Let’s talk Quantity Surveying: Where numbers meet construction

1st April 2024

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Soben Quantity Surveyor, Rachel Cunningham, discusses the role, progression and qualifications of a quantity surveyor and what it takes to become a seasoned professional. So, let’s take it back to basics and discuss the role, where numbers meet construction. 


Rachel joined Soben in October 2023 as a Cost Manager, with a background in Spanish and Sociology, she went on to complete her master’s degree in quantity surveying. Rachel now has 7 years post-graduate experience and is an elected Member of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, gained in December 2023. Hardworking, detail focused and dedicated, Rachel ensures all tasks are delivered to the highest standards and is an asset to the Soben team.  


What is a Quantity Surveyor?  

In a nutshell, a Quantity Surveyor (QS) deals with the costings of any construction project. The role can vary depending on if you work for a contractor or if you work for consultancy as a PQS (Professional Quantity Surveyor) like I do at Soben. 

A contractor QS works on behalf of the contractor and is normally on-site during the project. Whereas a consultancy QS works for the client and is more involved with the cost, working with the various stakeholders to produce tender documents for the project. They won’t be based on site, which means they visit only a handful of times.  

In my role I advise clients from the initial design stage, working out the budget for the job and then distributing it out for tender to contractors. My main responsibilities are in line with the consultancy QS, so I liaise with architects, engineers, local authorities and more. 


How do you become a Quantity Surveyor? 

To work as QS, you normally need a degree in quantity surveying or commercial management accredited by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).  

RICS is a global professional body that enforces the highest qualifications and standards in construction and other areas. The qualification is a global benchmark and recognised by many clients and governments around the world.  

With an undergraduate degree in a different subject, you can take a RICS-accredited postgraduate conversion course. The postgraduate course takes one year to complete if done full-time and around two years if done part-time. Some employers also take on graduates as ‘non-cognates’ (this is when people have a degree which isn’t RICS accredited) and support them through the accredited postgraduate course.  

You can also take a RICS accredited degree apprenticeship (Undergraduate, PGDip or Masters) in Quantity Surveying and Project Management, which combine work with part-time study at a university. Associate Director David Lymburn did a similar thing with Soben.  

For me personally, I originally qualified with a degree in Spanish and Sociology from the University of Glasgow in 2014 and not long after graduating I began work at a Spanish Engineering company based in Glasgow. I sat across from the QS team and I was extremely curious to learn what the role involved. After my contract finished there, I moved into a few other roles but working as QS was always in the back of my mind. 


What is the career progression of a Quantity Surveyor? 

It depends on the set-up of the Consultancy but typically it’s – trainee, graduate, QS, Senior QS, Associate QS, Partner/Director.  

In 2017, I studied for my MSc in Quantity Surveying at Glasgow Caledonian University, where I was also offered a role at a small PQS practice which allowed me to gain valuable work experience whilst I was studying. I graduated a year later in 2018 with Merit, and I’ve since then also obtained my MRICS in 2023.  


Tell us about your experience as a Quantity Surveyor to date.  

I like the variety of work I do as a Quantity Surveyor; no day is the same. In my 6 months at Soben I have been able to work on numerous projects, but the £10bn Transmission Project, stands out the most. Being a part of this, will help to meet the UK and Scottish Government’s 2030 renewable energy and climate change targets. Since becoming a Chartered QS I have been given many opportunities to represent Soben, as well as take on tasks which require a higher level of responsibility and construction knowledge. I’m really enjoying where my career is going.  


Interested in pursuing a career in Quantity Surveying? The Soben Academy is our industry-leading programme designed to support and develop the next generation of industry talent. Check out our graduate opportunities at www.sobencc.com/careers

Rachel Cunningham  

Quantity Surveyor 

[email protected]  

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