A career in property presents graduates with the opportunity to be involved in a sector that encompasses finance, investment, planning, management, development, regeneration, sales and consultancy. It is a sector in which variety is further enhanced by the diversity of the property market: commercial, residential, rural etc. Opportunities for graduates exist with large property and surveying consultancies but also other property owning organisations including retailers, bankc, local authorities, hospitals and central government. A recognised postgraduate qualification is usually necessary to work in the property sector.
The following occupational profiles come from AGCAS and provide an idea of the type of work available in this area. They have been written and researched by staff working within careers services across the country. They contain a lot of useful information that will help you with your initial research. These are just a sample, you can look for more on the Prospects website.
|Historic buildings inspector/Conservation officer|
|Rural Practice Surveyor|
The property sector can be a challenging area in which to pursue a career. This is partly because of the prevailing economic climate but also the technical requirements of the industry: many of the available career paths necessitate specific qualifications and training. Graduate training schemes are available but competition is very high; demonstrating commitment and focus via relevant work experience is critical. When considering work experience opportunities it is useful to research the types of employers in the property sector that recruit graduates. Work experience opportunities exist with property consultancies and real estate agencies. Organisations of this type play a key role in every aspect of the commercial and residential property industry: buying and selling, investment and management, valuation, rating and planning and development. Opportunities also exist with large property owning companies in sectors such as retail, banking, energy, transport and leisure. Barclays, Network Rail and Tesco are examples of companies outside of the property sector that are major property investors. The public sector is a further source of experience in that housing associations, local authorities and central departments, including the Valuation Office Agency, are responsible for the management of swathes of property in the form of houses and offices. Universities and hospitals are also significant property owners. In the heritage sector, both English Heritage and the National Trust manage a large number of historic buildings and estates.
It is important to consider what interests you about the property sector as this may help you to explore alternative work experience options. For example, someone with a strong interest in selling property would benefit from any sales based experience. Similarly, if you have a particular interest in social housing a period of volunteering with a homeless charity would be beneficial. Those interested in the property sector as an investment tool should consider alternative work experience in the financial services sector, particularly investment management companies.
Researching work experience opportunities
Typically, formal internships are aimed primarily at students in their penultimate year; closing dates can be as early as December and January! The internships last 8-12 weeks; they are usually salaried and involve structured, project based work. Opportunities are advertised via our vacancy service, which is available through the Careers Centre website, but also through the main graduate careers websites such as Prospects, Target Jobs and Milkround.
The Target Jobs website provides employer profiles detailing internship and work experience opportunities in the property sector. As the property sector is inextricably linked to surveying, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) is a useful source of information. The RICS recruit website contains details of surveying work experience placements; you can also use the website to research companies in different fields of surveying. There is a more comprehensive database of organisations on the ‘Find a Surveyor’ website. Some internship opportunities will be available only to students undertaking an accredited degree but not always; Knight Frank is an example of a company that will accept non-cognate work experience applicants, typically for 2 week placements within sales or lettings. DTZ will also consider internship applications from non-cognate students; specific reference is made to relevant disciplines including Geography and Finance. BNP Paribas is best known as a finance company but it also has a real estate business which provides 4 week summer placements. If an internship is not forthcoming, approach companies in respect of work shadowing or smaller scale work experience opportunities. Gerald Eve is one example of a medium sized property consultancy that will consider speculative work experience applications. Even taking the initiative and arranging to speak with surveyors can potentially make a difference to your effectiveness at application and interview stage.
The Chartered Surveyors Training Trust is an organisation that supports young people (16 – 24) into a career in surveying. The opportunities that they provide are particularly appropriate to those that have not progressed into higher education but do represent a further option for non-cognate graduates to gain relevant training and experience.
Estate Agents present further opportunities for work experience in the property sector. Large property consultancies will offer a residential service, alongside other areas such as commercial and rural, but there are a large number of small to medium sized practices that may accommodate individuals. This could be in the form of work experience but temporary employment is not completely out of the question either. The National Association of Estate Agents website is a useful resource with which to identify companies in your proximity.
Structured internships are less common in the public sector but that does not mean work experience is unavailable. Approaching organisations on a speculative basis may yield positive results. Housingnet is an excellent online resource that you can use to research housing associations. The Directgov website contains a useful directory of public bodies at local and national level. If you have a specific interest in historic properties and building conservation it is worth contacting planning departments of local authorities as well as charities such as the Victorian Society and the Georgian Group that are dedicated to preserving buildings. The National Trust does offer internships but opportunities linked to building conservation or property management will not always be available. The Institute of Historic Building Conservation posts a list of volunteer opportunities on its website.
Opportunities in the property sector are linked very closely to the health of the economy and the state of the property market. Both are cyclical and at present the market, particularly in respect of residential and commercial property, is at a low ebb as a result of the current economic climate. The current standpoint from RICS is that the sector is starting to recover and graduate recruitment has increased since March 2009 although companies remain cautious. Although graduate recruitment is increasing many companies are making appointments on an ad-hoc basis only; consequently it is important to approach companies speculatively in addition to the more traditional methods of job search.
The two main sectors are:
Private practice - surveying firms (private practice quantity surveyors), specialist property consultancies, house building companies, property developers, estate agents, building and civil engineering consultants, retailers, banks, insurance institutions and utilities.
Public practice - local authorities, government departments and agencies, the Valuation Office Agency (VOA), universities, housing associations and hospital trusts.
