The surveying profession has proved remarkably resilient, even during the prolonged downturn in the local property market, and annual demand for qualified individuals has remained steady in recent years. "There are still many good opportunities in both Hong Kong and mainland China and that situation is likely to improve," confirms TT Cheung, senior vice-president of the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors (HKIS).
The institute, which was incorporated by government ordinance in 1990, is responsible for maintaining the highest professional and ethical standards among local surveyors, and keeps a close eye on market developments. It also has a consultative role in government policy making on issues which relate to land, property and the construction industry.
In outlining the scope of the profession, Mr Cheung explains that there are five formal surveying disciplines: building, general practice, land, planning and development, and quantity surveying. Respective duties cover everything from overseeing construction projects to supervising commercial contracts, managing cost control, and advising on functional land use. Employers may be private companies or government departments depending, in part, on the area of specialisation and the projects currently underway.
For example, surveyors in general practice, which is perhaps the largest category, mainly handle property valuations, leasing and building management. Many work for the government's Lands Department, Rating and Valuation Department or Housing Department, but their skills are also in demand with the major property developers.
All applications from aspiring professional surveyors have to be approved by the Surveyors Registration Board whose records show that a total of 1,827 were newly registered in 2003.
"The demand for professional surveyors far exceeds the supply," stresses Mr Cheung. "Even though, as of August 2004, there were already 6,212 HKIS members, everything indicates that there should be abundant opportunities for anyone wanting to get into the field."
There are great opportunities ahead for the profession
In the past, the profession tended to be male-dominated, but that is now changing. "We are pleased to see that more female students are being attracted to surveying, which we regard as a positive trend," Mr Cheung notes. He emphasises that the profession by no means involves only site-based work. "There is a balance between positions which do and do not require frequent site visits," he explains. "We have noticed that people with a good eye for detail and excellent communication skills are generally well suited for office-based work." This can include, in particular, facilities management, value management, dispute resolution and project management, all of which are seeing an increase in the number of openings available.
The starting salary for a university graduate is around HK$9,000 and can jump to over HK$20,000 upon qualification. For those who choose to work as contractors, post-qualification salaries can start between HK$20,000 and HK$30,000. Academically, recommended courses for anyone looking towards long-term career prospects are the surveying-related programmes offered by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, City University of Hong Kong and University of Hong Kong, which are all recognised by HKIS.
Membership of HKIS is widely regarded by employers as a basic standard for hiring qualified surveyors. Degree holders can join as a probationer and start following the appropriate Assessment of Professional Competence Scheme for their chosen discipline. Depending on specific requirements, the training period lasts from 22 to 33 months. Once completed, and after gaining satisfactory assessments from three supervisors, candidates are admitted as members.
In response to the government's initiative to upgrade standards in the property and construction field, HKIS has also introduced a technical grade membership. This was prompted by a series of construction scandals in public housing projects, which were found to be the result of substandard supervision by technical personnel.
After two years' discussion and consultation, the HKIS constitution and bylaws have been amended and technical staff can now apply for membership. With the stipulation that they must receive proper supervision for no less than two years, candidates can sit for the Assessment of Technical Competence to become a qualified technical associate.
In a move towards further improvements, HKIS is seeking to tighten the definition of certain terms and devising a number of common standards that will be acceptable to universities and within the industry.
Another significant development is that, in November 2003, a reciprocal agreement was successfully signed with the China Institute of Real Estate Appraisers (CIREA). This allows HKIS general practice members to join CIREA and obtain licences to practise as real estate valuers and to own appraisal businesses on the mainland. Such agreements will make it that much easier for Hong Kong surveyors to make a contribution on both sides of the border.
Mr Cheung, who has already been recognised with a number of prestigious awards from professional organisations for his efforts in bringing China into the international surveying community, is looking ahead with confidence. "With the opening up of the market in China, the future will hold great opportunities for Hong Kong's surveyors," he says. "The profession is now truly global in outlook."
Surveying the prospects
- Stable career with very good long-term possibilities
- Variety within the profession to suit different types
- Demand locally in both public and private sectors plus
on the mainland
- Clear and comprehensive system of training leading to
- Professional association to maintain the highest overall