What does a clerk of works do? (Duties, skills, salary)
Updated 12 May 2023
A clerk of works holds a highly responsible role that involves inspecting and overseeing construction works. Their work is also essential for maintaining trust and communication with the clients or key stakeholders who are responsible for financing construction projects. To decide whether working in this profession is right for you, it's helpful that you review the key duties and responsibilities of construction managers. In this article, we answer, 'What does a clerk of works do?', explore their main areas of work, explain ways to undertake to become a construction inspector and show you how much you can earn in this role.
What does a clerk of works do?
A clerk of works, also known as a construction quality inspector or warranty manager, is responsible for ensuring the safety and quality of construction works and materials. The main areas of work include:
Reviewing project documentation
Construction inspectors review project documentation to examine the scope of the project. The documentation contains timings and deliverables that the client expects from the construction company. Inspectors then work with general contractors to discuss their involvement in the project including how often to assess the project's progress. They also share suggestions and recommendations that help the project achieve its goals.
Inspecting the quality and safety of work
On a day-to-day basis, clerks of works check the workmanship and regularly conduct comprehensive construction inspections. Whenever they determine irregularities, defects or quality issues, they suggest effective solutions to make sure the works can proceed. Thanks to the continuous efforts of these inspectors, builders and construction professionals continue to work in a safe and sustainable way.
Monitoring the progress of construction
Clerks of work compare all aspects of the construction to drawings and plans. The documentation includes photographs, samples and detailed measurements of rooms, construction elements and entire buildings. This allows them to closely monitor the progress of construction.
Reporting to senior managers and clients
As a part of their job, construction inspectors create weekly, monthly or quarterly reports to present to senior managers and clients. Through regularly communicating with them, they build mutual trust and help clients make informed decisions about the next stages of construction in line with the project objectives. Clerks of works also liaise with contractors, engineers and surveyors to make sure their reports are as informative and detailed as possible.
Staying up to date with construction regulations and standards
A clerk of works can work full time at one construction company or become a chartered inspector to offer their services to multiple clients. To keep their qualifications relevant, it's necessary that they stay up to date with industry news and any construction regulations that shape the construction industry. For example, inspectors may undertake additional courses to learn about the sustainable use of materials in construction.
How to become a clerk of works
To work in construction, a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card is necessary. This card is proof you possess the skills and qualifications to work on construction sites. In addition to obtaining the CSCS, there are three main ways to consider whether you want to work as a clerk of works in construction:
1. Obtain a university degree
Obtaining an undergraduate university degree equips you with relevant knowledge about the safety procedures and quality standards you'd use daily as a construction inspector. Many universities also offer students additional benefits such as obtaining their CSCS card as a part of the programme. If you're thinking about attending university to become a clerk of works, consider a course in construction management, engineering or surveying.
To qualify, A-levels or equivalent are required including maths, science or physics. Standard undergraduate programmes typically take around three years to complete. You may also have a chance to enrol in a programme with an industry placement, which may take around four years to complete.
2. Complete an apprenticeship
As an alternative to attending university, you could consider entering the construction field by completing a relevant apprenticeship. During an apprenticeship, you'd learn about the responsibilities of a clerk of works while testing your skills in practice and earning a regular salary. Many higher and advanced construction apprenticeships are available to people as young as 16 years old and to qualify it's necessary to have at least four GCSEs or equivalent at grades 9 to 4 including English and maths.
3. Find an entry-level job in construction
If you already work in construction, as a surveying assistant or building technician for example, you may consider working your way up to a construction inspector role without attending university or completing an apprenticeship. Many of them decide to advance their careers through on-the-job training, which usually happens through gaining more experience in the field. It's also helpful to obtain some type of formal qualifications to apply for the role such as a Level 2 Diploma in site inspection.
Key skills and abilities of a good clerk of works
Making sure you've got the right skills to pursue a career in construction is essential, as you'd use these skills on a daily basis to work with construction managers, clients and contractors. Here are some key skills to develop for a successful career as a clerk of works:
Knowledge of building and construction
Understanding the basics of building and construction industries is essential for aspiring construction inspectors and managers. The ability to understand industry-specific terminology can help you impress a hiring manager or potential employer and it's something that can make it easier for you to adjust to a new work environment when you've just started your first job in the field. In most instances, you can begin to gain specialist knowledge of construction standards through self-learning activities such as completing online courses or reading.
Attention to detail
One of the primary responsibilities of construction inspectors is to identify defects in materials or work undertaken. It's critical to do so with great attention to detail because these findings enable managers and clients to resolve specific problems which may arise during the project. As you gain more experience in the field, your attention to detail is likely to improve as you become familiar with certain processes.
Ability to work under pressure
Most construction projects are complex operations that require the effort of many teams of professionals. By the nature of the work, issues arise and construction inspectors are usually the ones who resolve problems and recover the situation to get a project back on track. This requires skill, tenacity and the ability to work productively and effectively under pressure. As their skills develop, they learn to quickly identify and address any issues before delays are caused.
Knowledge of construction management software
Most clerks of work divide their workdays between working in an office and at construction sites. To better manage their busy schedule, they use specialised software to monitor the progress of construction projects and input essential project data to create insightful reports for clients. These computer skills allow them to effectively use the software through which they communicate with team members to share project information.
Salary of a clerk of works
The national average salary of a clerk of works is £32,801 per year. Typically, you can increase your salary in this profession by gaining more experience in the field. It can also be helpful to develop additional skills and obtain qualifications or chartered status, which often allows you to work on larger scale construction projects.
Other factors that can help you explore better job opportunities in the field include the size of the company and location. Construction companies located in bigger cities often offer candidates higher salaries in line with the cost of living.
Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.
Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
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