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Becoming a Chartered Surveyor at 44

Murray Birrell is a London-based firm of Chartered Surveyors that has provided a range of professional building services to its clients since 1993. With an emphasis on keeping clients’ needs at the forefront of our strategy, we implement specialist skills in various areas including dilapidations, party wall matters, building conservation, contract administration and turnkey services. Our aim is to deliver top quality results on time and on budget.

We can only do this if we have the right people in our team. That’s why we strongly encourage and support personal professional development. A popular member of our team, Sam Field, qualified as a Chartered Surveyor just back in December 2018. He agreed to “go public” on what the process involved and what it means to him to reach this career milestone. We hope it’s an inspiration to others working in our industry who have not yet become Chartered.

Sam, can you first please tell us what it’s like to work as a Building Surveyor?

I had always wanted to be a professional in some capacity in the building industry. At college I started leaning towards Civil Engineering until I realised the emphasis on maths. Becoming a Building Surveyor then appeared in my sights, and so about 20 years ago that was that.

I genuinely enjoy my work and look forward to getting up each morning. I’ve had a fantastic career so far and worked on various projects from social housing schemes, residential and commercial fit outs through to working for various City of London Livery companies on the Livery Halls or on properties that they own, and also for two of the largest London Estates.

So why did it take you 20 years to finally decide to become a Chartered Surveyor, why didn’t you do it earlier?

As I said, right from the start I enjoyed the work, and I guess I felt I had a great life and I lived in the moment. Then after 10 years in the business, which seemed to go by so fast, I was totally out of any study routines and I suppose I lacked self-confidence to go through the process, I didn’t want to risk failing.

As for finally doing it now, I began to meet more and more Chartered Surveyors who were younger than me. Maybe I just got to a point where I thought, “Right! I don’t want to just jog-along, I want to progress up the tree and take on responsibility and make something of myself. Let’s get this done and sorted and I can remove that glass ceiling I’ve made for myself.”

How easy or tough did you find the process, and were there sacrifices involved?

It was a very difficult process to go through and the sacrifices were huge. I do like to have a good work/life balance, it’s very important to me. But I gave up my weekends with my wife and children, came home from work and locked myself in the spare room/office and studied and worked on my submission. This went on for about 18 months.

Although I had all the information provided by the RICS, it took me quite a while to grasp what was required for the initial submission. I felt overwhelmed and convinced that I did not have enough knowledge to answer what was being asked of me. Thankfully, I was able to go to the Murray Birrell directors and they helped me realise that what was required was not as complicated as I originally thought. Then I sat down and just got on with it.

It’s just the amount of time that I had to spend getting on with it! I only realised how large the sacrifices were when my 11 year old daughter asked me when her daddy was coming back. That one really did hurt and I dug deep to make sure that I did not fail. I did not want to put my family through this more than once

Your preparation included a mock interview, how did that go?

I did a mock interview with Stuart Birrell, and it was a shambles! I froze, couldn’t think straight and generally was nervous.  That experience certainly focused my mind.  Stuart could not understand why I had under-performed like this.

I felt it was actually more nerve racking presenting to someone who knew me. And it also added to the pressure that candidates Stuart had put forward had achieved a 100% pass rate.

He reassured me, explaining that if he did not believe that I was good enough to pass he would not have put me forward in the first place. I’m glad that I got my near-panic attack out of the way and I made sure that I knew my topics/project for my interview.

And how about your actual final interview?

I was elated. I left my interview and drove home on a high! I had no idea if I has passed or failed but it felt great. I had been though the process, and whether Pass or Fail I had faced down my fears. I went out with colleagues that night and was bouncing off the walls. I then spent the next week analysing my interview but still couldn’t work out if I had passed, or somehow responded incorrectly and failed.

How did you feel when you were advised that you had passed?

It was 7th December 2018 when I found out I had passed, and once again I was blown away, I couldn’t concentrate on anything at all. I reached the Christmas break with my head still in the clouds. Stuart recently told me that I was pretty useless for this period, but I had reached a milestone that I’d allowed to elude me for all those years. I had also under-estimated how important it seemed to be to my wider family and friends away from the office who sent me their congratulations. Finally, and very importantly, I could now get back to being a dad and a husband and get on with my career.

I recently received my certificate from the RICS and that was another great feeling. It’s been framed and hung on the wall in the corridor along with all my peers for me to look at it every day. They are there to show clients and visitors our achievements.

What are you going to do now and what does your future hold?

I feel a lot more confident that the future is limitless and is whatever I want it to be, the only person that could hold me back is me.

I do have a plan of what I want to do and where I want to be in five years when I will be 50. I reckon that I am a few years behind people my age who have been Chartered for a long time, but I am going to catch up and I’ll be looking to becoming a Fellow (FRICS).

Any tips for other surveyors, whether they’re new or more mature, who are thinking of taking their APC?

If you are new and just starting in this business, get being Chartered out of the way because you still have recent experience of taking exams. I had to re-learn how to do this as I had not taken an exam for quite a few years.

If you are a more mature surveyor and putting it off, like I did, then in the words of Nike  “JUST DO IT!” In the grand scheme of things there’s nothing to lose, better to have tried and failed then not to have tried at all. 

Either way, it was a harder experience than I thought it would be and there will be many sacrifices. Work at it at your own pace, don’t force it and enjoy the process. The journey will be worth it: pass or fail you would have proved something to yourself.

Thank you Sam

If anyone has something to ask Sam he says he’s happy for people to get in touch with him: Though he might be a bit busier these days, he's been made a Director

Welcome to the Profession Ceremony. 
Sam receives his certificate from Tim Neal,
the president Elect of the RICS. 

Sam’s RICS certificate joins those of the other nine Chartered Surveyors
at Murray Birrell. 


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