Kairūri Utu Hanga Whare
This job is sometimes referred to by alternative titles
Quantity surveyors manage finances for construction projects. They calculate budgets based on clients' requirements, and prepare detailed estimates to ensure budgets are sufficient for each stage of construction.
Entry-level quantity surveyors usually earn
$50K-$85K per year
Experienced quantity surveyors usually earn
$90K-$150K per year
Source: Hays, 2017.
Pay for quantity surveyors depends on their location and experience, and the size of the projects they work on.
- Entry-level quantity surveyors usually earn between $50,000 and $85,000 a year.
- Experienced quantity surveyors can earn between $90,000 and $150,000.
Salaries may be higher in Auckland and Christchurch, where demand is strongest.
Source: Hays, '2017 Hays Salary Guide', 2017.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the figures and diagrams in our job information)
What you will do
Quantity surveyors may do some or all of the following:
- study architects' and engineers' building plans
- prepare a schedule of quantities used in the tendering process (measuring and estimating material and labour costs)
- prepare reports before and during building projects showing costs
- visit building sites to monitor progress
- act as an arbitrator in disputes between clients and building contractors
- offer services in value management (comparing a building's cost to similar buildings).
Skills and knowledge
Quantity surveyors need to have:
- knowledge of building methods and materials
- the ability to read and interpret building plans
- skill estimating building, material and labour costs
- an understanding of relevant legislation, including the New Zealand Building Code, the New Zealand Building Act 2004 and local by-laws
- maths and basic accounting skills
- some computer-aided design (CAD) skills.
- work regular business hours and are based in offices
- occasionally travel to visit work sites, where conditions may be dirty and dusty
- may travel to conferences and seminars.
What's the job really like?
Elena Craig finds herself in the middle of things most of the time. But that's just the life of a quantity surveyor – keeping people happy while keeping the budget on track.
Meeting last-minute challenges
"The hardest part is staying on top of everything. The client always wants to know the additional costs for changes they'd like to make 'today'. We try to get back to them as soon as possible, but when subcontractors are out on-site, the last thing they want to do is sit behind a computer and reprice the changes."
The quantity surveyor controls the money
"We're lucky in the sense that the quantity surveyor is the one who controls the money, so you may need to hold back payment to make something happen. You've got to keep on people's good sides, but also make sure you get their respect to make sure they do a good job."
More exciting than accounting
When considering university courses, Elena was originally looking down the accounting line because maths is her forte, but she thinks her move into quantity surveying was the right choice. "The construction industry is more exciting than traditional accounting because you're always wondering 'Where is my next job going to be?' and 'Who will I work with?' "
Quantity surveyors explain the advantages of their job – 2.48 mins. (Video courtesy of New Zealand Institute of Quantity Surveyors)
Audrina Stanley: A quantity surveyor is the accountant of the building industry. They deal with the money on a daily basis – budgets, cashflows, and basically make sure that builders stay honest.
Bernard: You’re not stuck in an office. You’re out and about. You’re working on some awesome projects, it pays really well and it’s really enjoyable.
Shane: Job prospects! Job opportunities, both here and overseas. I’ve talked to a lot of people who say they’ve spent a couple of years overseas – it’s really easy to find jobs over there, so that really interests me.
Bernard: I’ve been quite lucky in my time as a QS, given that I’ve had the opportunity to work in London, which was a massive city, and while I was there I got to work on some really cool projects – one of the biggest being the 600-year-old Museum of London.
Audrina: Working on the largest government building in Wellington; working on the waterfront in Wellington.
Bernard: Being a QS has a lot of good things about it. The breadth of work is awesome. You can be in gumboots on a site, trudging through mud one day. You’ll be “suited and booted” at a formal function the next, getting cocktails.
Shane: The combination of maths, using maths in the workplace and being in the construction industry – I really like the construction industry so having a job that combines both of them is perfect for me.
Matt: The pay’s great. Like anything, you’ve got to start at the bottom of the pile, but you keep walking up that pile and it gets better and better.
Bernard: For secondary students that are interested in being a QS in any way, shape or form, my biggest bit of advice would be, before getting into the degree, spend two or three months out on site. Be a labourer, doing some building, just understanding construction.
