Highlights from Building's Forum: 'Career advice needed… help!'

Sender: Timmerman

I am currently studying towards a degree in construction management or QS. The problem is I can’t pick which one to specialise in.

I am a time served carpenter and have been told that construction management would be the best route for me to take as my on-site experience would go in my favour when looking for a job.

Also are there any companies that look for people who are already doing courses to give them a job placement? I’m in central Scotland.

Reply: Richard Wearden

Job placement is a real problem, and your college is best placed to help with that. Make it clear to your college that you will work anywhere, as expecting a local job could be a block.

Scotland is currently a better location than most, and if even you could find a job in London you would be a lot worse off than in Scotland; since although London offer better pay rate there are much much higher living costs

You have two typical career paths with your practical skills:
1. Study construction management and work just about anywhere and for almost anyone, or
2. Study QS and work in a construction company, normally a specialist

Consider what skills and abilities you have, especially those which you are very good at or enjoy using.

Team working, accuracy, self organisation, technical and legal knowledge are required in both options.

Switching from QSing to project management is nearly impossible, but the reverse does happen on rare occasions

Switching from QSing to project management is nearly impossible, but the reverse does happen on rare occasions

The courses are equally demanding so you must consider what subjects you are strong and weak on, so make a pragmatic assessment of your ability to pass. You should consider that you might fail your study course, as failure rates are high at the better colleges.

Construction management
Construction management is demanding as a career and a hard, and much less nine to five option.

Planning and organising abilities and personnel handling skills are much more important. This area is much more suited to a ‘people’ oriented person and those willing to learn or take responsibility

Competent project managers are highly regarded, can have much more day to day variety, have higher job satisfaction, and normally are more highly rewarded. The career structure and ability to change employers/locations is more open with much wider options.

Quantity surveying
This is more bureaucratic as consistency and rule following is important, requires lots of writing and use of computers; but is normally less demanding unless you want a ‘career’ or are to be an estimator.

Good rapid handwriting, especially of numbers, is essential unless you are can do everything on a computer where you work.

Construction knowledge requirements for QSs are different to, but should be similarly high to, those of a project manager.

You will be making up what is missing from architects drawings, etc. before it gets to tender/site or looking to find potential costs/extra money when preparing/checking an estimate, final account or claim.

A QS’s knowledge of services installations needs to be good, unless you work for a specialist, as services now form a major project component.