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Built environment


Find thousands of courses and scholarships in built environment by using the UK course search tool. Try searching for surveying, construction, architecture, engineering and others (see suggestions below). Read on to find out more about how you can study this varied subject area in the UK.

Jump to:
What is built environment?
Why study built environment in the UK?
What careers could I go into?
Courses and qualifications
Entry requirements
Essential tips

Meet the expert

Ashley Wheaton - Principal at The University College of Estate ManagementAshley Wheaton 
Principal at The University College of Estate Management

'As built environment professionals it’s our job to make sure we support everyone in furthering or starting their career within the industry.'

What is built environment?

The term built environment refers to the human-made surroundings that provide the setting for human activity – such as living, working and playing, from buildings and parks to supporting infrastructure.

Creating a sustainable built environment through design, construction and management enables all people to live well and within environmental limits. It should contribute to people’s physical and mental health, enhance creativity and productivity, be flexible and adaptable to future uses, and resilient enough to cope with climate change.

Why study built environment in the UK?

The built environment industry in the UK has an international reputation for excellence, innovation, creativity and inspiration in building.

  • Built environment is the UK’s largest industry, employing 2.35 million people and accounting for over eight per cent of the UK workforce (Sector Skills Assessment for the Construction Sector 2009, ConstructionSkills).
  • It’s estimated that the built environment industry will offer career opportunities for approximately 48,000 people over the next four years and, arguably, the infrastructure provided by the industry offers the foundation for all economic and residential activity.
  • The UK Government has committed to ‘the creation of buildings and infrastructure to shape communities in a way that sustains the environment, generates wealth over the long-term and enhances the quality of life for people’ (Climate Change Act, 2008) – meaning there is a lot of support for businesses that seek to contribute to built environment
  • Architecture is forging ahead in the UK thanks to interplay with the built environment industry. Just look at some of the great achievements in recent years such as the Eden Project, the 2012 Olympic Stadium, the National Space Centre, the Crystal, and the Millennium Bridge.
  • UK university built environment courses focus on environmentally-friendly design and urban regeneration – priorities all around the world today

Career profile: Surveyor

Surveying is just one career option for Built Environment graduates. 

Career areas: The surveying profession offers a wide range of career opportunities within Real Estate Management, Valuation, Investment, Quantity Surveying, Building Surveying and Property/Land Development. 

Why is it important? Surveyors perform a critical role in planning, designing, maintaining and restoring spaces for people to live, work, learn, eat, exercise and shop. 

Salary: Above average. Members of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (i.e. a fully qualified professional Chartered Surveyor in the UK) earn an average of £48,000.

What careers could I go into?

Built environment brings together a wide variety of professions such as:

  • Construction Managers
  • Quantity Surveyors
  • Real estate professionals
  • Finance, investment and development consultants
  • Architects and landscape designers
  • Property developers
  • Urban and rural planners
  • Estate and building managers
  • Structural and civil engineers
  • Building inspectors 

A career within the built environment offers:

  • Variety: with options for overseas travel or to stay in one location
  • Reputation: as a chartered surveyor your expertise is regarded in the same way as that of a doctor or lawyer
  • Job satisfaction: you can accomplish many things whether it be helping someone buy their first home or working on a major construction project that will benefit a whole community or city
  • Life-long career: with the constant need for new infrastructure, construction and property, professionals are always in demand.

What can I study? Courses and qualifications

UK built environment courses often include opportunities to get experience in a real professional environment. This is one of many reasons why UK built environment graduates are in high demand all over the world.

Schools and further education

You can start gaining the skills you need for a career in the built environment by studying science, geography and maths at GCSE level (for students aged 14–16), International Baccalaureate (IB), A-levels or Scottish Highers (for students aged 16–18).

There are also further education qualifications (for students of any age over 16) such as BTECs, NVQs, Diplomas, National Awards, Certificates and Foundation degrees in related subjects.

If English is not your first language, you could do a joint course with English or a course in English for specific purposes – such as English for engineers.

Higher education

At undergraduate level, you could study for a BSc or a BEng in subjects such as building surveying, quantity surveying, Real estate management, construction management, urban planning and management, or structural engineering.

Undergraduate degrees usually teach a rigorous understanding of the principles and practice involved in the subject, as well as the related economic, social, environmental and political issues. They provide the academic underpinning necessary to prepare students for a career in the chosen area.

Courses usually include a mix of lectures, tutorials, seminars and practical workshops, and may be assessed through exams, coursework, group projects and presentations.

At postgraduate level, qualifications include MSc, MEng, PGDip and PhD degrees. These courses are designed to further develop theoretical and practical skills to build on workplace experience, and have a direct benefit to professional life.

Entry requirements

For entry to higher education, institutions often ask for at least a C grade at GCSE level (or equivalent) in Mathematics and English Language, plus at least 230 UCAS points (this could include A-levels, IBs, Scottish Higher qualifications, or a vocational qualification such as a BTEC Nationals Certificate, National Diploma or HNC/HND).

International applicants may also be asked for proof of English language ability, such as an IELTS score, or advised to attend a pre-sessional English course.

If you have a visa to study in the UK, check the visa requirements allow you to do a work placement

All schools, colleges and universities have different entry requirements, so make sure you read the course details thoroughly and ask your chosen institution directly if you have any questions.

What essential tips can you share?

A key requirement for job applicants in the built environment is to combine their qualifications with practical skills and applied experience. It’s essential students take every opportunity to develop their practical experience alongside their academic CV.

Luckily, in the UK, built environment students not only have the opportunity to study accredited degree programmes at respected institutions but they can also often gain cutting-edge industry knowledge, exposure to major Construction companies, and networking opportunities with practising professionals.

Another way to build experience alongside your degree is to do an online course with a UK university. You can study in your own time, whenever you wish, wherever you are. Find out more in Distance learning.

Many built environment education options are flexible, accessible and cost-effective. Further education institutions can have lower fees than the standard £9k a year demanded by traditional UK universities. They also often accept applicants with National Certificates, National Diplomas, HNCs and HNDs, as well as A-levels.

Graduates often end up leaving education years ahead of their friends and peers who went down the traditional university route, both financially and experience-wise. This is at a time when the need for highly qualified graduates in the built environment has never been more apparent. 

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