry and it's all too easy to forget this when things are going so well like at present.

Whilst improving your salary is important, please be cautious of doing this at the cost of damaging your experience and development as a Quantity Surveyor. For when times are booming such as at present, there appear to be jobs for all. However this can very quickly change and when the industry isn't performing so well, you may find it much harder to find work. 

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Stuart Hackett
Senior Recruitment Consultant

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