Taking a quantity surveyor conversion course (with jobs)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 30 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you're mathematical, organised and keen to work in the construction industry, you're likely to thrive in a quantity surveyor role. If you don't have specific education in this field, there are still potential entry points for you to consider. A quantity surveying conversion course is the most common option for many people. In this article, we explore postgraduate options and the benefits of undertaking a quantity surveying conversion course.

What is a quantity surveyor conversion course?

A quantity surveyor conversion course allows people to pursue postgraduate research in quantity surveying. Most early career quantity surveyors break into the industry by taking an undergraduate degree in quantity surveying or pursuing an accredited apprenticeship route. A postgraduate conversion degree allows graduates who have never considered quantity surveying before to break into the industry and change their career paths. Generally speaking, it's beneficial if you can demonstrate a deep interest in the field and a willingness to stay on top of industry developments. If you're considering becoming a quantity surveyor, the three primary routes open to you include:

1. A degree apprenticeship

If you don't hold a first degree, you may wish to enrol in a degree apprenticeship approved by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). This pathway is cost effective and straightforward for young people and those who are yet to consider undergraduate study. People who undertake degree apprenticeships typically work as trainee quantity surveyors while studying on a part-time basis. Degree apprenticeships allow trainees to develop sophisticated practical and theoretical knowledge about quantity surveying. They also come with an entry-level salary (typically around £17,000 per year) that helps keep learners afloat throughout their studies.

Related: How to become a quantity surveyor

2. An undergraduate degree in quantity surveying

If you don't have a degree and want to enjoy the classic university experience, it is possible to take an undergraduate degree in quantity surveying. A BSc typically takes three years to complete if you're studying full time. Depending on the course and university you choose, it may also be possible to do a placement year or pursue part-time learning. It is important to remember that undergraduate degrees require the payment of fees, but there are various loan types available to help fund students' education.

Related: A beginner's guide to earning your undergraduate degree

3. A postgraduate course in quantity surveying

A postgraduate course in quantity surveying could help you enter the field if you already have an undergraduate degree. Most universities allow postgraduate students to study full time for a year or part-time for at least two years. If you already have a job and wish to retain a steady income, the latter option may be more realistic. Postgraduate courses in quantity surveying typically cost a few thousand pounds. Most people who undertake master's courses apply for postgraduate loans. The government offers loans of up to £10,000 for postgraduate degrees, some of which can cover living expenses.

4. Apply for a job as a non-cognate surveyor

It is possible to go straight into a surveyor role as a non-cognate trainee without an RICS-accredited degree. In other words, the employer pays you to complete a conversion course while you work for their organisation. Most quantity surveying graduate programmes are for people with undergraduate or postgraduate degrees accredited by the RICS, but some employers are willing to accept non-cognates onto their programmes if they can demonstrate their passion for quantity surveying. Accepting a non-cognate role is less costly than enrolling in a postgraduate conversion degree, as employers cover the cost of the course.

What does a quantity surveyor do?

Before you enrol in a course and commit to changing your career path, familiarise yourself with the responsibilities of a quantity surveyor. The job involves managing the costs of construction projects and ensuring that projected budgets are accurate and reliable. You might hear job titles such as 'cost manager' and 'cost consultant' used interchangeably with 'quantity surveyor'. The daily tasks a quantity surveyor undertakes differ depending on their seniority and the type of project they're working on. Broadly speaking, tasks include:

  • preparing contracts, budgets, bills, tender documents and other financial materials

  • forecasting the costs of materials

  • measuring work done onsite

  • enlisting the help of contractors or subcontractors

  • paying subcontractors

  • tracking the development of the project in question and adjusting the budget appropriately

  • liaising with clients and other relevant stakeholders such as site managers

  • writing budget reports

What do quantity surveying conversion courses typically involve?

Most conversion courses offer instructional lectures and seminars that help students develop the following skills:

  • knowing how to manage risk and communicate with relevant stakeholders

  • understanding how to manage construction project budgets

  • understanding the principles of sustainable construction processes and using this information to estimate project costs

Related: What you should know about changing careers (plus tips)

Do I need any special qualifications to get into a conversion course?

The precise qualifications you require differ from university to university. Most institutions ask that applicants have achieved at least a 2.2 classification in their first degree. For international applicants, most universities also ask for evidence of their English language abilities. Typically, they require minimum International English Language Testing System (IELTS) scores of 6.5.

Most universities also ask that applicants possess an A-level in mathematics. If you do not possess a 2.2 degree, some institutions accept candidates who can demonstrate considerable relevant experience in a related field. Usually, this means more than three years' worth of experience in a construction-related or finance role. Science-based A-levels such as chemistry and physics are also useful to have.

What to look for in a conversion course

Not all quantity surveyor conversion courses offer the same career prospects. This is because factors such as reputation and the modules on offer differ between courses. As a general rule, look out for courses offering the following:

1. RICS accreditation

The RICS is a professional body designed to enforce stringent standards in the valuation and management of real estate, land and construction projects. Virtually all undergraduate and postgraduate courses receive accreditation from the RICS, as this helps to ensure a high standard of practice across the industry. All UK-based chartered surveyors complete the RICS's Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) before they practise. If you're new to the field, an RICS-accredited degree could help you to pass this test as quickly as possible.

2. Available modules

Not every chartered surveyor course offers the same modules. When conducting your research, it's worth looking at the types of mandatory and optional module topics on offer and considering what you gain from them. Some modules may also be more demanding or teach you technical skills for a specific type of construction, such as commercial infrastructure. Typical module options include:

  • Law and contracts

  • Residential construction and design

  • Pre-contract procedures

  • Post-contact procedures

  • Design principles

  • Science and materials

  • Surveying skills

  • Structural appraisals

  • Building pathology

3. The reputation of the university and the course

Some universities are more prestigious within the world of quantity surveying than others. As such, it's worth researching a range of league tables and looking at testimonials for the alumni of potential universities. Of course, these rankings are subject to change, so try to look for the most up-to-date information available.

Related: 11 top job skills: transferable skills for any industry

Is it better to enrol in a postgraduate course or apply for non-cognate graduate scheme?

Pursuing a non-cognate pathway can save you money in the long term as your employer covers the cost of your study. Securing non-cognate roles may be more difficult than enrolling in a postgraduate course, as they're in higher demand. As such, work hard to write an excellent job application and ace your interview to gain a place on a non-cognate scheme. Here are a few tips if you're willing to pursue this route:

  • Know your reasons for wanting to become a surveyor with a particular company: In your application and interview, state your specific career goals and how working for the employer could help make your aspirations a reality.

  • Know the day-to-day reality of a surveyor: Learn about the industry and keep up to date with any recent developments.

  • Come up with examples of your transferable skills: This could include anything from your ability to prioritise to your top-tier persuasion skills.

  • Try to secure some experience: Gaining experience in a construction environment before you apply for a non-cognate role is always preferable. This job could be an entry-level role or something higher up.

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