FROM CAREER GUIDANCE TODAY: AN INDEPENDENT PUBLISHING MAGAZINE

Fact V Fiction: Surveying The Truth

AssetSkills presents a factual account of the realities of life working in the property sector

The recent television documentary highlighting some of the more unscrupulous professionals in the estate agency world has done little to improve public perception and confidence in an industry that was already - unfairly - regarded with some suspicion. But away from the spotlight, the majority of firms are run professionally, honestly and with integrity. Money is regularly invested in staff training and qualifications, and firms pride themselves on providing recruits with clear career progression.

Walking down any high street you will no doubt find a handful of agents offering sales and letting services, all competing for your custom. As you don't need to use an agent to sell your home or let your property, they have to compete not only on price but also their professionalism, customer care, knowledge and experience in dealing with property law. Seen by many as a profession that anyone can enter with few or no qualifications, this level of professionalism can only be achieved through hard work and a clear and structured training programme. Whilst some who become estate agents may have left school with no formal qualifications, there are many others who have come through a more traditional A-level route.

Despite popular myth, being an estate agent isn't about driving around in a fast car valuing properties and encouraging clients to gazump each other; rather, it's the opposite. The first few months will see time spent understanding the legal process of buying and selling homes as well as customer service practices, with courses often being undertaken in-house and on the job.

The majority of a new recruit's workload will involve taking instructions, booking valuers and dealing with the administrative side of the sales process to ensure that they gain a full understanding of the procedures involved, whilst working closely with the legal teams responsible for conveyance. Obviously viewing properties with potential customers also forms a large part of any estate agent's day, and the willingness to interact with the public and have good communication skills are vital to an agent's success.

There are a number of National and Scottish Vocational Qualifications that those new to the industry will be required to undertake as part of their induction into the role. This then culminates into a fully fledged qualification and membership of the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA). The NAEA ensures that certain codes of practice are adhered to and rules of conduct are met, safeguarding clients and their interests.

For those interested in property and the law surrounding it, a career in estate agency can be very rewarding and, with enough hard work, the financial rewards can be substantial.

Surveying is another career in the property sector to be considered. It can offer a wealth of opportunities and variety rarely seen within other industries. The popular perception that the surveying industry is made up of men who go around counting bricks or measuring buildings only goes a small way to telling part of the story.

Whilst it is true that the industry has traditionally been male dominated, more and more women are undertaking surveying degrees and qualifications, and securing high-level positions across the profession. Year on year the number of women entering the profession is steadily rising.

The opportunities available to a qualified surveyor are numerous. Obviously there is a demand for those who value properties and manage corporate leases, but these portfolios are far from being dull and can be worth millions of pounds, offering a variety of challenges. They are usually the lifeblood of an organisation and its success.

The planning, management, numeracy, communication and organisational skills required to be a surveyor means that those within the industry are perfectly equipped to undertake multi-million pound projects. These could include the design and layout of pop festivals, becoming involved in environmental issues, providing innovative solutions to housing shortages and responsibility for major projects such as Terminal 5 at Heathrow.

The traditional entry route has been through a relevant degree, followed by a professional qualification for membership to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). There are also a limited number of opportunities for entrants securing a surveying degree through on-the-job experience and support from the Chartered Surveyors Training Trust (CSST), again concluding in an RICS professional qualification.

Surveying graduates are among the highest paid with a purported £24,000 three years after graduation. This is another key selling point to those interested in a challenging, varied and sociable career and, as such, the higher they climb the greater the rewards.

FURTHER INFORMATION

* For further information on the various careers within the property sector log onto www.findyourway.co.uk

* For a list of over 700 job profiles and information on relevant courses in your area visit www.learndirect-advice.co.uk /featured/assetskillsintro/ or call 08000 567160

* Latest news and up-to-date information is available from the National Association of Estate Agents. Log on to their website at www.naea.co.uk

* Visit the Royal Institution for Chartered Surveyors at www.rics.org/careersandtraining/careersinsurveying

* The Chartered Surveyors Training Trust provides advanced apprenticeships in the main fields of surveying - building surveying, quantity surveying, general practice and facilities. Visit www.cstt.org.uk

* Asset Skills, at www.assetskills.org, is the Sector Skills Council for the property, housing, cleaning and facilities management industries

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