7 reasons to start a career in the built environment

Posted on: 6 March, 2024

There’s never been a better time to launch a career in the built environment. Here’s why.

The built environment is one of the largest and most significant sectors in the world. It has an impact on the daily lives of everyone and everything, from the buildings we live and work in to the distribution systems that provide us with energy and water and the transportation systems we use to get from A to B.

The extent of its reach and influence is difficult to fathom, and in the coming years with the threat of climate change looming, its role in our lives and its relationship with the environment will have never been more significant. According to the World Green Building Council (WGBC), the built environment is responsible for 39% of global greenhouse gas emissions, meaning time is running out for our sector to embrace sustainability and align itself with net zero.

However, these challenges shouldn’t be seen as insurmountable but instead as an opportunity. If you’re interested in or are considering a career in the built environment, the truth is there has never been a better time to join the industry. Here’s why.

Why now is the time to start a career in the built environment

1. Demand for talent is extremely high

The built environment is just one of the many industries that have been significantly affected by the green skills gap – the shortage of environmentally-skilled talent needed to help society reduce its carbon emissions, embrace sustainability and achieve net zero by 2050.

To drive new initiatives, popularise innovative processes and embed sustainability strategies across departments, teams and functions, built environment firms need skilled talent with environmental expertise. This puts professionals and graduates that have developed an understanding of sustainability literacy in extremely high demand.

Learn more: Why sustainability can’t exist in silos

It’s not just green skills that are in demand, either – the built environment is facing one of its biggest challenges as the baby boomer generation leaves the workforce. According to the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER), 41% of construction workers will have retired by 2031, creating an enormous skills gap that desperately needs to be filled.

The result of these shortages is that opportunities are rife and demand is high for future generations of built environment professionals across the sector.

2. There are always opportunities for growth and development

Construction and real estate are among the largest industries in the UK, by both number of employees and economic output. Each of these industries themselves consist of multiple disciplines and functions, so while a ‘job for life’ is often considered to be a thing of the past, there are plenty of opportunities to shift into different functions and industries throughout your career in the built environment.

The built environment is also an accommodating sector for talent from various different backgrounds, and there’s no ‘set’ route for those looking to enter it. Whether you’re a school leaver, graduate, or someone looking for a career change, there are a wealth of opportunities where previous qualifications or experience can be transferred.

Learn more: Built environment careers and the advantages of a vocational degree

3. There are dozens of career paths for you to choose from

The built environment isn’t restricted to on-site construction and professional real estate roles. Similarly, just because you graduated with a degree in construction management, that doesn’t mean you explicitly have to join launch a career in a construction manager role.

There are a wide range of specialisms and career pathways you may not be familiar with in the built environment, including but not limited to:

For careers advice and more information about the job roles employment opportunities within the built environment, visit our careers site.

4. Careers in the sector provide good income

Industries like construction and real estate are well-established and provide good possibilities for income that sit above the UK average. Based on 10,000 salaries, the average UK salary for construction industry workers is £42,500 – higher than the standard UK average across all industries of £35,000. Real estate is also above average, with Total Jobs calculating the average for this industry to be £47,500. In fact, both industries are considered to be among the highest paying in the UK.

Learn more: Built environment careers: top trends driving the construction sector during uncertain times

5. The sector will always need talent

Despite the enormity of the challenges facing the sector, from the looming skills gap to its sizeable impact on climate change, the built environment is a sector that can offer stability and security.

While it’s by no means immune to economic downturns, recessions or unprecedented global emergencies like COVID-19, there will always be a need for infrastructure. The global flooring area is expected to double by 2050, and in the UK, demand for housing is extremely high. What this means is that there will always be a need for built environment expertise, no matter what industry or stage of the lifecycle you operate in.

6. Have the opportunity to work abroad and travel

It’s not just the UK that is suffering from a skills shortage. The need for green talent and building expertise is universal and international, meaning your skills are applicable anywhere and everywhere. Whether you’re attracted to the idea of working on multiple different sites or want to take your skills across the globe, building expertise are in demand across the globe.

7. Play a pivotal role in shaping the future

Our sector has an enormous impact on everyone and everything around it. Along with having an opportunity to play a leading role in the push to net zero, our sector can help shape the future of health, wellbeing and inclusivity.

The products of our industries significantly affect the lives of the people who live, work and occupy them. The design of buildings can impact everything from air quality and energy efficiency to physical and mental health and accessibility. Today’s built environment professionals have a chance to shape the future of health, sustainability and wellbeing – all of which will have a profound impact on society for years to come.

Learn more: Making a business case for sustainability: why now is the time to act

Join an industry at an exciting turning point

In a speech made at UCEM’s December 2023 Graduation, Fred Mills, Founder of B1M, commented:

“You’ve chosen a career in construction and the built environment: the world’s greatest industry where anything is possible. It’s this sector that shapes our world and enables it to function. It’s this sector that touches and underpins the lives of child, adult and elderly person in every corner of our planet We’re the industry that regularly makes the impossible happen.”

The built environment offers the opportunity to have a significant, tangible impact on the world around you. It’s a large, diverse sector that’s undergoing a tremendous digital shift as sustainability and the relationship between buildings and their inhabitants take centre stage.

So, if you want the opportunity to launch a career in an exciting sector and shape the future of both the environment and the lives of people living in it, there’s never been a better time to get started.

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