Quantity Surveyors: Career Progression - Pt.1

Written by: Oyster Partnership
Published on: 21 Jul 2015

This post will tackle the first half of the climb - Assistant, Intermediate and Project QS level.

Assistant QS

At Assistant QS level, it may sound obvious but the most important thing you can do to ensure your career gets off to a bang is begin your RICS diary ASAP, and target the earliest opportunity to sit your APC - just get it done!

Whilst getting your letters is not the be all and end all, getting chartered quickly will save you from sitting through the same salary review for the first five years of your career.

If you’d like to increase your value in the long run then it all starts with broadening your skill-set. I’d be thinking along the lines of:

- Have I covered at least 2 sectors during my first two 2 years?
- Have I done refurbs and new build?
- Have I worked on large projects as part of a team AND delivered smaller scale projects on my own?

The more variety you take on - the richer your skill-set will be. The quicker you can work out what you enjoy, the more chance you have of ensuring your current role is aligned to helping you achieve your future career aspirations.

When it comes to increasing your value in the short term, my advice is simple: be the assistant all the seniors want to work with.

Hit your deadlines, deliver on your promises, take responsibility, bring energy, use your initiative, start building your network, suss out who’s who and don’t be afraid to ask stupid questions in order to save yourself making stupid mistakes – earn the respect of your colleagues.

Intermediate QS

I classify an Intermediate QS as someone who has surpassed the title of Assistant QS, but for one reason or another is yet to become chartered.

Typically, Intermediate QS’ come from a wide variety of backgrounds, meaning that they are able to bring a different skill-set and perspective to the rest of the team, including but not limited to;
- QS’s from small, family-run practices
Understanding of traditional measuring methods & the ins and outs of running a business
- Contractors QS’s
Tend to bring a different kind of commercial nous... and they know all the tricks!
- QS’s from a Civil Engineering or an Architectural background
Structural performance & design gurus
- QS’s from a specialist background; Assisting in Claims & Arbitration, Subbies, MEP, Management Consultancy, Fit-out, etc.
Costings, time scales, application processes, specs, legal proceedings, specialist contacts, etc.
- PQS’s pigeon holed or caught in the churn at one of the big boys
Often the very definition of a rough diamond

This means that whilst an Intermediate QS is unlikely to have all the answers when it comes to delivering the full project life-cycle, their wider knowledge of construction will enable them to fill in the gaps and pick things up twice as fast.

When it comes to salary, Intermediate QS’s may need to take a short-term hit in order to join a practice that will take the time to help them address their weaker areas and enable them to reach the next level. That said, if you are able find a role which plays to your strengths AND allows you to become more rounded then your salary might move in the right direction from day one.

Ultimately, career progression from Intermediate QS level depends upon your ability to deliver projects from start to finish. The sooner you’ve got all the core skills in your repertoire, the sooner you can be considered a real asset to the team.

Project QS

Simply put, this is where reputations are built. Forget about the name of your employer or the logo on your business cards - this is all about YOU... In the long run, your name and reputation in the market could be the difference between reaching the very top of the ladder or falling short.

Establishing yourself at Project QS level is all about taking complete responsibility, your technical ability will ultimately be judged on three things - quality of build, timescales and the bottom line. It’s time to stick your neck out, deliver to the best of your ability and be prepared to stand up to the scrutiny!

That said, whilst building your reputation and getting yourself on first-name basis with clients is a good start, the best paid Project QS’s are the ones with an ability to save their bosses headaches and generate fees. If you can foresee obstacles, manage expectations and keep the ship steady, clients will keep coming back and you can consider yourself in the good books! Provided the company ethos is to reward good work with bonuses, salary reviews and further career progression your efforts will be recognised.  

Looking ahead to your next promotion, the good news is that progressing from Project QS to Senior QS is the easiest step you’ll take. With the demand for Senior QS’s already outstripping supply, the line between Project QS and Senior QS has never been so blurred.

The average length of time QS’s are spending at Project QS level is becoming shorter and shorter – typically no more than 2 years. To ensure you are the first in line for promotion:

- Establish yourself as the client’s go-to point of contact
- Ensure you are available to help out the juniors when required... you don't need a Senior title be a leader  
- Deliver high-quality projects on time and within budget... Whenever possible!

Jake Major, Oyster Partnership