More of your careers problems solved by Robert Smith of recruitment consultant Hays Montrose. This month, QS career options and help for those in need
Q. I am a graduate surveyor and would like to know whether I should work as a project QS or for a contractor. What is the difference between the roles and what are the job prospects?
This is an important decision that will have implications for the rest of your career. As a contractor QS, you will generally be site-based, so you will need to consider the conditions you'll face on site, as well as the flexibility that will be required in terms of your location: you could have to do a lot of travelling or even relocate project by project.

A project QS will generally be office-based with regular working hours, and therefore be more comfortable, and you will make trips to site only when necessary. The difference between the two environments is reflected in salary levels: contractor QSs earn more than their project counterparts.

Working for a contractor is more hands-on. You'll be dealing with subcontractors, concentrating on building costs, working to tight margins and making sure the project runs to time. This will suit someone looking for an active role, who likes working with a variety of people and is adaptable to different work environments.

A project QS is seen as a cost consultant and responsible for keeping the costs of the building within budget. If you work for a consultant, you will be unlikely to reach the top of the career ladder without gaining chartered status.

A graduate surveyor working for a contractor can earn about £2000 more than a project QS and the staring salary will be about £20,000 in the South-east. The market is currently very buoyant and there is a massive demand for QSs in both fields.

The Lighthouse Club Benevolent Fund assists those who as a result of ill health or accident find themselves in hardship

However, it is worth remembering that a QS working for either side for more than five years might find it hard to make the crossover, although the traditional divide is fading and the transfer between the two is becoming easier. Increasingly, young surveyors are spending a couple of years with a consultant followed by a stint with a contractor. This would enable you to experience both sides of the fence, and puts you in an excellent position to progress in whichever field you choose.

Q. A colleague of mine was recently injured while working on a construction site and is now unable to work. Is there a body that can provide financial help?
Yes, there is a construction industry charity – the Lighthouse Club Benevolent Fund. This provides assistance to those working in the building industry who, as a result of ill health or accident, find themselves in hardship.

Last year almost £500,000 was given away and the charity's expenses only make up 5% of the money received in donations. This means that 95p in every pound goes out in aid and benevolence.

This charity also provides immediate assistance to the widow of an industry employee: help is usually given within 24 hours of notification. The Lighthouse Club Benevolent Fund had helped with cases including emergency subsistence, a care holiday scheme and financial contributions towards day-to-day living or special needs.