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Construction, civil engineering and quantity surveying: career FAQs

Graduate careers in construction, civil engineering and quantity surveying: getting a job, applications, working life and salaries.

How can I get a job in construction, civil engineering and quantity surveying?

Entry to the construction industry at graduate level is usually via a formal graduate training scheme. These are structured programmes covering both technical and management skills as well as help with getting professional qualifications.

The larger construction companies will often contact colleges, sometimes before Christmas, with a view to recruiting when students graduate in the summer. These companies will either give single presentations to groups of students or be grouped together on campus with their stands. Frequently at these recruitment events, work experience opportunities are available for students at all levels. So, regardless of what year you’re in, it’s important to have an up-to-date CV prepared. Often lecturers and tutors know of upcoming vacancies in construction companies.

While most construction companies contact colleges to recruit graduates, they also use newspaper advertising, word of mouth, industry-specific recruitment agencies and websites, as well as advertising on their own websites. Professional bodies within the construction industry also have news sections on their websites.

What’s involved in the application process?

Many construction companies contact colleges to recruit graduates. Most still prefer students to apply via a CV and covering letter. As graduate positions in the construction industry are likely to have some technical elements, be prepared for some questions about the content of your course. If you’ve completed a dissertation or final-year project, this could be where the technical questions arise.

When should I apply?

Many construction related companies recruit when vacancies arise. Some large companies offer graduate schemes with various closing dates. Check on individual company websites for their closing dates. Also keep an eye on your careers service notice boards for vacancies in the area.

Many companies, particularly smaller firms, welcome speculative applications.

What qualifications and skills do I need to work in construction, civil engineering and quantity surveying?

The skills you will need vary depending on the area you are working in, but there are some skills that most employers will look for. These include the ability to prioritise and meet multiple deadlines; a logical approach to work; strong spatial awareness; excellent communication, negotiation and influencing skills; and the ability to work effectively within a team environment and on your own initiative. Commercial awareness is increasingly important in this area.

What are the opportunities for professional development?

There are a number of professional bodies in the construction industry: the route you take will depend on which one is most appropriate for your qualification, skills and career goals. To become chartered, you need to complete third-level qualifications which are accredited by your chosen profession. You can get a full list of accredited courses on the website of the relevant institution. If you are not already a student member of a professional organisation, you should think about joining. It will not only look good on your CV but will also give you great opportunities to network with other students, graduates, employers and professionals.

Professional bodies in construction

The Chartered Institute of Building
The Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland
Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists
The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers
The Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors
Institution of Civil Engineers
The Institution of Structural Engineers

What is working life like?

A career in the construction industry is demanding. The hours can sometimes be long, particularly when the pressure is on for a project to be completed, but there is plenty of variety – and seeing the results of your work gives a tangible sense of achievement.

If your career begins with a graduate training programme, you may work as a trainee for up to two years or until you gain your professional qualification. During this time you may be working, studying and doing assessments for intensive periods so your social life may be curtailed.

You’ll need to demonstrate high-level project and self-management skills as the work is focused on the continual achievement of targets and deadlines. If these targets and deadlines are not met there can be serious financial implications for the project. Conversely, where a job is completed ahead of time, considerable bonuses may be earned. In general, while the working environment tends to be tougher than that of other career areas, the financial rewards tend to be well above average.

In many construction jobs, you will split your time between the site and the office, so you will need to be prepared to work in all weather conditions and lots of different types of terrain. Most employers will expect you to have your own transport to visit sites and attend client meetings. They will also expect you to have a flexible attitude towards doing whatever is needed to ensure that the every job is completed on time and to the highest standards.

Once you’ve gained sufficient expertise in your area of interest you will find this industry can offer autonomy and responsibility.

Further help and research

Republic of Ireland

The Construction Industry Federation

Northern Ireland

The Construction Industry Training Board Northern Ireland