Careers in the Built Environment

 

In brief

The built environment covers areas including urban design, planning, surveying and property. Increasingly known as the real estate sector, it is about so much more than buildings and surveying! 

LSE graduates can be found working across a variety of roles focusing on real estate and urban planning, for example, working out the best finance for a deal, planning for a new development, managing the planning process, selling real estate assets or looking at the sustainability of building design.  

Where can you work?

There are opportunities to work not just in commercial and residential property companies but across a range of organisations and sectors with an interest in real estate.  

  • Large property companies – classed as full-service firms, work across a range of markets. Typically based in London and other major centres, these firms are often global, e.g. Cushman and WakefieldCBRE, Lendlease, Savills, GVAGensler and Knight Frank. Many offer general graduate schemes as well as schemes in chartered surveying.
  • Management consultancies –increasingly work in the property and built environment space, e.g. Deloitte has a real estate team, combining property services with financial and business advisory; PWC has a Cities and Urbanisation team, and KPMG have a real estate advisory practice. Some firms offer general entry routes, others will be looking for a relevant Master's and/or experience. 
  • Multi-disciplinary or integrated engineering consultancies – work across the built environment in areas including infrastructure and transport. Typically global in focus, e.g. Amey, Mott MacDonald, Arup and Atkins. Offer graduate schemes in areas including commercial, project management, consultancy, surveying, business advisory, economics and policy, GIS, urban design and town and transport planning.
  • Owners/occupiers (users) – including local authorities, Network Rail and the NHS, and in the commercial sector, large retail banks and retailers including Tesco. Many companies have property-related graduate schemes. 
  • Real estate finance/investment – either within broad asset classes, including real estate, or in more niche companies offering specialised roles, e.g. BNP Paribas Real Estate, Eastdil, Tyndaris Real Estate and Varde.
  • Housing – includes house builders, property developers and property management companies. Social housing companies like Southern and Peabody are some of the largest new home builders. There are also smaller, newer companies like Pocket Housing and The Collective typically offering niche roles and specialisations.

What's changing in the sector?

The real estate industry is experiencing changes and challenges from the impact of digital technology and the arrival of disruptors such as new property platforms, peer-to-peer lenders, crowdfunders and direct investment platforms. 

We are also seeing traditional roles becoming more interdisciplinary, a greater focus on the role of technology and strong moves to increase diversity through encouraging more women into a male dominated sector. 

New trends and developments include moves towards more live-work and mixed-use spaces, student housing as a niche sector, more emphasis on health and housing for an aging population, and a greater focus on smart buildings.

Useful Websites

CareerHub – jobs board targeting LSE students, including events and networking opportunities.

Targetjobs - Property – offers careers advice and a useful list of graduate jobs in property, with a focus on surveying and other commercial roles.

Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) – useful career pages and overview of the different APC routes.

Urban Land Institute – global membership organisation with a cross-disciplinary focus on real estate and land use, covering housing, real estate, finance and investment, cities, development and sustainability.

Royal Institute of Town Planners (RTPI) – includes careers information, directory of planning consultancies, news and jobs.

Property Week – property jobs news, events and valuations from the commercial property market covering property investment, residential and commercial.

The Investment Property Forum – useful news and information focusing on the UK property investment market.

The Association of Women in Property – works to promote women in the industry and offers news and events.

The Chartered Institute of Housing – offers a useful breakdown of different roles.

Company websites are a great source of sector information and a really useful way of developing your commercial awareness and understanding of the sector.  Examples include Deloitte’s Real Estate Predictions, KPMG’s global property survey and Knight Frank’s Global Real Estate Research

Recruitment consultancies specialising in real estate include Macdonald and Co which has a global focus including offices in Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa. 

Useful Information

Routes in

Introduction

For some technical roles,  e.g. land acquisition, surveying and planning, a relevant, accredited degree is often required. However, for exceptional candidates it is possible to gain entry without an accredited degree, with the employer sponsoring you to study an accredited Master's course instead.

A genuine enthusiasm to work in the real estate industry and commercial awareness are vital. Gaining experience and building your network is key across this industry, which is generally built on relationships.

If you're looking to gain experience

While some of the larger firms offer insight days and structured internship schemes, with closing dates typically around Easter or sooner, most companies expect direct or speculative applications. Where a formal internship scheme is not on offer, look for informal ways of gaining work experience. Local planning departments or smaller property firms can be a rich source of opportunities.

If you're early on in your career

For new graduates, property offers a range of professional accreditation routes and career paths. The RICS and RTPI accredited APC is the main professional development route, offering a range of different pathways. Graduate scheme deadlines are typically October - December. Specialist roles and opportunities with smaller companies are advertised all year round on an ad hoc basis.

If you have more experience

Career paths and opportunities are varied, so use LinkedIn to network with alumni working at firms you are interested in. There's a strong network within the sector, including GREG, the LSE's Global Real Estate Group, which hosts events and talks for alumni.

If you're changing career

While a relevant postgraduate course may be a prerequisite for some career areas, in others you may identify a direct entry route related to relevant skills gained in another sector, for example transferring your skills from banking across to a specialist finance role in real estate.

Not sure what to do next

We’re here to talk over your career plans with you. It doesn’t matter what stage you’re at, so don’t feel you have to have it all worked out. You can book a one-to-one appointment with a careers consultant on CareerHub.

Job roles

There are a huge number of different job roles in this sector. We've outlined roles that are often of interest to LSE students with links to where you can find more information. If you can, try to talk to someone who's doing the jobs you're interested in, so you can get a real flavour of what it's like. 

  • Chartered surveyor – activities relate to the management, purchase, sale or leasing of land and property, as well as valuing and surveying property. Qualification involves completing the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) accredited by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). The Prospects Commercial/residential surveyor job profile and RICS 'Is surveying for me?' page provide further information.
  • Quantity surveyor – manages building and projects costs, from the initial calculations to the final figures. Works either for the client or the contractor. The role has a strong project management component. Check out the Prospects Quantity surveyor job profile.
  • Property manager – involved in the general operation, maintenance, and administration of properties. Works for organisations that own or lease properties, e.g. retailers, high street banks and large public sector organisations like the NHS, etc. Property Personnel gives a useful overview of a career in property management.
  • Real estate finance analyst – could work in-house, in investment banking, corporate finance or a specialist real estate private equity organisation. Role may require financial modelling skills.
  • Town and regional planner – focuses on how towns, cities etc. are built, improving sustainability and community living spaces. The work can cover areas including planning policy, urban design, environmental planning, development management, regeneration and heritage. The Royal Institute of Town Planners (RTPI) provides further information about different roles.
  • Transport planner –works on policies, projects and plans relating to all kinds of transport systems, including road and rail networks, pedestrian systems and air travel. The Prospects Transport planner job profile provides further details.
    • Project manager–delivering projects on time and to budget, roles are common across the engineering and property sector and are often open to a range of degree disciplines. Check out the Prospects Project manager job profile.
    • Planning and development surveyor–takes a broad perspective and provides clients with advice on development and investment choices. The Prospects Planning and development surveyor job profile provides useful information.
    • Housing manager – manages housing and related services, working for housing associations, local authorities, charities or private sector organisations. The Chartered Institute of Housing offers a detailed breakdown of different roles, and the Prospects Housing manager job profile tells you more.
    • Estate agent – values and markets properties. The larger estate agencies often have graduate schemes. The Prospects Estate Agent profile provides further details.

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