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Surveying Career

Career Description

Surveyors make exact measurements and determine property boundaries. Provide data relevant to the shape, contour, gravitation, location, elevation, or dimension of land or land features on or near the earth’s surface for engineering, mapmaking, mining, land evaluation, construction, and other purposes.

Common Work Tasks

  • Establish official land, airspace, and water boundaries
  • Write descriptions of land for deeds, leases, and other legal documents; define airspace for airports; and take measurements of construction and mineral sites
  • Provide data about the shape, contour, location, elevation, or dimension of land or land features
  • Measure distances, directions, and angles between points and elevations of points, lines, and contours on, above, and below the Earth’s surface
  • Select known survey reference points and determine the precise location of important features in the survey area using specialized equipment
  • Research legal records, look for evidence of previous boundaries, and analyze data to determine the location of boundary lines
  • Record results, verify the accuracy of data, and prepare plots, maps, and reports
  • Use high-accuracy techniques, including satellite observations, to measure large areas of the earth’s surface

Other Job Titles

Surveyors are also known by other titles, including:

  • Cartographers
  • Geodetic Surveyors
  • Marine Surveyors
  • Geophysical Prospecting Surveyors
  • Hydrographic Surveyors

Education, Training, and Experience

Education and Training
In the past, many people with little formal training started as members of survey crews and worked their way up to become licensed surveyors, but this has become increasingly difficult to do. Now, most surveyors need a bachelor’s degree. A number of universities offer bachelor’s degree programs in surveying, and many community colleges, technical institutes, and vocational schools offer 1-, 2-, and 3-year programs in surveying or surveying technology.

Certification and Licensure
  All 50 States and all U.S. territories license surveyors. For licensure, most State licensing boards require that individuals pass a written examination given by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). Most States also require surveyors to pass a written examination prepared by the State licensing board.

Experience
  Members of a survey party must be in good physical condition because they work outdoors and often carry equipment over difficult terrain. They need good eyesight, coordination, and hearing to communicate verbally and using hand signals. Surveying is a cooperative operation, so good interpersonal skills and the ability to work as part of a team is important. Good office skills also are essential because surveyors must be able to research old deeds and other legal papers and prepare reports that document their work.

Salary

The median annual salary for a Surveyor is $51,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $83,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $28,000. Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of surveyors are:

  • Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services - $53,740
  • Local Government - $56,060
  • State Government - $63,490
  • Highway, Street, and Bridge Construction - $53,150
  • Nonresidential Building Construction - $51,820

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  24%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 14,000
  • Employment 2006 : 60,000
  • Employment 2016:  74,000
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