What is the role of a quantity surveyor? (Plus skills)

Updated 31 March 2023

In construction, the cost of materials and labour for a project can help determine whether it's a viable option for a company. A quantity surveyor assists construction companies by estimating these costs and providing guidance on how to maintain a project's budget so it remains profitable. Understanding what these surveyors do and what skills they need can help you determine if this is the right career path for you. In this article, we define the role of a quantity surveyor, explore their primary duties and discuss their skills, education and work environment.

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What is a quantity surveyor?

A quantity surveyor is responsible for estimating costs and maintaining a budget for a construction company. They ensure a project doesn't exceed its set budget by communicating with the organisation's clients, construction workers and accounting department. They often visit a construction site to determine a project's progress and that it's within budget, and they complete much of their work on computers.

Related: How to become a construction management professional

What is the role of a quantity surveyor?

The role of a quantity surveyor includes the following primary duties:

  • Cost estimation: a quantity surveyor is responsible for accurately estimating the costs of a construction project. This involves analysing the project requirements, including materials, labour and equipment, and calculating the associated costs.

  • Budget management: these professionals manage a project's financial performance effectively, tracking costs and expenses and making adjustments to meet changing financial needs.

  • Procurement: quantity surveyors manage the procurement process for a project. This involves identifying the necessary materials and services, selecting suppliers, negotiating contracts and ensuring the project has the appropriate resources at the best possible prices.

  • Risk management: surveyors also assess the risks associated with a project. They analyse potential risks, develop risk management plans and implement risk mitigation strategies to minimise the impact of risks on the project.

  • Contract management: a quantity surveyor is responsible for managing contracts related to the project. This involves drafting contracts, negotiating terms and ensuring all parties adhere to the contract terms.

  • Project management: surveyors typically manage all financial aspects of a project. This comprises planning, organising and controlling resources to achieve the project's goals while keeping it within its timeline and limitations and coordinating with other departments or teams.

  • Quality control: to ensure a project meets standards, quantity surveyors monitor the quality of materials and workmanship, identify areas for improvement and implement corrective actions as necessary.

  • Dispute resolution: quantity surveyors serve as mediators for disputes related to a project. They help identify the root causes, propose solutions and facilitate negotiations between parties.

  • Cost coordination: since surveyors manage the financial aspects of a project, they coordinate with other departments and team members to better understand all the expected costs. This includes hosting meetings, asking questions and providing updates as changes occur.

Related: Guide to high paid jobs without a degree (With salaries)

Quantity surveyor skills

Quantity surveyors use various skills at work to perform their primary duties. Here are some examples:

  • Construction knowledge: surveyors are responsible for accurately estimating construction project costs. This requires a good understanding of construction methods, materials and technologies.

  • Analytical skills: these professionals analyse complex financial data and make informed decisions based on their analysis. They use their strong analytical skills to interpret financial information and provide accurate cost estimates and budgets.

  • Attention to detail: quantity surveyors can identify errors and inconsistencies in financial data. They are meticulous in their work, keeping all financial information accurate and up to date to ensure the viability and affordability of a project.

  • Adaptability: these professionals are often incredibly adaptable because they work in a constantly changing environment. This means they can respond quickly to changes in a project's scope or financial resources and adjust their strategies accordingly.

  • Communication: quantity surveyors can communicate effectively with everyone involved in a construction project, including contractors, clients and project managers. They typically have strong written and verbal communication skills to ensure all parties understand a project's financial aspects.

  • Documentation and contract drafting: these individuals have strong documentation skills and can write contracts. They understand the drafting and negotiation processes that accompany construction contracts and how to properly store, share and submit documentation.

  • Risk management: a quantity surveyor can identify and manage risks associated with a construction project, which means they can plan accordingly for their clients.

  • Financial management: financial management skills enable quantity surveyors to create and manage a project's budget. They control its financial performance, ensure the project stays within its financial parameters and make adjustments as necessary.

Related: Key quantity surveyor skills (With definition and tips)

Work environment

A quantity surveyor's work environment can vary depending on the type of project. They may work in an office environment, estimating costs, managing budgets and communicating with clients. They can also spend time on construction sites, monitoring project progress and ensuring contractors stay within the project budget and specifications. These professionals may work independently or as part of a team, and they can work long hours to meet project deadlines. The environment can sometimes be fast-paced and dynamic, with requirements changing suddenly.

Related: What is construction procurement and why is it important?

Quantity surveyor qualifications

To become a quantity surveyor, you typically need a degree in quantity surveying or a related field, such as construction management or civil engineering. Many employers also require a postgraduate degree in quantity surveying or a related field. In addition to formal education, quantity surveyors usually have a skill set that includes a combination of technical attributes, such as mathematical and analytical skills, and soft skills, such as good communication and time management. Computer proficiency also helps them with cost estimating, project management and financial analysis. Experience in construction or financial management roles may also help you find employment.

Professional qualifications, the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI) and other bodies

Professional qualifications are also important for quantity surveyors. SCSI is the main professional body for quantity surveyors in Ireland. To become a chartered quantity surveyor, you can must choose a sector pathway related to your surveying experience. The application process helps you to determine your route. The Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) is completed with or without structured training depending you your experience route.

In addition to SCSI, other professional bodies that offer qualifications for quantity surveyors include the Dublin Institute of Technology, and the Cork Institute of Technology. These institutions offer a range of qualifications and training courses that can help quantity surveyors develop their skills and advance their careers.

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

Related: How to write a builder CV (With tips, template and example)

Quantity surveyor FAQS

Here are some answers to FAQs about the role of a quantity surveyor:

Is a degree a hard requirement for becoming a quantity surveyor?

Typically, a degree is a hard requirement for employment as a quantity surveyor. To obtain a licence through SCSI, you need different experience or certification depending on which route you pick. While certification through SCSI isn't always necessary, it not only legitimises your status as a quantity surveyor but may also look better on a CV and help you appear a better candidate to potential employers.

Related: What are contractor roles and responsibilities? With skills

Why are quantity surveyors so essential to construction projects?

Quantity surveyors are essential because they serve a critical role in managing project costs, minimising risks and ensuring completion within the financial requirements. They also manage the procurement process, contract negotiations and quality control, which enable a project to meet the necessary quality standards. Their expertise in financial management and risk assessment helps to minimise all forms of risk for the company performing the work and ensure customer satisfaction.

What industries look for quantity surveyors?

Quantity surveyors can work in various industries, including construction, engineering, infrastructure and real estate. In the construction industry, they often work with contractors, developers and subcontractors to manage the financial aspects of construction projects. In the engineering and infrastructure sectors, they work on projects related to transportation, water and waste management and energy generation. Estate agents employ quantity surveyors to manage the costs of property development projects. Additionally, public sector organisations, such as government agencies, also recruit quantity surveyors to manage public infrastructure projects.

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