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CAO applicants: The construction sector is ripe with new opportunities

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Students filling in their CAO application forms should consider construction courses. Ferdia White, Manager Hays Construction & Property, provides an introduction to a career in construction.  

Growth in the construction industry shows no sign of abating. By 2020, Ireland will need an extra 112,000 new workers in the sector to produce an expected output of €20 billion. The Government’s commitment to create 60,000 new jobs makes the construction industry extremely attractive for graduates with the pick of employers competing for their skills.

As students across the country consider their CAO options, it’s important to highlight the opportunities that exist in the construction and property sector today and how they will multiply over the coming years.

Construction graduates can expect to receive starting salaries between €25,000 and €35,000. As demand has increased, many are even in a position to negotiate better salaries with often more than one offer to consider.

A construction degree will provide a passport to travel, something that is unique among college courses. Irish degrees are recognised worldwide and our architects and engineers are regarded as some of the best in the world.

Once students have graduated, where will they be working and what will they be doing?

Quantity surveying

Quantity surveyors typically work for either the client or the main contractor and are responsible for controlling cost on projects. Graduate quantity surveyors will begin their careers working with a senior surveyor for the first 2-3 years before taking ownership of a project. As a senior surveyor they may control one project or several, depending on the value of the projects. It’s not just projects that will require management: newly appointed senior surveyors often manage junior surveyors.

Construction management

Graduates from construction management courses are hired by main contractors to fulfil a wide variety of roles like estimators, site engineers, assistant project managers and assistant site managers. The majority will eventually develop into project management roles. Graduates who choose to become estimators will take tender drawings and price the entire project, processing take-offs and sourcing quotes for materials and sub-contracts.


The role of an architect is both creative and technical, firstly sketching a client’s idea before making it a reality. Graduates will see opportunities with both architectural practices and public sector clients. Typically they will spend 2-3 years working on a project which will then be signed off by a registered architect. This project, combined with the successful completion of a professional practice exam, will see them become a ‘part III architect’. This qualification opens up possibilities across a wide range of projects.

A degree in architectural technology will provide opportunities in many of the same areas as one in architecture.  Graduates here work as part of the design team, with an emphasis on providing technical assistance. Day-to-day duties include producing detailed drawings on AutoCAD/Revit and producing tender packages.

Engineering (Common Entry)    
Students who choose engineering courses will have varied options depending on the area they choose to specialise in. Graduates from civil engineering and structural engineering are most likely to find employment in the construction industry. Civil graduates will work for either consultancies or contractors. A role in consultancy will involve the design of infrastructural projects such as roads, bridges, drainage and water networks. While with a contractor, a graduate will manage engineering on site and will often move into a management position. Structural engineering graduates will work in consultancies ensuring buildings are designed safely.

Building services

Building services graduates will experience high demand for their skills from mechanical and electrical consultancies, contractors and main contractors. Consultancy roles involve the design of mechanical and electrical services for buildings, working with the client to convert their brief to engineering drawings. Contractors hire graduates to manage the installation of services on site before progressing to a project management role. Main contractors require building services graduates to coordinate the on-site contractors and also liaise with the design team. It is not uncommon for mechanical engineering and electrical engineering graduates to forge careers in building services.

Ireland Salary Guide 2019

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