Matt: Being good at maths is a helpful tool, but you can learn. You’re always learning.
Audrina: Physics is a bonus. English is good – communication’s quite a big thing in quantity surveying.
Matt: Job opportunities are really good at the moment. We’ve got a boom in Auckland, and Christchurch is rebuilding, so there’s plenty of work around.
Audrina: If you want to become a quantity surveyor now, you go to polytech, get a diploma, and you’ll be a cadet in a company, or a QS straight away.
If you want to go overseas – you need a degree. Go to university.
To become a quantity surveyor you need one of:
- a New Zealand Diploma in Quantity Surveying – offered at many institutes of technology
- a Bachelor of Construction (Construction Economics or Quantity Surveying) – offered at Massey University and Unitec. This qualification will make it easier to move into management.
- New Zealand Institute of Quantity Surveyors website - information on qualifications and training providers
- Massey University website - information about the Bachelor of Construction (Quantity Surveying) programme (Auckland)
- Unitec website - information about the Bachelor of Construction (Construction Economics) programme (Auckland)
A tertiary entrance qualification is required to enter further training. Useful subjects include English, maths, accounting, economics, digital technologies, and construction and mechanical technologies.
Quantity surveyors need to be:
- good at planning and organising
- ethical and honest
- enquiring and able to think creatively
- able to work well under pressure.
Useful experience for quantity surveyors includes:
- any building industry work such as labouring on construction sites
- work involving calculations and accounting.
Quantity surveyors may apply for New Zealand Institute of Quantity Surveyors membership and work towards professional registration.
Find out more about training
- New Zealand Institute of Quantity Surveyors (NZIQS)
- 0800 469 477 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.nziqs.co.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Building and infrastructure boom drives demand for quantity surveyors
Demand for quantity surveyors is strong due to:
- a shortage of workers, especially those with practical experience
- a construction boom that is predicted to last until 2021, meaning more building work
- the extra 22,000 houses that are needed over the next 10 years in Auckland
- building work needed to upgrade leaky homes and earthquake-prone buildings
- building, roading and rail work to repair earthquake damage in Wellington and Kaikoura
- the Christchurch rebuild, which is predicted to extend until at least the end of 2017.
Quantity surveyors on skill shortage list
Because there are too few trained quantity surveyors to meet demand, this job appears on Immigration New Zealand's long term skill shortage list. This means the Government is actively encouraging skilled quantity surveyors from overseas to work in New Zealand.
However, like many building jobs, this role can be affected by economic conditions. A downturn in the economy can lower demand for quantity surveyors.
Types of employers varied
Most quantity surveyors work for property developers and construction companies. They may also work for:
- building or subcontractor companies
- professional quantity surveying companies
- project management companies
- construction materials suppliers
- insurance companies.
- BRANZ and Pacifecon, 'National Construction Pipeline Report 4', July 2016, (www.branz.co.nz).
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Long Term Skill Shortage List', accessed July 2017, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Hays, '2017 Hays Salary Guide', 2017.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
- Moffatt, M, executive director, New Zealand Institute of Quantity Surveyors, Careers New Zealand interview, February 2016.
Progression and specialisations
Quantity surveyors may move into senior roles, strategic management, or start their own consultancy business.
They may specialise in a number of roles, including:
- Consultant/Professional Quantity Surveyor
- Consultant or professional quantity surveyors work for a client who is commissioning building. They provide financial advice and estimation services for setting up building contracts, and consult with the contract quantity surveyor. They may also be involved in mediation and arbitration between parties about building contracts.
- Contract Quantity Surveyor
- Contract quantity surveyors work for a building company, and estimate a building's construction costs, manage the building contracts and monitor construction progress. They are often based on-site, and look after sub-contractors and work with the consultant or professional quantity surveyor throughout the project.
- Sub-Contractor Quantity Surveyor
- Sub-contractor quantity surveyors do the same work as contract quantity surveyors, but on a smaller scale. They only work with one trade (for example, timber, aluminium or window companies), rather than contract quantity surveyors who co-ordinate with all the trades.
Last updated 1 November 2017