Episode 23 – Part 1 – Surveying career paths and routes to entry with Jen Lemen

In this week’s episode, we are speaking with Jen Lemen from Property Elite. 
Across the three parts of this episode, we are discussing routes into the surveying industry, the benefits of the different qualifications and understanding what types of work you can take on. 
Jen Lemen is a co-founder of Property Elite, Chartered Surveyor and RICS APC assessor. She is the author of ‘How to Become a Chartered Surveyor’, published by Routledge. 
Jen has extensive experience in providing training services to students, RICS AssocRICS, APC and FRICS candidates and corporate clients, together with academic experience as a Senior Lecturer at the University of the West of England, Lecturer at the University of Portsmouth, External Examiner at the University of Westminster and Associate Tutor at the University College of Estate Management. Her RICS assessment experience includes sitting on final APC interview panels, APC appeal panels and being a lead APC preliminary review assessor. 

In Part 1 of this episode, we’re talking everything surveyor career paths and routes to entry. We discuss: 

📊 The changing landscape of surveying

🛣️ The importance of understanding the different routes into the surveying industry

🎓 RICS-accredited degree courses, apprenticeships, and experience-based routes

👷‍♀️ What types of work you can carry out as an AssocRICS

💼 Career progression in surveying



The following transcript is autogenerated so may contain errors.


Matt Nally  00:24

On this week’s episode, we have Jen Lemen, partner at Property Elite and Director of Projekt Property. So thanks for coming on today.


Jen Lemen  00:21

Thanks very much for having me. Anytime,


Matt Nally  00:24

I suppose for people who don’t know you do want to give us I suppose a bit of background as to what you do.


Jen Lemen  00:32

Yeah , of course. So I started out my career in surveying, think over 15 years ago now, which is faintly terrifying. I’ve worked in small businesses, a national business and then actually about seven years ago now. Left with my now business partner, Rachel St. We’ve got two companies together. So part of our time is spent being Chartered Surveyors, through Project property by trade, I am a chartered surveyor dealing with commercial property and really specifically lease consultancy, so rent reviews and lease renewals. The rest of my time is spent as a partner of property elite, we provide training and support to all different types of surveyors. So, I suppose specifically looking at the associate our ICS MRCs, FRCS membership levels, as well as supporting, I do quite a lot of work, work, supporting students on their dissertations, actually, on behalf of UE Bristol, say, lots of different, lots of different roles. Interesting,


Matt Nally  01:42

and how are you seeing before we get on to routes into surveying and so on? How are you seeing how things have changed over sort of the last few years around? I don’t know, that sort of interested in who’s coming into the industry and what motives they’ve got.


Jen Lemen  01:58

It’s been, I think, it’s, it’s been a very interesting seven years on the training business. And I suppose at first, you know, a lot of our work was with your traditional graduates coming through some of the bigger firms. Actually, now, I think a lot of firms and looking more closely at non cognate graduates, as well as degree apprenticeships is just a brilliant way to get experienced, experienced individuals, experienced professionals, you know, whether they’ve done something in the past or whether they’re bringing transferable skills from other industries, into surveying. So I think the rise of the apprenticeship. Now some, you know, the the first couple of batches of apprentices have now actually qualified, even level three associate or level six MRI CES and seeing lots of those now fully qualified is, is pretty amazing. So I’d say we’ve seen maybe a wider, wider and more diverse pool of people becoming surveyors and having the opportunity in lots of different firms to get qualified. So yeah, it’s been quite an interesting and interesting few years. Awesome,


Matt Nally  03:06

it’s good to see you. Because that ultimately leads to a better industry in terms of more diverse viewpoints, you know, better buildings, we get out of it, but different thoughts on how we progress as a sector. I suppose that’s the first thing I really wanted to look at, though, with you today is if you’re a student, or maybe not a student yet, but you’re looking to go into surveying, what are the different routes you can consider? Because I think it can be a bit of a minefield, in terms of understanding what route to take, how to go about it, what level to go for. So I suppose the first question then is, what are the different routes in direct to thing


