Would a career in property or planning suit me?
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Successful property and planning professionals combine a fascination for land with an understanding of business. Over the past 30 years or so, property has become one of the most entrepreneurial of careers, as surveyors work out how to make money out of property. But would it suit you?
‘I was interested in a career in commercial property because it incorporated two things that interest me: geography and business,’ says Laura Pell, an apprentice surveyor. But whether you go into commercial, residential or rural surveying – or planning – you’ll find that your job will combine elements of business, politics and land. There are many other subjects that would be relevant to a career in property; for example, Nick Jones, an apprentice surveyor at CBRE, was planning to study travel and tourism at university before he began his apprenticeship.
The job of a surveyor is to work out how to make the most money out of a piece of land or property for a client, and the job of a planner is to work out where developments should go. How you do this will be affected by what government policy is and what is going on in the wider economy. ‘Property is fascinating: it is always changing and closely connected to global issues,’ says Laura. If you are interested in the news, then you’ll probably be interested in property.
Do you want to get out of the office a lot?
Working in property, you’ll be based in an office, wear a suit and often work fairly normal office hours. But you’ll also spend a lot of your time out and about visiting land or properties – usually to value them, to sell or let them or to inspect progress if they are being developed into something else. You will meet regularly with clients and sometimes with the public, eg at planning consultations. You’ll probably also spend some evenings wining and dining clients or building relationships (networking) with fellow professionals. It’s a sociable industry.
Many property firms run rotational schemes for graduates and school leavers. 'My employer places me in a different every year,' Nick explains, 'this is a great because it helps me meet people in the industry and build a network of contacts.'
Some employers ask you to have a full driving licence (or ask you to pass your test as soon as possible) and some provide you with a company car or car allowance.
- negotiate the best deal (particularly for surveying)
- persuade people around to your point of view
- communicate clearly with lots of different people
- build relationships
- juggle lots of different projects at the same time
- meet deadlines and use your time in the best way
- interpret rules, regulations and government policies
Successful property surveyors can work well in a team, but are also driven and focused when given a target to achieve – and can be quite competitive!
Planners who work for the public sector need to be comfortable making difficult decisions that not everyone will agree with, eg whether a planning application for a supermarket can go ahead on the edge of town.
Property firms don’t often publicise the salaries they offer so it can be difficult to find exact figures, but the typical graduate salary for surveyors and planners is £20,000–£25,000. TARGETcareers guestimates that property apprentices will be paid in the region of £11,000–£15,000 on top of having their training paid for, based on salaries at construction companies – a similar industry.
Salaries for experienced professionals are much higher: according to the RICS and Macdonald Rewards & Attitudes Survey 2017, the average property professional earns £52,362. Professionals in commercial property development earn on average £72,921; those in residential property development an average of £61,936; those in rural property an average of £38,987; and planners an average of £50,177. For more salary information, see the salary round-up feature on our graduate careers site, TARGETjobs.
There are many crossovers between the work of planners and surveyors, especially if you work for a property firm. The best thing is to take a look at our article explaining what planners and surveyors do and decide which type of tasks you’d most like to do.
Commercial deals (concerning offices, retail stores, warehouses etc) can take longer than residential and you have more interaction with clients, whereas in residential deals contact with clients might happen once in a while.
Commercial property involves being more aware of financial issues and the industries in which your clients work. Residential, meanwhile, involves being sensitive to how people are feeling, as clients’ decisions about residential matters can often be based on emotion or happen at stressful times in their life (eg when bereaved, marrying or divorcing).
Rural property (which can cover country estates, land and farms) can cover both residential and commercial deals. It’s best for those who enjoy being in the countryside and want the benefits of working across commercial and residential.
Think about what would suit your interests and skills best.