How do I get into construction surveying? Could I switch to occupational therapy?

Q. My son has graduated with a 2:2 in business and economics and wants to train as a surveyor in the construction industry. He has sent his CV to construction companies and applied online, with no success. We see from websites that companies are looking for candidates with a 2:1 or above. How can we surmount this problem? And when is the best time to apply?

A. A small number of the bigger companies will take those without a first degree in surveying and sponsor them through a "conversion" Masters course. But the numbers here are going to be small, the area is extremely competitive and, as you have found, those companies can take their pick of candidates.

If your son is very keen to work in this area he may just have to accept, having made a good number of attempts here, that he may not get sponsorship in this way and that he will have to fund the conversion course himself. Prices vary considerably, and he should be able to apply for a career development loan (CDL); the CDL helpline number is 0800 585 505.

Your son might also try to widen his job search to include construction consultancies. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) produces Target QS, which is specifically aimed at informing undergraduates and new graduates about job opportunities. It's available from the RICS contact centre on 0870 333 1600.

Companies don't stick so much to a rigid "milk round" of interviews at universities any more, and there is some flexibility in when your son can apply, particularly for a Masters. However, the best time is still going to be in the summer months. He should also look for some useful work experience to help him on his way.

A change to therapy

Q. Since graduating with a 2:1 English degree, I have worked as a publicist. I want to change to a job that feels more rewarding, and a friend suggested occupational therapy. I am now nearly 30. Would I be able to get a position in this field, and what is the best way to go about retraining?

A. There is a national shortage of occupational therapists - people who help to restore an individual back to health by encouraging independence - so job prospects are good, and you should be able to achieve your ambition easily at this age. Many people apply later. The patience and experience more mature students can bring to the job are only to be welcomed.

Both physical and psychiatric conditions are treated, and the emphasis is on practical activities to help people to cope with daily life. Those in the profession need to be able to think creatively, too, to be able to tailor treatment plans to each person. You have the choice of applying for a full-time three-year or part-time four-year course. There are accelerated postgraduate programmes, but for these you would normally need some experience of working in health or social care (and a first degree in a related field). You apply through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) for the full-time degree, or approach universities directly for the part-time or graduate entry programmes. All students accepted will have tuition fees paid and can apply for a means-tested NHS bursary. The College of Occupational Therapists website ( lists courses, offers advice and gives details of the relevant careers handbook.

Send your queries to Caroline Haydon at 'The Independent', Education Desk, Second Floor, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or e-mail to