Quantity surveyors: job role explained

Job role: quantity surveyor
Quantity surveyors are the money men and women of the construction industry. Find out about what they do and how you can get into the profession.

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Good choice if... Degree needed? Additional qualifications

Quantity surveyors (QSs) can also be known as cost consultants, commercial managers, cost managers or cost engineers. But whatever you’re called, your role is to help a construction project to make a profit. You’ll keep a close eye on how much everything costs (the materials, the time taken and the workers’ salaries) and make payments.

If you work for a construction or QS consultancy – which looks after the ‘design’ stage of the project – you’ll be based in an office. You’ll spend most of your time working out how much different designs cost. If you work for a contractor – which builds the project – you’ll be based in an office, but one based on a construction site. You might help to choose which materials to buy, be out on site checking completed work, track the materials used or pay subcontractors for their work. You can find out more about what consultancies and contractors do in our feature on how a construction project gets built.

Would a quantity surveying career suit me?

It’s a good choice if…

  • You’re good at maths.
  • You’re good at figuring out the best buy or deal.
  • You like keeping track of systems and paying attention to detail.
  • You like people.

Do you need a degree to become a quantity surveyor?

Most opportunities are for graduates. You can either complete an undergraduate quantity surveying or commercial management degree or you can complete an undergraduate degree in another subject and then take a postgraduate qualification to convert to quantity surveying.

The quantity surveying or commercial management degree will need to be approved by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and/or the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), whether you take it at undergraduate or postgraduate level. The undergraduate degree takes three years full time and the postgraduate degree up to a year full time.

It will be an advantage if you are comfortable with maths, but most quantity surveying courses do not ask for specific A level subjects.

Some employers will hire you onto an apprenticeship or trainee scheme with GCSEs and/or A levels (or equivalents). They’ll then pay for you to study an HND or bachelors qualification while working for them.

Do I need to gain an additional qualification while working?

Quantity surveyors tend to work towards a ‘professional qualification’ known as chartership when they enter the profession. This is an on-the-job qualification that tells the world that you are qualified to a high standard. It is awarded by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). When applying and being interviewed for a quantity surveying role, you’ll be expected to know about chartership.

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