Jen Lemen  03:42

completely, so if we went from from from the complete starting point, so let’s say somebody’s listening is actually still at school or at college T levels. And now and are enforcing, you can find out more about surveying and become a surveyor starting with starting with T levels think they’re brilliant. Suppose your next step, if you’re looking at looking at a university course, you’ve got a couple of different options. I’d say the easiest is always to do an RSS accredited degree course. And if you are looking at going to university 100% I’d make sure that the courses are ICS accredited because it’ll just save you a lot of time and heartache in the long run. And it means that you’re getting that relevant knowledge right from right from the start. You can do an accredited degree course as part of the level six apprenticeship. There are courses as well for Level Three associates. Obviously the cost to you as a student is, is very much reduced compared to paying your way through university and you’ll have them support from your employer at university as well. So I’d say definitely look at apprenticeships, apprenticeships and not just for 1819 20 year olds, they are open to anybody. So even if you’re a mature student, you can look at apprenticeships, apprenticeships as well. As your typical, typical graduate, he goes on an RSS accredited degree course, the graduate after the three years full time, then they go into the world of work, ideally into a surveying role. The suppose the cleanest route to becoming MRI CS would then be two years or 24 months a structured training. A slightly different way to get in, if you already have a degree that has nothing to do with surveying. And it’s not our ICS accredited. Once you’ve got five years experience, our ICS have a route called preliminary review. And you can then become MRCs. Via that. The same actually also applies if you’re experienced in have another professional qualification something like MCI OB. Or if you’re a town planner, for example, you then have an access point into becoming MRCs. as well. I’d say for anybody listening, who’s slightly more senior, if you don’t have a degree and you’re running, running a business, running a firm in a senior management position, you might be very well placed to look at the senior professional route. And that’s 10 years of experience and no qualifications, obviously providing that you’re in the right type of role. So it’s just the last thing to add on to that is obviously associate our ICS really well thought of as your knowing in the residential surveying, sphere, specifically, but also in lots of other areas of surveying as well. Four years experience in a surveying role without any qualifications will give you access to associate. And that for years is reduced down if you do have some relevant qualifications. So it’s quite clear path for most surveys looking to get qualified. I’m sure we’ll touch on taking associate our ICS MRI CS and the jump between the two. Later on, there’s quite probably a fair amount to say on that.


Matt Nally  07:13

Yeah, definitely. Definitely. I suppose just stepping back. One step before we go forward is the restrictions you need to think of before you go down a particular route. So for example, let’s say you’re thinking of going to university and you’re taking on a particular course. Yes, you want to check it as RST is accredited. But would there be an issue if you potentially chose slightly the wrong course in terms of where you then wanted to go within the industry. So for example, you did something that was maybe more quantity surveyor focused, but actually then realised you wanted to go down the residential surveying route? As an as an example, I can think of other considerations you need to think of at that point, or actually, is it quite easy to switch and move later? Yeah,


Jen Lemen  08:01

it’s a great point, actually. And I’d say lots of surveys do do in later life switch between industries. So yeah, becoming from a quantity surveyor to a residential sphere, he knows somebody did that. In terms of your course, title, and content. If you very strongly feel that you want to become for example, a residential surveyor, picking a course that’s got residential elements will be a great idea. Some of the degree courses are fairly broad. So something like real estate management or property management and investment or property development, for example, they will cover a wide variety of modules, something more specific, for example, quantity, surveying or Building Surveying, there still will be some crossover, particularly in the first year modules, then they’ll obviously become more specialised, in the later years. However, having a degree in say Building Surveying wouldn’t limit you in terms of what you do in terms of associate or APC pathway. That’s much more defined by the role, the job role you’re doing at the time. Obviously, if you do Quantity Surveying at university, and then go into residential surveying, you might have a bit of a gap in your own knowledge of, you know, very specific, you know, it could be residential construction, or valuation or some of those specifics. And I think if you do do a degree course, but then look at a different area of surveying, you’ve got the challenge then to make sure that you bring your knowledge up to the right level. Obviously, you know, there’s some great courses out there your own CPD, speak to your employer. So I wouldn’t say it will hold you back. It’ll just need you to be quite motivated to find the knowledge that you need to feel competent in that in that line of work.


