How to become a residential surveyor without a degree.

Original Article
May 23rd, 2024


Image shows a residential surveyor testing for damp.

Residential surveying (also known as residential building surveying) is a rewarding career where you can put your detective skills to work and uncover the risks and defects hiding in people’s homes. Historically, the only way to become a surveyor was to undertake a relevant degree at university, but what if university isn’t for you? What if you already have work or family commitments and cannot spare the time for a three-to-five-year qualification? How do you become a residential surveyor without a degree?

In the last 10 years, great inroads have been made to provide a more accessible route into the surveying profession, culminating in the introduction of the Diploma in Residential Surveying and Valuation, delivered by Sava. This vocational qualification is the only of its kind, offering part-time surveyor training over 24 months. Originally designed to help tackle a skills shortage in the industry, the diploma is now recognised and sought after by UK surveying firms and leads to Associate membership with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

What skills are required to become a residential surveyor? See a summary of each below.

Technical Skills

To succeed as a residential surveyor, you’ll need the technical skills and knowledge to undertake residential property inspections and decipher what it is you’re seeing. Are there signs of damp and condensation at the property? Can you follow the trail of evidence to identify its cause? To do this, you’ll be taught everything you need to know about residential construction, building pathology and property inspection skills.

Legal and Regulatory Knowledge

Law underpins the entire surveying profession. You might be asked to advise on boundary issues or easements, and will need good knowledge of Building Regulations as you’ll be expected to recognise when a property isn’t compliant. The Diploma in Residential Surveying and Valuation will explore how the law is made and introduce land law concepts such as restrictive covenants, contract law, negligence, and occupiers’ liability, as well as legal and regulatory compliance.

Communication and Interpersonal Skills

Surveying is as much about the people as it is about the technical survey itself. You’ll be communicating with homebuyers and homeowners by telephone, email and face-to-face, so you’ll need to be able to communicate effectively and relay your findings back in a way that your client can understand. As the expert, you may even need to persuade your client to commission a different kind of survey if the one they’re considering isn’t appropriate for their property type. Many independent surveyors and surveying firms generate leads based on recommendation, so it’s important to make a good impression and build your reputation as a skilled and approachable surveyor.

Mentorship and Shadowing Opportunities

It is recommended that you shadow a surveyor in your area to gain some experience in the field. Some will choose to do this before starting their training as a way to ensure the career is right for them. Some will find a mentor during their training for an opportunity to apply their new skills and knowledge. This is not essential but can help you to contextualise your learning. Many corporate firms also offer shadowing opportunities without any commitment to joining them after you qualify.

Joining Professional Bodies and Networking Events

Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
Whilst not mandatory to practise, the majority of surveyors choose to join RICS after completing their diploma, enabling them to offer RICS products such as RICS Home Surveys and become part of the RICS community. The AssocRICS (Associate RICS) designation after your name signifies to potential clients that you can be trusted to deliver high standards of service.

Chartered Association of Building Engineers (CABE)
Diploma graduates can also join CABE as an Associate member. This membership gives you access to a range of benefits, such as CPD training, conferences and journals, and the recognition of being a certified, competent professional.

Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA)
The RPSA is a representative body for independent residential surveyors who mostly provide condition surveys on behalf of homebuyers. The RPSA provides commercial and technical advice to its members, and also runs a surveying panel, providing work to its members through links it has with organisations who commission condition surveys.

Residential Surveying Expo
Networking during and after your surveyor training is a great way to meet and keep in touch with other surveying professionals and to keep abreast of new opportunities. Every year, Sava hosts a Residential Surveying Expo to bring together trainee surveyors, diploma graduates, surveying firms and other industry professionals for a day of learning and networking. Events like this enable you to develop your knowledge, learn from others and promote yourself, whether you’re looking for a new career opportunity or to make a name for yourself in the industry.

From seasoned builder to residential surveyor in 18 months

Ex-builder, Chris Nichol, enrolled on the Diploma in Residential Surveying and Valuation in February 2022 and, with hard work and self-discipline, achieved his qualification in just 18 months.

He said:

“Once my [AssocRICS] membership application went through, I knew my path would be to start my own practice, having been self-employed for so many years previously. In February 2024 the decision was made, Horizon Surveys Ltd was registered and the process of RICS Regulation started. There were a lot of hurdles, from insurance to software and CRMs, but a month or so later it’s all coming together. I have an office, work coming in, and am about to take on someone to manage my admin so I can concentrate on what I enjoy, the inspections themselves. Who knows what the future holds from here!

“I would recommend the Sava diploma as it’s an alternative, vocational route into a profession that’s historically unavailable to many people from a non-educational/non-traditional background.”

Read Chris’ full story.

From estate agency to nationwide surveying firm

Ex-estate agent, Natasha Palczuk, was looking for a new role in property that would provide some longevity to her career. University wasn’t an option due to existing commitments and the need to keep working, which is why she chose the Diploma in Residential Surveying and Valuation. Since qualifying as a surveyor, Natasha has landed an exciting role as an Operational Surveyor with a large corporate surveying firm.

She said:

“Now I’m qualified, I’m employed by national surveying firm, e.surv, where I’m involved in various different aspects of the company. I deal with everything from mortgage valuations and Level 2 property inspections to answering client queries and calls.

“It’s great that I can work from home as it offers a better balance to my day and more flexibility with how I utilise my time and manage my diary on a daily basis. What I love about this as an industry is once you’ve done the work, you’ve done the work, it’s not a traditional job where you’ve still got to sit there until 6pm to clock in your hours.”

“It’s been a game changer, it really has.”

Read Natasha’s full story.

If you’d like to experience the university lifestyle, the traditional degree route into the surveying profession could be for you and offers a broad understanding of the different types of surveying. However, for many, especially those considering a career change later in life, the university route isn’t feasible. The Diploma in Residential Surveying and Valuation enables you to become a surveyor without a degree with just 24 months of part-time training. Delivered through a mix of virtual, online and face-to-face learning, the diploma enables you to learn alongside your existing role and continue to earn.

To date, over 700 Sava graduates have completed the Diploma in Residential Surveying and Valuation to emerge with an industry-recognised qualification and a new, rewarding career in property surveying.