Quantity Surveying and Cost Engineering : What is the Difference?

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By Moses Wanjama


Cost Engineering and Quantity Surveying differ primarily in the route taken to professional qualification, not to any substantive difference in the two professions.

The profession of cost engineering suffers from a lack of formal training programs at universities.

There is no such thing as a university degree in cost engineering; rather, training in cost management, estimating, and scheduling are more often included as coursework in civil engineering, construction management, and project management curricula. Indeed there is no standardized career path for the cost engineer, with individuals joining the profession from such areas as accounting, building, manufacturing, and engineering.

Certification is achieved on a voluntary basis, and certain certification programs allow years of experience instead of a university degree. As a result, cost engineers regularly get involved with mega projects without formal requirement for qualification or competency.

Some employers and clients do require certification, but there is no statutory requirement, such as for registered professional architects or engineers and quantity surveyors. A number of specialist certifications are also available in cost engineering, in knowledge areas such as claims, estimating, scheduling, and earned value analysis.

In contrast, Quantity surveyor competences and formal qualifications are driven by tertiary intuitions that give meaning to the professional nature of the role. University degrees are conferred in quantity surveying, and these appear to be the primary path to the profession.

The majority of the universities conferring QS degrees are located in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries. However, certification in quantity surveying may also be achieved through a Cost Engineering or Project Management path without a university degree in quantity surveying, along what has been known as an ‘expert route’ to qualification.

Certification is not required to work in the field of Cost Engineering, but earning professional credentials distinguishes the worker as a knowledgeable professional and can lead to greater career opportunities.

In the United States, the Society of Cost Estimating and Analysis (SCEA) offers the Certified Cost Estimator/Analyst (CCEA) designation to candidates who have bachelor’s degrees in any major coupled with at least five years of cost estimating experience (these requirements can be substituted with eight years of sheer estimating/costing experience).

Those who pass the certification exams are awarded the CCEA designation.

In essence, the roles undertaken by the two professions culminate to cost management of construction projects. The key distinction is the path taken to realise certification and registration.

Wankama is a Graduate Quantity Surveyor with interests in cost and contract management of construction projects. He is conversant with FIDIC, JBC and PPOA forms of contracts . Graduate member of Institute of Quantity Surveyors of Kenya.

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