How you can change the world

From building office blocks to restoring historic sites, it's all in a day's work for a chartered surveyor, says Gareth Rubin

Chartered surveyors shape our world. They influence everything around us, from the places we live and work, to the places we travel to and visit. Surveyors, in their broadest sense, concern themselves with the value of all the physical assets of the world - and can become involved in just about everything, from major construction projects to protecting the environment or valuing works of art.

Chartered surveyors shape our world. They influence everything around us, from the places we live and work, to the places we travel to and visit. Surveyors, in their broadest sense, concern themselves with the value of all the physical assets of the world - and can become involved in just about everything, from major construction projects to protecting the environment or valuing works of art.

As with medicine and law, it is possible for a surveyor to specialise in one or more fields. Surveyors advise owners of property - including shops, hospitals and public buildings - on all aspects of their investment. They monitor the environment, managing the effects that land use and property have upon it. They become involved in the construction industry, which uses chartered surveyors to manage projects. The residential-homes market relies heavily on chartered surveyors for assessing valuations. And then there's land surveying, which includes digital mapping, farm-business management, valuation of minerals and forestry.

Unlike many professions, becoming a chartered surveyor means that you won't have to spend your life behind a desk. When involved in construction - of office blocks, for example - surveyors are often responsible for co-ordinating entire projects, which may mean managing other professionals, such as architects and builders, who are involved in the project lower down.

All qualified surveyors in the UK need to complete a Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) accredited degree course, a qualification that is recognised all over the world. It is also possible to gain this qualification by doing a postgraduate conversion degree. This is popular with students who have taken degrees in associated subjects such as geography.

You will usually need three A-levels or four Scottish Highers to read a degree course in a surveying discipline, although the grades required will vary from university to university. If you don't have A-levels or Highers, but have GCSEs or an advanced NVQ, you can progress to a HND or HNC related to a surveying discipline. These qualifications may then provide you with an advanced entry to an RICS-accredited degree or diploma course. After this, you will need to become employed as a graduate surveyor in order to gain your practice qualifications. Once fully qualified, surveyors can expect to earn between £30,000 and £35,000.

And after qualification, the number of places you might end up is limitless. Surveyors often deal with the after-effects of destruction and have recently been involved in the reconstruction of the ancient stone Buddhas destroyed by the Taliban in Afghanistan. More exotically still, a team of surveyors has been assessing the recently discovered site of Kampyr-Tepe in south Uzbekistan, a city founded 2,000 years ago by Alexander the Great's armies and occupied for 500 years. Now that the ruins are being properly explored, the surveyors have so far uncovered 35kg of gold jewellery - and the oldest known chess pieces in the world.

Twenty-four-year-old chartered surveyor Stuart Humphreys, of Monk Dunstone Associates, recently returned from Bermuda, where he was assessing the damage caused in September by Hurricane Fabian.

"On the drive into Hamilton the devastation was clear," he says. "The greenery was stripped all around and the trees had all fallen. The causeway linking St George's Island to the main island had been swept away. It was the task of our team, working on behalf of a loss-adjustment company, to survey the damage to three large hotels and to clarify what was caused by the hurricane."

The worst destruction was caused by salt water that had poured in during the hurricane through the holes in the roofs, and worked its way through the buildings. All the survey information had to be recorded, the damage quantified and reports produced. From these reports, the cost for repair could be ascertained.

The work done by Humphreys' team had to be accurate and fast. "Holiday season in Bermuda starts in April, and the economy of the island is so dependent on tourism that it was critical that repair works were finished before then. My part in the team was a key link in achieving this goal and ensuring a satisfactory settlement.

"Despite the long hours and the damp working conditions, an experience like this cannot be missed; I enjoyed every minute of it. Working abroad can only broaden your horizons and add to your life experiences. Surveyors are involved in projects like this every year, all over the world."

RICS: 0870-333 1600; e-mail contactrics@rics.org; www.rics.org/careers

education@independent.co.uk

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