Matt Nally  09:58

Awesome. I Okay, I suppose that leads us nicely into the levels of membership. And therefore, I suppose deciding how you want to go into it from that perspective. As we start with asset Rick’s, and the question I think I had and possibly put this the wrong way round was, Are there considerations you need to consider on what you can and can’t do? And then I think, I think that was possibly the wrong way of looking at it. So I think you’re probably better explaining it than I am. But is there considerations around I suppose, progressing into the asset Rick’s route, and then what you need to consider in terms of the future?


Jen Lemen  10:36

Yeah, so I would say in terms of associate our ICs, there will be things that you you can and can’t do, often that will be prescribed by what clients want. So, for example, if you’re doing mortgage valuations, the lender might require, you know, maybe for certain values of work for certain types of work, you know, they may say, we require MRI CES, they may say they require associate, as an associate, you can set up in our ICs, regulated firm. And, and it is, I would say, the level of membership that you go for will be a product of, of what your clients want. Some of some of the bigger firms for, say, a quantity surveyor building surveyor, a commercial property surveyor may have a requirement for MRI, ces or progression to that within a certain period of time. So I think it very much depends upon what part of the industry you’re working in, and what clients require. Associate can be a great qualification, obviously, if you want to work for yourself, it does give you that ability to then register a firm. And the timescale you’d be looking at would be be realistically between that one and four years, depending on the qualifications that you’ve already got. I always, I always think when it comes down to it, the type of work that you can and can’t do. Number one, you know, are there any ICS requirements about what type of surveyor can do what type of work and obviously current requirements, but also you competent, experienced and knowledgeable. If you can’t tick those three boxes, then it won’t be the right work for you. That’s not to say, though, that you can’t work with somebody else, you know, you can’t bring in a consultant to do the work with you. You couldn’t shadow somebody else to then build it your own competence in that type of work. And hopefully that that question to an extent


Matt Nally  12:47

Yeah, it does. I think it’s it’s an interesting way of framing it looking at more of the competence spirits and knowledge aspects and demonstrating that versus just what can the very crudely level 123 do? So you one thing you touched on actually was asset Rex isn’t or associate Rex isn’t something to consider just as residential service evaluation, for example, it can associates do any type of work, provided they meet the sort of competency knowledge aspects? Yeah,


Jen Lemen  13:18

I’d say definitely, probably another trend we’ve seen in the last couple of years is more, more recognition of associates are ICs, outside the kind of traditional residential surveying environment. So we’ve seen project managers Building Surveyors, commercial property surveys, so maybe a commercial property manager, we’re definitely seeing, I’d say growth in other sectors becoming associate. Sometimes, sometimes people do it as a kind of a, I don’t mean a stop gap but a stepping stone before they then go for MRI CS later on. Associate it’s, it’s a written assessment without an interview. So I’d say it maybe takes, you know, slightly less time to achieve because you don’t have that extra interview element. I know some some candidates really struggle with the interview. So actually associate with just a written submission. They feel suits them a lot better. So that’s the qualification that they that they then go for. Yeah, but yeah, I certainly think, you know, associates very well, very well respected in various parts of the industry, probably just some sectors. recognise it slightly more than others. Yeah,


Matt Nally  14:42

I think it’s a good point to consider that if you are more anxious about interviews, understandably, then actually it’s a good way in where it takes the pressure off, getting into the industry in the first place. And feeling like you can then build up to the The confidence competence and so on to then go through the next steps. How long after if you were to take the sort of bricks route as an example, then how long after that, might you? Or why might you consider going down the the sort of member sort of Emmerich’s level? And are there are benefits to moving up? Sure.


