What is a quantity surveyor? (With salary information)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 13 July 2022

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.

A quantity surveyor works on construction projects to estimate and control the budget of the overall work. Their role involves ensuring that all structures meet various legal requirements and standards of quality so that buildings are safe and built using appropriate methods and materials. A quantity surveyor works across all stages of a construction project, so their responsibilities vary depending on the project. In this article, we answer the question 'What is a quantity surveyor?', including what they do, salary information and career prospects for a quantity surveyor.

What is a quantity surveyor?

To answer the question 'What is a quantity surveyor?', it's someone who works to inspect and manage the costs a construction project incurs. They do this by using calculations to determine the overall cost of a project. Although quantity surveyors generally work in the construction industry, they're also found in the property and land management industries. Much of their work involves creating initial estimates for work that can outline the budget requirements for a project.

Quantity surveyors are always found in the early stages of a project to determine the overall feasibility of the work. They often stay involved in the project to provide oversight during the phases of development that requires costing. As a result of this, quantity surveyors work on-site throughout a project as they have to provide forecasts for budgets. Their work can also be fast-paced at times as they have to respond to any changes in the project that could affect feasibility or costing.

Related: 39 common quantity surveyor interview questions with answers

What does a quantity surveyor do?

A quantity surveyor is responsible for estimating the costs and timelines for a project to help their clients plan more effectively. The role requires communication with multiple other teams involved in the project to ensure timelines and budgets work. The specific duties of a quantity surveyor vary depending on the type of project and whether you work for a contractor or as a private quantity surveyor (PQS).

If you work as a PQS, you also offer guidance and advice to clients throughout the project. This includes help at the design stage and creating a workable budget for the work. In some instances, a PQS also puts tenders out for contractors. If you work as a contractor's quantity surveyor, you're more likely to work on-site and work with a PQS. It's not uncommon for many quantity surveyor firms to provide a complete service that covers all aspects of a project from the initial designs to final construction.

Related: 8 jobs for construction management graduates (with salaries)

What are the main duties of a quantity surveyor?

Although the duties of a quantity surveyor vary depending on the type of project they work in, some main duties are common across most projects. Some of these main duties for a quantity surveyor include:

  • communicating with clients to outline project needs

  • creating estimates for amounts, pricing and time scales for the material and labour or a project

  • preparing contracts and tender documentation

  • outlining risk assessments and identifying areas of concern

  • working with subcontractors and delegating work

  • evaluating completed aspects of a project and managing payments

  • inspecting projects to ensure they meet quality standards and legal requirements

  • providing maintenance costing for buildings

  • drafting budget reports

  • working on-site, in an office or with the client directly

With enough experience as a quantity surveyor, you can also provide specialist knowledge to your clients. This opens up a few more duties, such as:

  • providing advice and guidance for property taxes

  • offering post-occupancy advice and life cycle costing for facilities

  • helping clients find sources of funding for projects

  • initiating construction projects for clients

Related: How much does a construction manager make? (Plus duties)

Ways to become a quantity surveyor

As the role of a quantity surveyor is a specialised and technical job, you either require sufficient qualifications or experience to work as one. If you have obtained sufficient experience already, you may be able to secure a quantity surveyor job by applying to employers directly or receiving training while on the job. Alternatively, obtaining qualifications at university or through an apprenticeship are viable ways to become a quantity surveyor.

It's worth noting that if you want to work on a construction site, it may be necessary for you to apply for a Construction Skills Certification Scheme card. There are two common ways to become a quantity surveyor. These methods include:

1. Complete an undergraduate degree or graduate training schemes

One of the most common routes of entry for quantity surveyors is to obtain an undergraduate degree in quantity surveying or a related subject. Some of these related subjects include:

  • construction

  • civil or structural engineering

  • mathematics

  • geography

  • economics

  • urban or land studies

If you have previously obtained an undergraduate degree, you might want to look at a postgraduate conversion course for quantity surveying. Look for courses that hold accreditation from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors or the Chartered Institute of Building. You could also acquire postgraduate qualifications through a graduate trainee scheme. To enter one of these schemes, it's important to have either 3 A levels (or equivalent) for undergraduate courses or postgraduate degree in a relevant course.

2. Undertake quantity surveying apprenticeships

Another route of entry if you would like to become a quantity surveyor is to work through an apprenticeship. This gives you a hands-on experience that lets you learn while you work with a construction firm. You tend to work full-time hours as an apprentice, but your time is usually split between training and on-site work. One of the most common options for quantity surveying apprenticeships is the surveying technician advanced apprenticeship.

This gives you all of the tools to start a career as a quantity surveyor. To enter an apprenticeship, you typically require at least 5 GCSEs. These GCSEs ideally include Mathematics and English.

Related: Taking a quantity surveyor conversion course (with jobs)

Important skills for a quantity surveyor

Due to the nature of the work, quantity surveyors benefit from having several skills related to their duties. Some of these core skills include:

  • excellent mathematical competency

  • meticulous attention to detail

  • problem-solving and analytical skills

  • good grasp of the concepts of engineering and technology people use in the field

  • knowledgeable about the construction industry

  • self-starter mentality and an ability to use initiative

How much does a quantity surveyor make?

Quantity surveyors have a variable salary depending on their experience in the industry and whether or not they hold chartered status. The national average salary for a quantity surveyor is £46,025 per year. Your location and hiring company can also influence the amount of money you take home.

What is the development path for quantity surveyors?

Your first role in quantity surveying is going to be as a junior or trainee quantity surveyor. This places you underneath a senior surveyor and you get to learn more about the role while on the job. Once you have sufficient experience, you might want to advance towards becoming a chartered surveyor, which requires membership in the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). To do this, you complete the RICS Assessment of Professional Competence (APC).

The APC is a training programme that runs for around two years and requires you to work through the course with a supervisor. There are a set amount of hours and professional development that are necessary and a final assessment interview. Working on your continuing professional development (CPD) is vital to move forward as a quantity surveyor. As a member of RICS, you perform at least 20 hours of CPD every year, which includes attending conferences and workshops.

Related: How to become a construction manager: a step-by-step guide

What are the career prospects for a quantity surveyor?

A quantity surveyor's career begins as a trainee quantity surveyor before moving into a junior or assistant quantity surveyor role. At this stage, much of the work involves supporting senior surveyors. Junior surveyors normally stay in this role for around two to three years before advancing. With a few years of experience as a junior surveyor, you can move into a more advanced role that sees you working more independently. You might manage your projects at this stage with limited or no supervision and you may wish to obtain chartered status to advance your career further.

As a chartered quantity surveyor, you can choose to specialise in a specific type of construction or work across a wider range of specialities. With a few years of experience as a chartered surveyor, you can advance into a more senior position that involves the management of trainee surveyors. Other roles at this stage of your career might include a project manager, commercial manager or quantity surveyor manager. Extensive experience is essential for these roles and employers normally look for around 10 years of industry experience.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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