oanne Knightley is combining work and study with a distance learning BSc in quantity surveying. Here she tells us how she gets it to add up …

Why did you choose to do this course?

I wanted a correspondence course because I work full time; at the moment I’m working for Natta Building Company as a quantity surveyor. Also, I have a young daughter at home so I prefer to fit the work into weekends, holidays and evenings when I have free time. That’s the greatest advantage of it, really: I was able to gain a qualification that will allow me ultimately to become a chartered quantity surveyor, but without having to take time off work.

I chose the College of Estate Management’s course because I wanted a degree that was RICS-accredited so that I could be accepted as a trainee on the RICS CPD programme which results in membership of the institute. So I looked on the RICS website for accredited courses and that’s where I found the CEM.

How does it work?

The course consists of 16 modules that are completed in stages. You can do as little as two modules a year but most people do four, in order to finish the course in four years. The course starts in November and the college sends out a schedule, study materials and text books. Each module has two assignments that are completed through the year and in September there’s an exam in each – you go to an examination centre, but they set them up all over the place; they even organise sites in other countries for overseas students. I didn’t go to study groups because a large proportion of the other candidates live and work outside of the UK, but I did meet other students at college tutorials, and many of us email each other regularly. Actually, that’s the only disadvantage of distance learning: there is less networking and you lose out on the social aspects of joint learning, although the course does include, every year, two one-day sessions and one three-day session on site.

How much of your time does it take up?

I try to do a few hours of reading from the text books every week, it can be quite difficult after work and I find it hard get time to sit down for long periods, so a short while as often as possible suits me better. In the run up to an assignment and exams I set aside a few hours a night.

What qualifications did you need to get on to the course?

The college asks for 230 UCAS points but if you don’t have these, it will assess you on your other training, experience and qualifications. Some previous qualifications mean you are exempt from modules of the course. I was exempt from five because I had a briefcase full of professional qualifications and 10 years of experience in industry (I started my career in civil engineering and after 10 years I became an estimator). Apart from formal qualifications, I think it’s important to have self motivation and a drive to succeed.

What’s the best thing about the course?

The learning. At work, we all tend to be pigeonholed and it can be difficult to see outside the box. Studying on an external training course that is based on the entire construction industry introduced me to many concepts and ideas that I had not considered relevant to my current job, but was nonetheless important to know in order to progress my career.

… and the worst thing?

The hardest part was keeping consistently motivated, especially when things are busy at work or at home. There’s nobody there to remind you to study and hand in homework, and it’d be very easy to let things drift. Having said that, I sat my finals in September and feel totally at a loss now with nothing to keep my mind occupied in the evenings. So I have decided to do another correspondence course, this time in web design. I’d recommend it to anyone.

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