Jen Lemen  15:21

And so, so it depends. So it depends on where always the answer, isn’t it, but associate if you don’t have a degree, associate four years post qualification experience. And then what are ICS call the study hours route associate progression would be something you might look at. It’s a route that I understand our ICS had been reviewing, potentially with the view to overhauling it, but I haven’t heard anything else. Essentially, at the moment, it’s 900 study hours, taken off the last year of an ICS accredited degree course. I suppose your alternative to that might be, might be looking at a degree apprenticeship. Because obviously, the cost implications of that would be potentially slightly less. Candidates who are associates who already have a degree, might then look at preliminary review. Or if you’re an associate and you have your own firm, it might be then the senior professional route. So apart from that study hours route, I’d say the two membership levels are very, very distinct and associate doesn’t necessarily give you give you a a biggest stepping stone for a starting point to MRI ‘s Yes. I know that. I know that for lots of associates actually becoming becoming MRI CS, let’s use that the term chartered surveyor and that that, for me is such a, it’s such a special term because it’s protected by Royal Charter. Everybody, you know, we’ve got chartered physios, for example, we’ve got chartered town planners, the public do recognise that a chartered individual has, you know, a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge so that in some cases, it might just be a personal achievement, or personal achievement to have that maybe forever. Of the car candidates, it’s all about career progression. There is a jump up, there is some research out there to show that MRCs so a qualified individual does see a step up in salary. I’ve got the figures somewhere but yeah, you do you do you generally see a step up in salary, so that you know, career progression, maybe being put on bigger projects, trusted with with with bigger clients, etc. That can be something that comes with it as well, if that’s, that’s what you’re looking for.


Matt Nally  17:56

Interesting. And do you see a difference in the route taken depending on I suppose age partly. And the reason I say for that is if you’re coming out of uni or going into uni, you might take a course that’s for its qualified that then is easier to go through the the Emmerich’s route or, and then if you’re potentially moving across from another industry, after say 10 years, or however long are you they’re more likely to work on something that allows you to do that part time. And is it easy to do both routes part time? Or is is it potentially easier to go down the sort of Rick’s to begin with and then progress up? i


Jen Lemen  18:33

i In a way, I think it I think maybe sometimes later in life, actually, family work personal life, you’ve got a lot less time than maybe when you were 20. And fresh out of university. So actually sometimes associate later in life can just be easier to fit in because you don’t then have that period of sticking your head down and revising for three, four or five months. So sometimes we do see candidates going for associate, you know, purely because later in life, they don’t have as much time I say anybody with anybody with a degree. The route at MRCs is generally fairly, fairly simple. It’s frustratingly, your associate qualified candidate who doesn’t have a degree, but it’s very experienced that if they’re not in a senior professional position, they’re a bit stuck. If they don’t want to go back and study which you know, as we’ve just said, it takes a lot of time. So I think we do have kind of a a group of candidates who might like to become MRCs, but they’re stuck between a bit of a in between a bit of a rock and a hard place at the moment and I think I’d love to see our ICS do something to bring them through because in theory theory they’re not in that much of a different, you know, they’re kind of similar to your noncognitive grad with experience because both are experienced, they don’t have have a degree in in the relevant subjects, they just need some way to get the right right knowledge to, to hit the mark. So I’m sure that will ring bells for quite a few people out there. Oh,


Matt Nally  20:21

definitely, definitely. I think I suppose my my final question from the sort of membership levels and routes into surveying, if you’re looking at your potential career progression, why might someone wants to go for, you know, the fellowship or Forex route? And how does that work? What are the type of timeframes? Yeah,


