Looking beyond a university degree: the vocational route into surveying.

Original Article
January 9th, 2024


Hilary Grayson is a Director at Sava focusing much of her time on the development of new qualifications to enhance skills in the housing sector. She joined Sava in 2003. In this article, Hilary discusses how Sava has democratised the surveying profession by offering an alternative route into surveying.

This year Sava is celebrating 40 years of supporting the residential property sector through education, technology and professional services. Of our many achievements, we’re particularly proud that our surveying diploma, the Diploma in Residential Surveying and Valuation, has disrupted the established route into the profession. Previously, an accredited degree used to be the only way in but we chose to launch a qualification which focused on the skills and competency required to do the job, and because of this we do not require the pre-requisites of A-levels or a degree.  

An alternative route into surveying with an inclusive approach  

Ours is an inclusive approach and we’re seeing many different people with diverse professional backgrounds decide to enrol. We like to think we’ve democratised the surveying profession by opening doors to some exceptional students who wouldn’t have otherwise had the opportunity. This year’s cohort are aged from 18 to 68 and among our alumni are hairdressers, teachers, police officers and army soldiers who have all switched careers for residential building surveying. Many are now running their own successful businesses. We believe that not having a degree or not having thrived at school does not indicate how successful someone can become within the surveying industry.  

Empowering people to make buildings better  

There are 29 million residential properties in the UK. Combined, their worth is valued at over £7.4 trillion. They are a national asset of the highest social and economic importance. At an individual level, the home provides security, shelter and belonging. And yet, we face many challenges with our housing, meaning we need competent surveyors who can care for and improve the nation’s housing stock. Energy efficiency and the impact on climate change, the affordability of keeping warm and providing a safe and hazard-free environment are just some of the issues we need to tackle. By increasing skills and knowledge, Sava is empowering people and organisations to make a positive impact towards making buildings better by giving them the skills and technology they need to adapt and thrive in a fast-changing world. Our learners graduate with an industry-recognised, level 6 qualification and understand in great detail how the vast majority of houses are constructed and what can go wrong.

Rewards and opportunities  

Rather than focusing on their previous qualifications, we ask potential learners whether they have the time available to set aside up to 20 hours a week to undertake the qualification. This is important alongside having the support and understanding of their family as well as the headspace to focus on what’s required. However, having a passion for property is the most important factor. Our learners (and also those who have already qualified) love looking around property and advising clients on their home’s best features, the points that need attention, its value, and the opportunities that exist to adapt it for future needs. It’s a career which is purposeful and rewarding which is clearly shown through our own statistics. 96% of Sava learners find employment in the first three months after graduating, while £61,000 is the average salary for a graduate after three years of employment. This comes alongside the very real possibility of being able to launch and run an independent business (should the graduate choose to) while reaping all the benefits that come with this as a result. 

We believe our alternative route into surveying and carefully designed learning structure empowers people to improve their prospects and change their career for the better. A previous student had been a hairdresser from age 15 and now runs her own successful residential building surveying business, while a former police detective was pleased to have the chance to retrain and move away from a profession which no longer suited him.

Many of our students have acquired transferable skills in their previous professions such as attention to detail and thinking two steps ahead. This is where our ex-Army students have excelled. Overall, I’ve seen first-hand how the diploma has created huge opportunities for people, which can ultimately change lives.

This article was originally published in FE News. Find out more about the Diploma in Residential Surveying and Valuation and becoming a residential building surveyor without the need for a degree.