In private practice graduate training schemes are available. Firms tend to have closing dates between November and January of your final year. Make sure you visit the RICS website for details on this and support with job seeking. The directories provided by Prospects and Target Jobs (available in the Careers Centre and online) detail graduate employers within property management and surveying. It is essential to research graduate schemes before applying as entry requirements do vary. Not all organizations will recruit non-cognate students i.e. those that have not studied a recognised surveying/property degree.
Examples of non-cognate graduate schemes:
- Capita Symonds
- Cushman & Wakefield LLP
- Jones Lang LaSalle
- Knight Frank LLP
- Rider Levett Bucknall
In the public sector the Valuation Agency Office (VOA) runs a 3 year graduate surveyor training programme. The VOA provides a comprehensive land and property valuation service to central and local government. To be eligible for the graduate scheme you must hold, or be working towards, a RICS–accredited Estate Management, Surveying or Valuation degree.
In the housing sector there are a small number of housing associations that offer graduate schemes. Career opportunities will vary between schemes but are likely to involve property management and the commercial/operational aspects of social housing.
Historically the Homes and Communities Agency has offered an interesting graduate scheme linked to regeneration and community development. This is currently not available but other opportunities are advertised on the Agency’s website. Refer to LG Jobs for public sector opportunities more generally In respect of property management and housing.
Job vacancies and recruitment agencies
Specialist recruitment consultancies, such as Macdonald and Company, occasionally have vacancies for trainee property surveyors. Refer to the Recruitment Employment Confederation website for details of appropriate organizations. If you are unable to secure a trainee graduate position, or a place on an accredited postgraduate course, consider other career roles in the sector as a means of developing your experience in the shorter term. For example, if you’re focus is commercial or residential property surveying work, some initial employment with an estate agency is a good way to develop your understanding of the market, network with property professionals (including surveyors) and enhance your commercial skills. Trainee sales and negotiator positions are advertised via dedicated job sites including Estate Agency Professionals and The Negotiator. Savills is an example of a larger property company that also offer opportunities for graduates to work as Residential Trainees within their estate agency offices. Vacancies for Residential Trainees are advertised individually on Savills’ careers website.
Useful job vacancy websites
There are many general and specific job search resources in respect of the property sector; below are a number of key resources with which to begin your job search:
|RICS Recruit|| |
|Hot Recruit Surveying|| |
|Property Week|| |
|Property Jobs|| |
|Property Jobs Direct|| |
To pursue a career in the property sector it is very likely that you will have to undertake some form of postgraduate training but this will be determined very much by your career interests. Estate agency is one area that does not require further study; this also applies to housing officer roles within housing associations and local authorities. In contrast, postgraduate study is essential to surveying roles concerning the commercial and technical aspects of the property sector. In respect of property management, postgraduate study can be useful and in some areas, historic properties for example, a necessity.
Irrespective of whether you are interested in property from the perspective of sales, management, valuation, investment or regeneration, Durham graduates will generally need to go on to study a postgraduate conversion course, accredited by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), before entering the profession. Usually any degree subject is acceptable in respect of quantity surveying, and closely related areas such as urban and planning surveying, although it is important to check specific entry requirements with individual institutions. You will need to apply for postgraduate study in your final year of undergraduate study. It is important to make enquiries about entry requirements (including work experience), course content and funding as early as possible. When researching postgraduate courses it is important to ensure that the content reflects your professional interest in the property sector. The remit of a commercial investment property surveyor will be considerably different to that of a building surveyor or rural practice surveyor for example. Some courses are very broad based e.g. real estate management and quantity surveying, whereas others are much more specialised e.g. rural estate and land management, regeneration, commercial property, facilities management, valuation etc. A comprehensive list of accredited postgraduate courses is available on the RICS website. The College of Estate Management offers a selection of RICS accredited distance learning courses.
Students working towards a RICS accredited undergraduate or postgraduate qualification in surveying are required to undertake a further 24 months of competence based assessment in the work place. This is known as the APC (Assessment of Professional Competence) and is the basis for achieving chartered surveyor status. Some of the larger property firms will consider taking applicants from a non recognised RICS degree (non-cognates), allowing further study to take place over 2 years, either part-time or distance learning, in respect of the professional qualification. If the non-cognate route appeals it is important to find out what financial and study support potential employers will offer.
Surveying courses are not the only option for those considering careers in property management. The British Institute of Facilities Management accredits a number of postgraduate courses in the broader field of facilities management. This area of work can encompasses the management of buildings and estates but also extends to the management of processes and services e.g. cleaning, catering, health and safety, utilities etc.
In respect of the management and conservation of historic buildings, the Institute of Historic Building Conservation provides a list of accredited courses on its website.
Professional bodies (also known as associations, organizations or societies) are non-profit organizations concerned with developing, and supporting, a particular profession. They represent a valuable resource for anyone considering entering a particular profession as they will provide information on employment and training opportunities. Professional bodies will often accredit relevant professional and postgraduate courses; they can also provide a range of other services linked to job and training vacancies, network events, conferences and careers information.
In the property sector the main representative body is the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors. This body is an excellent source of property and surveying related news and events; it also actively engages in professional development and learning related to the industry. Another facet of the organisation is RICS Student which is a career resource dedicated to the surveying profession. Other relevant professional organisations include:
- National Federation of Property Professionals
- Institute of Residential Property Management
- National Association of Estate Agents
Asset Skills is not a professional body but does represent employers in a number of sectors, including surveying, with a particular focus on addressing skills shortages.