Jen Lemen  20:43

sure. So, for FRCS, it’s, it’s a written submission, and you have to write a profile about yourself, explaining career history achievements. And then specifically, you’ve got four statements to write about for fellowship characteristics that you choose off a list of 16 things. Examples are things like leadership, client management, specific qualifications, furthering our ICs are of a professional body. So they’re, they’re kind of your extra curricular, being a role model, promoting the industry. So it’s one step above just doing the job of a chartered surveyor. In terms of why would you want to do it? Personally, when I did mine, it was, it was a it was a personal thing. It was a personal pride. For me, it showed that I’d gone over and above just being a chartered surveyor, my dad and my granddad were both FRCS as well. So for me, Joy. Yeah, meaning they’re joining, you know, the, you know, joining the family and that as well. Yeah, I know, for lots of people it is. Yeah, it’s just showing that you’ve, you’ve Yeah, you’ve done extra things. You know, you’ve supported communities, others, and you’ve gone over and above. And I think, you know, if you’ve got the time and the experience to do that, it’s such a lovely feeling to, you know, to have those extra letters or the swap to letter on the end of the name. Yeah,


Matt Nally  22:27

no, I love that. And it’s a nice story for you, Ashley, as well. We have to touch on that a bit later. Actually. I suppose my only other question that I did say at my last one was my final one. between the different levels? And how do you know when it’s right to go for the different ones in terms of reattach back on the competence, experience and knowledge aspects? How do you measure when you have reached the right level, and each of those to be able to to either take on certain types of work or to be able to progress, the frameworks you can look at? Well,


Jen Lemen  23:02

I always kind of say that your, your minimum requirement would be graduate with two years experience, which in the, in the grand scheme of things is, could be still quite young and quite fresh. Obviously, then you have such a wide spectrum, you know, up to 20 years experience, never, you know, never never got membership, but now wants to put tick in the box and have the letters. I think, I think realistically, maybe when you change change jobs, that kind of gives you the, you know, the go ahead of I need to get that to progress. I think speaking to speaking to others at work as well, and, you know, kind of comparing yourself to where others are and what qualifications they’ve got. Just to see, you know, if I have similar experience to x, you know, reasonably I could go for M or associate as well. The, I think in terms of competence. So, both associate and MRI ‘s Yes, everybody has a pathway. So for example, the residential pathway. Within, you’ve got a set of mandatory competencies, so your your core business skills, and then you’ve got a set of technical competencies. For associate, you’ve got a slightly reduced number of technical competencies. And then for the AAPC, they’re actually split into levels one, two and three. Really easy way, if you’re not sure. If you’re hitting the mark yet, whether it’s associate or the APC. If you were to get a spreadsheet and put the competencies you need to hit to see if you could maybe come up with maybe for associate, you know, maybe could be five to 10 really good examples for each company. tendency for the AAPC. For example, it can be 10 to 20 examples maybe for each level. And just see if you’ve got any gaps, you know, less less examples in a specific competency and use use that as a bit of a bit of an analysis for where you are. Now, if you’ve got any, any experience in a competency, you might not be ready to go forward. But if you’ve got lots and lots and lots across everything, that’s probably a really good indicator that that that you’re ready.


Matt Nally  25:33

That’s nice that they’re actually putting that together, because it’s a way of giving yourself your own self evaluation and assessment, to justify to yourself whether there are areas that you might want to spend more time looking at, in terms of knowledge, or, you know, going out and site to get experience. Or it’s a discussion point internally, if you if you have a manager who wants to talk to you about these things, you can sort of demonstrate where you believe you are. And you can see whether they think that you’re in the same place further ahead than you realise, slightly behind on other ones that you can then work out a plan together.


Jen Lemen  26:06

Definitely, yeah, I think that, and even just being proactive about it, and going well, you know, if I want to go forward for MRCs, let’s say rebuilding surveyor, but you’ve never done any contract administration. That’s a level three competency, and it’s one that quite a few buildings phase Do you struggle with? So, you know, if you’re thinking, Well, you know, in a year’s time, I’d like to go and submit to the AAPC, we’ve created we’ve got 12 months to go and find find relevant experience to hit that box. So yeah, it can just be such a good way of bit of personal development, and just, yeah, just making sure that you’ve got the experience to hit the mark. And then, you know, at the end of the day, you’re providing the best possible advice to clients, and you’ll be a very valuable employee, probably. 


Scroll to Top