09 October 2019

I am sure we have all been at a social event and asked ‘what do you do?’. My response of ‘I am a Chartered Surveyor’ is regularly greeted by ‘Oh’ followed by a blank stare and instant regret that they asked. 

When I expand and say that I sell and let commercial property, mostly offices, there is a look of relief and in most cases a follow on regarding the latest press announcement of a new build scheme.

I wouldn’t say I always wanted to be a surveyor, but I always had an interest in property. Like many people there was a family influence with my father running his own Quantity Surveying Practice. Often what was presented as a trip to the north coast on a Sunday was often a site inspection in disguise, much to my mums despair!

The traditional career path to surveying in Northern Ireland has typically been A-levels followed by an RICS accredited degree course at Ulster University. Like many I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do, but thankfully I steered away from a more general business degree. I always had a general interest in property and combined with my A-level choices of Business Studies, IT and Geography, the then titled Property Investment & Development degree course at Jordanstown at least seemed interesting. It was a 4 year course with the 3rd year being a placement in commercial practice, which I completed at Osborne King and was fortunate enough to be offered a full time position once I had completed my degree.

Since I started my surveying career some 12 years ago, the wider employment opportunities in Northern Ireland have changed massively. Many of my peers having graduated in 2007 walked straight into the financial downturn and as a result headed to London, Dubai etc for job opportunities that simply didn’t exist here. With NI having now become an established location for the Tech Sector and many global brands setting up office functions here, it’s fantastic that university graduates have the opportunity of world class employers such as All State, First Derivatives and Kainos on their doorstep.

That in turn brings challenges for surveying in terms of attracting talented people to the profession and ensuring that local firms can recruit effectively. University of Ulster is still the most typical route for graduates into commercial property with the ‘Real Estate’ degree attracting in the region of 25 students each year at present. The University staff work hard to retain good links with commercial practice and the changing needs of employers. 

It is now also more common for students to start out at Belfast Met completing a 2 year foundation degree which allows them to progress into the 2nd year of the various built environment courses on offer at the University of Ulster. Additionally the University now offers a Masters Degree which allows those holding a degree in another subject to change career paths and work toward becoming a chartered surveyor on completion of the course. Osborne King have already recruited from both of these avenues in 2019.

Generally I think commercial property suits people who are relatively practical and good people skills are important. All of the typical pathways have an element of practical working experience within the course. In my opinion there is no better way to work out if you actually like what the job entails, but also it gives you direct contact with employers from the outset. 

I enjoy the fact that each property is different, so while my day to day work can be similar, it’s never the same. Working in commercial property you are exposed to a wide range of industries, businesses and projects which keeps things I
nteresting.  Personally, it’s great to have first-hand involvement with expanding office sector and the growing number of occupiers in NI. 

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