Career Guide: Architecture and Construction

Construction comes booming back. Will houses collapse again?

Building a new world: students at Cork Institute of Technology

Building a new world: students at Cork Institute of Technology

 

Applications for construction, surveying and architecture courses surged during the boom – and collapsed by 55 per cent between 2008 and 2012. An entire generation packed up and emigrated to Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Now construction is back on its feet, with demand for new homes only curtailed by mortgage restrictions from the Central Bank. The Society of Chartered Surveyors has repeatedly highlighted a major shortage of suitably qualified graduates in the construction sector, including property surveying, quantity surveying and building surveying. Students have responded to this clarion call, with CAO points for many architecture and construction courses rising last year.

But don’t get too comfortable: construction has always been a cyclical business, so those working in it should be adaptable, and ready to emigrate or alter career.

So why would anyone consider it? First, it is a career worth pursuing for those who are interested in construction or who perhaps excelled at subjects such as technical graphics or woodwork in school (although an aptitude for technical graphics does not necessarily translate to architectural skill).

The skills of architects, surveyors or construction workers are highly mobile, allowing them to work anywhere in the world. They can work for themselves in private practice, in local authority or Government jobs or in a larger commercial organisation. There is lots of room for specialisation and career development. Higher-level maths is generally not a requirement for most architecture or surveying courses, but it is useful, particularly for surveying.

Where to study

There is no shortage of architecture courses; indeed, those working in the area say there are too many. UCD offers the oldest and most established course, closely followed by DIT, UCC, CIT, WIT and UL.

A range of surveying and construction courses are available at DIT. The BSc in construction management is designed for those who want a career in construction management. It also looks at issues around sustainability, conservation and maintenance, retail and information technology. The number of courses has shrunk somewhat since the heady days of the Celtic tiger, but there are still level 6 and 7 and level 8 surveying and construction courses at WIT, GMIT, Dundalk IT and Limerick IT.

Career opportunities

In the good times, architects, surveyors and construction workers can earn good money. The Royal Institute of Architects Ireland, however, offers the honest advice that when the economy is bad, the building industry is disproportionately affected

, and it also points out that it takes at least seven to eight years to become fully qualified, so it is impossible to tell when you start what the jobs position will be when you finish.

Last year, the Society of Chartered Surveyors revealed there was a huge shortage of qualified graduates for the construction industry. Its report said at least 1,000 new jobs opportunities were expected over the next three to four years, but that this figure could be as high as 2,360.

Quantity surveyors and building surveyors remain in particularly short supply. Students on surveying courses do not just study valuation and measurement, but also learn about financial management, economics, law, planning and technology.

If there is another downturn, they will be reasonably well placed to use those skills in other industries.

Salary expectations

Salaries vary hugely in the private sector. According to Hays Recruitment, the typical salary for a graduate architect in the greater Dublin area is € 24,000 and € 20,000 in other parts of Ireland. A typical salary for a partner or director in the Dublin area is € 65,000 and € 55,000 in the rest of Ireland.

Countrywide, a graduate quantity surveyor can earn about € 25,000, although this rises to at least € 50,000 with experience.

In a survey last year, 66 per cent of property and construction surveying companies were paying graduates salaries of between € 20,000 and € 30,000, while 5 per cent reported salaries of €30,000-€ 40,000.

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