what’s the career progression of a quantity surveyor?

There’s a veil of mystery that surrounds the job of a quantity surveyor and what their roles entail, how you get into it and where the job takes you.

Our guide explains what a quantity surveyor does, how to become one and what opportunities it leads to. 

What does a quantity surveyor do?

A quantity surveyor manages the costs related to building and civil engineering projects, from initial projections to the final figures. Their broad aim is to help get good value for money across projects, whilst still meeting the required quality and regulations.

Roles may differ depending on whether you work for a consultant or for a contractor, but here are some of the typical tasks you can expect:

  • research a client’s needs and assess the feasibility of their plans
  • work out the costs and logistics of a prospective project (e.g. the materials needed, quantities, time, labour etc.)
  • negotiate contracts and work schedules
  • review tender documents and contract variations
  • liaise with clients and advise on any commercial issues as they come
  • write reports on costs and prepare accounts for payments

What do you need to get there?

The majority of quantity surveying graduate schemes and graduate-level jobs require a quantity surveying or commercial management undergraduate degree that is accredited by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

However, graduates of any subject can complete a RICS-accredited postgraduate qualification and 'convert' to quantity surveying. 

Useful subjects that transfer well to this career path are construction, structural or civil engineering, mathematics, geography and economics.

You could also start as a junior or trainee quantity surveyor, a surveying technician or surveying assistant, then study to become a quantity surveyor, or alternatively enter the industry through an apprenticeship.

In terms of skills, the core elements that you will need proven experience in are:

  • budgeting
  • numerical, IT and financial management
  • organisation and planning
  • creative problem solving
  • negotiation and leadership

Where could this career lead?

When you join a quantity surveying firm, you might start out as a ‘graduate quantity surveyor’, ‘assistant surveyor’ or ‘trainee’, depending on the firm. 

But as a newly chartered surveyor, you will then take on greater responsibility for projects.

Typical job titles around this stage include ‘quantity surveyor’ and ‘project surveyor’. You can then progress to more senior roles or work towards a full project management role.

Here is a typical career path you might expect from junior to senior:

  • trainee quantity surveyor
  • junior quantity surveyor
  • senior quantity surveyor
  • contracts manager
  • senior contracts manager
  • head of contracts
  • vice president of contracts

Over time, many quantity surveyors specialise in a type of construction project (roads, as an example) or in a particular discipline such as civil engineering. 

But as the career is so transferable, you could also move into other verticals, such as capital allowances and tax, legal services and dispute resolution or supply chain management.

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