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Careers in property

Every square foot of land in the UK is owned and managed by someone. It can be bought, sold, rented, developed, improved, invested in, built on, cleared or simply be left alone. The traditional route into a career in property and land management is by training to become a Chartered Surveyor but there are a growing number of other entry points into careers connected with property and land use. These include town planning, civil engineering and land management. Estate agency is another - until recently not seen as offering worthwhile graduate level jobs, but that is changing.

Many reputable larger chains of estate agents have offered well recognised and useful graduate training schemes.

Finding vacancies

Opportunities in property occur throughout the year, only the largest firms follow a traditional milkround campaign. The fund managers and asset managers also recruit occasionally into their property teams who using real estate as an investment vehicle.

This sector is very prone to economic cycles and is often the first to suffer in any downturn. In the last slump many firms stopped recruiting graduates entirely. However, it wasn't long before they approached us again with live vacancies to fill at a time outside the conventional 'milk round' season. It is therefore worth checking vacancies on Handshake regularly, right through the year.

And, for all current students (of ANY degree discipline) and alumni of the Department of Land Economy, make full use of assorted events and meet former students in a variety of property related careers by joining the Cambridge Land Society.

Types of roles in property

Chartered Surveyors

To become a chartered surveyor involves professional examinations (unless you have exemptions from some papers having completed relevant options in the Land Economy tripos). The majority of the larger international firms, especially in economically active times, are willing to accept applications from 'non-cognate' students, i.e. Those without a relevant degree.

Unlike investment banking or management consultancy, the surveying profession offers a very great variety in the size, nature and location of employers. There are major international firms with a thousand staff in offices spanning the globe developing major city centre sites worth several million dollars to small firms in rural market towns where you'll be sharing an office with one of only two partners, dealing with the sale of hundred-acre farms. Chartered surveyors also work in other areas connected with the management of land, for example in Non Departmental Public Bodies and NGOs working in nature conservation.

Talk to any chartered surveyor and the majority will tend to praise the pleasant working style, a good team of colleagues and variety of work.

The gti Target Property magazine available free from the Careers Service gives a good description of the profession and recruiting firms.

This link will take you to information on becoming a Chartered Surveyor from the professional body for this area, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

There are further details in the Job Profiles on the Prospects site for a Rural practice surveyor/ Urban general practice surveyor/ Agricultural Auctioneer/ Building Surveyor

Town Planning

As the name suggests, town planners plan towns. They attempt to find a solution to serve the residents, the workers, the business community, commuters, owners, politicians, financiers and everyone else that claims a presence in any town or city throughout the UK now and into the future. A difficult job balancing housing needs against transport, wealth creation against space for recreation or the environment.

Look at Cambridge, how would you plan this city bearing in mind these conflicting needs?

To become a town planner you must complete a two-year full-time (or three year part-time) post graduate course accredited by the Royal Town Planning Institute. Those with relevant degrees (for example, geography, economics, land economy etc) can complete their postgraduate studies quicker.

The majority of opportunities after qualification are in local government, although there are a number of opportunities in house building companies, private consultancy firms, the large utility and transport companies, environmental and recreational organisations.

Further information about becoming a town planner can be found on the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) website and in reference files in our Careers Library.

See Job Profiles for Town Planner and Planning and Development Surveyor.

Other property roles

Work with estate agents

Some of the larger estate agents offer management training opportunities, chartered surveyor training or sales related positions. Smaller agencies can be approached speculatively, they seldom advertise graduate level positions, but might offer a few weeks 'shadowing'. Salaries tend to be closely linked to your success selling and have a large element of commission.

Job profile on the Prospects site for an Estate agency sales negotiator

Property portfolio management

Every year there is a small number of analyst positions advertised in City firms dealing with property related investment and research. You will tend to find these vacancies hidden within the listings of main stream opportunities for each organisation.

Careers in property and facilities management

Don't overlook the opportunities and challenges in directly managing property and other facilities - either with a company undertaking this on behalf of clients, or in-house with a larger corporate. Less obvious employers in this regard are infrastructure companies like Network Rail to retailers such as Boots.

Job profile on the Prospects site for an Facilities Manager / Historic Buildings Inspector / Conservation Officer

Housing management

Usually jobs in this area would be with Local Authorities, Housing Associations or other accommodation providers. Job profile on the Prospects site for a housing manager / officer

Historic buildings and estates

The management of historic buildings pose additional issues. This is an area of both property and heritage management - mainly the province of experienced hires, but you may find openings with bodies such as English Heritage and National Trust. There is a Job Profile on the Prospects site for a Historic buildings inspector/conservation officer.


Useful resources