The fact of the matter is we are all living much longer and subsequently working until much later in our lives, bringing to light the possibility that for someone in their mid-30s, there could well be another 40+ years of work ahead of them. For those not passionate about what they do, this realisation may come as an alarming slap in the face at some point in their career. As a result, career changes later in life are becoming far more prevalent in today's society.
So what about the Quantity Surveying industry?
The distinct shortage of Quantity Surveyors in today's construction industry is widely reported making this an ideal job to consider if changing career direction is an option for you.
Outside of what a Quantity Surveyor actually does and whether this is for you or not, here are some pros and cons for taking the time to re-train:
Always in demand
There is a huge lack of Quantity Surveyors as a profession meaning there are always likely to be jobs available.
Life experience sets you apart
No matter what your previous career was, you are likely to bring with your life experience and a broad range of skills learned in another industry that will all be valuable in your new profession. Many employers will recognise your transferrable skills as highly desirable and will appreciate a more mature outlook as well as the fact that you are likely to be a more rounded individual bringing new perspective and a fresh pair of eyes to your work. Whilst you will have to take a step back initially and prove yourself, with the right technical aptitude and approach, you are likely to achieve success quickly and climb the career ladder in no time.
Unlike other careers such as Architecture (7+ years), it does not take long to train to become a QS; one year or two years part-time to obtain a PGDip if you already have a degree, plus another couple years to become Chartered. Alternatively, if you do not possess a Bachelor degree already, you could potentially secure a role as an Apprentice QS and work your way up that way.
The construction industry is a diverse and exciting market offering many different angles. As a QS, you can choose to work in different environments that range hugely in terms of what each role offers as a day to day job. This includes working in the property sector on landmark development projects such as offices, hotels and apartments. Or you can get involved in transport and infrastructure schemes working on high profile rail and road projects. You can choose to work in an office-based position for a consultancy or roll up your sleeves on site with a contractor.
There are multiple directions in which you can take your career as a QS making it a perfect platform for diversification down the line. As you gain more experience, you can side-step into other careers within the construction arena such as Project Management or Development Management. You can also choose to step away from a more traditional consulting or construction role and go to work client-side or for a developer.
As with any career change, you must be prepared to take a potentially dramatic cut in your salary. It is obvious that your income will reflect the fact that your don’t have prior experience in the profession. That said, the Quantity Surveying profession currently offers competitive starting salaries ranging from £25,000 - £28,000 in London for consultancies and usually more for contractors. Salaries can climb quickly depending on performance and further qualifications, such as becoming MRICS, can boost your remuneration very quickly within the first few years of your career.
Changing careers completely is a brave move. Knowing that you are making the right decision is very hard, especially when you throw a mortgage or family responsibilities into the mix. You need to be prepared for the unknown. You must be realistic about the hard work that is ahead and the fact that you may not reap the rewards you were after in your new career for a number of years. You are in it for the long haul. Entering into an industry that you are new to and that may be volatile in line with economic buoyancy is a risk so you must be sure it is one worth taking.
Of course there are plenty of other considerations to take into account outside of the above. However, if pursuing Quantity Surveying is something you are passionate about and you feel informed enough to make the switch, then it is certainly not too late.
Quantity Surveying has legs as a profession in a world with an increasing focus on the built environment. So take those first steps, do your research and if it's what you really want, it's a leap of faith that might just be worth it.
Melani King, Heron Partnership