Building industry shows signs of recovery

Career Guide: Architecture and Construction

Marian Dineen,  a fifth year architecture student at UL whose thesis is based on roofing parts of Henry Street, Limerick

Marian Dineen, a fifth year architecture student at UL whose thesis is based on roofing parts of Henry Street, Limerick

Tue, Jun 17, 2014, 01:00

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 there are tentative signs that construction is getting back on its feet, at least in Dublin. However construction has always been a cyclical business, so those working in it should prove to be adaptable.

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).

It can be an extremely rewarding profession for those with the necessary aptitude.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, the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland has expressed concern that there are too many. UCD offers the oldest and most established course, closely followed by DIT

, UCC, CIT, WIT and UL, which all offer qualifications as well.

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 management in the construction industry.

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 RIAI, however, offers the honest advice that “when things are bad, the building industry is disproportionately affected” and 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 month, the Society of Chartered Surveyors revealed there was a huge shortage of qualified graduates for the construction industry. A new report said that at least 1,100 new employment opportunities were expected in the next four years, but that this figure could be as high as 2,360. Quantity surveyors and building surveyors are 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

The RIAI says

salaries vary hugely in the private sector. However, according to Hays Recruitment, the typical average salary for a graduate architect is €21,000, while a typical salary for a partner or director in the greater Dublin area is €65,000 and €55,000 in the rest of Ireland. A quantity surveyor is paid an average of €33,253, although this rises with experience.

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

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