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Building Surveyor

building surveyor

Building Surveyor


Tell me about it

Building surveyors provide detailed advice on the design, construction, maintenance, management or repair of proposed or existing buildings. They look for defects in, or ways to improve, all types of existing buildings, and also advise on the feasibility and possible costs of repair to the building, of conversion and the suitability of the building for particular purposes.

Clients might include prospective purchasers, vendors, building societies and property owners.  The work could involve drawing up detailed plans, advising on government or health and safety regulations and on whether a grant might be available for the work.  Building surveyors could also be involved with instructing an architect to prepare detailed plans and with obtaining estimates for carrying out the work. Another aspect of the job can be assessing damage for insurance purposes, for example as a result of fire or flooding.

Entry level

In order to become a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) or the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), you would need an accredited degree (or equivalent), together with a minimum of two years’ training whilst you are employed.  Degree courses in surveying normally ask for a minimum of two A level/Advanced Higher/three Higher or equivalent qualifications, together with least four or five GCSE/S Grade passes at A*-C/1-3, often specifying English and maths.

Your on-the-job training must normally be approved before you start.  There are full-time degree courses, which take three years to complete.  There are also sandwich courses, which include a year of practical work experience that can count towards the required two years training.

If you want to 'earn whilst you learn' there are part-time degree courses available, which you take whilst you are employed.  In addition, there are some accredited distance learning degree or diploma correspondence courses, which can be taken whilst you work, and relevant postgraduate courses.

Making the grade

On completion of a RICS accredited degree or diploma, you must gain further practical experience before becoming fully qualified. This involves a minimum of two years of structured learning, in employment, leading to a RICS professional assessment interview - known as the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC). Successful completion of the APC entitles you to use the letters MRICS.

In addition to RICS, other bodies awarding relevant qualifications include the Association of Building Engineers, CIOB, the Chartered Institute of Housing, the Institute of Revenues, Rating and Valuation, the Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors and the Royal Town Planning Institute. Some surveyors are members of more than one institution.

Continuing professional development, which may include gaining additional qualifications, is important in this profession.

Most large organisations have a formal promotion structure, and surveyors can progress to senior management. In small organisations, it may be necessary to move to another employer for promotion or to gain wider experience.

Self-employment is quite common. You could work from home or join a private practice as a partner.

Personal qualities

As a building surveyor, you should be a practical problem solver with a logical mind, good spoken and written communication skills, and careful attention to detail.

You would need good IT and business skills, and you should be able to co-ordinate a number of different projects at the same time.

Looking ahead

Although the entire construction industry was severely affected by the economic downturn in 2008-10, the demand for the building surveyor's expertise has generally grown in line with the refurbishment of urban areas, rural sites and older properties. The largest employer is the private sector, which ranges from very small practices to large companies with overseas operations.   Your qualification would be recognised in many countries if you wanted to work abroad.  Local authorities also employ a number of building surveyors, as do major companies with a large amount of property, such as major retailers or hotel chains.  There are also opportunities to work for the trusts or charities that manage and maintain large historical buildings.

Alternative suggestions

Other possibilities might include architect, auctioneer/valuer, civil engineer, estate agent, quantity surveyor, structural engineeror town planner.

Take-home pay

Graduate starting salaries are generally around £20,000 to £26,000, slightly higher in the London area. The average salary for chartered surveyors is around £38,000, and for a partner around £70,000. Top-end salaries can be over £100,000. Most surveyors receive additional benefits as part of their salary package. These may include a performance related bonus and a company car.


The working day is usually Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, but additional hours may be needed sometimes to meet deadlines. There are opportunities for part-time work.

Inspecting buildings can involve going into dirty, damp and dark areas such as attics and cellars.  You would need to be reasonably fit and agile in order to carry out your surveys effectively.  At times you may need to climb ladders or scaffolding, and you could be outside in all weathers.

Sources of information
Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors:
Chartered Institute of Building:
Asset Skills
Association of Building Engineers:
Chartered Institute of Housing:
Chartered Surveyors Training Trust:
Institute of Revenues, Rating and Valuation:
Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors:
Royal Town Planning Institute:




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