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Become An Instrument Operator

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Working As An Instrument Operator

  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Getting Information
  • Interacting With Computers
  • Processing Information
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Deal with People

  • Outdoors/walking/standing

  • Repetitive

  • $50,290

    Average Salary

What Does An Instrument Operator Do

Surveying and mapping technicians collect data and make maps of the Earth’s surface. Surveying technicians visit sites to take measurements of the land. Mapping technicians use geographic data to create maps. They both assist surveyors, cartographers, and photogrammetrists.

Duties

Surveying technicians typically do the following:

  • Visit sites to record survey measurements and other descriptive data
  • Operate surveying instruments, such as electronic distance-measuring equipment (robotic total stations), to collect data on a location
  • Set out stakes and marks to conduct a survey
  • Search for previous survey points, such as old stone markers
  • Enter the data from surveying instruments into computers, either in the field or in an office

Surveying technicians help surveyors in the field on teams known as survey parties. A typical survey party has a party chief and one or more surveying technicians. The party chief, either a surveyor or a senior surveying technician, leads day-to-day work activities. After data is collected by the survey party, surveying technicians help to process the data by entering the data into computers.

Mapping technicians typically do the following:

  • Select needed information from databases to create maps
  • Edit and process images that have been collected in the field
  • Produce maps showing boundaries, water locations, elevation, and other features of the terrain
  • Update maps to ensure accuracy
  • Assist photogrammetrists by laying out aerial photographs in sequence to identify areas not captured by aerial photography

Mapping technicians help cartographers and photogrammetrists produce and upgrade maps. They do this work on computers, combining data from different sources.

Geographic Information System (GIS) technicians use GIS technology to assemble, integrate, and display data about a particular location in a digital format. They also use GIS technology to compile information from a variety of sources. GIS technicians also maintain and update databases for GIS devices.

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How To Become An Instrument Operator

Surveying technicians usually need a high school diploma. However, mapping technicians often need formal education after high school to study technology applications, such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

Education

Surveying technicians generally need a high school diploma, but some have postsecondary training in survey technology. Postsecondary training is more common among mapping technicians where an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree in a relevant field, such as geomatics, is beneficial.

High school students interested in working as a surveying or mapping technician should take courses in algebra, geometry, trigonometry, drafting, mechanical drawing, and computer science. Knowledge of these subjects will help in finding a job and in advancing.

Training

Surveying technicians learn their job duties under the supervision of a surveyor or a surveying party chief. Initially, surveying technicians handle simple tasks, such as placing markers on land and entering data into computers. With experience, they help to decide where and how to measure the land.

Mapping technicians receive on-the-job training under the supervision of a lead mapper. During training, technicians learn how maps are created and stored in databases.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

The growing need to make sure that data are useful to other professionals has caused certification to become more common. The American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) offers certification for photogrammetric technologists, remote-sensing technologists, and Geographic Information System/Land Information System (GIS/LIS) technologists. The National Society of Professional Surveyors offers the Certified Survey Technician credential.

Advancement

With many years of experience and formal training in surveying, surveying technicians may advance to senior survey technician, then to party chief. Depending on state licensing requirements, they may be able to become licensed surveyors.

Important Qualities

Concentration. Surveying and mapping technicians must be precise and accurate in their work. Their results are often entered into legal records.

Decisionmaking skills. Surveying technicians must be able to exercise some independent judgment in the field because they may not always be able to communicate with team members.

Listening skills. Surveying technicians work outdoors and must communicate with party chiefs and other team members across distances. Following spoken instructions from the party chief is crucial for saving time and preventing errors.

Physical stamina. Surveying technicians usually work outdoors, often in rugged terrain. Physical fitness is necessary to carry equipment and to stand most of the day.

Problem-solving skills. Surveying and mapping technicians must be able to identify and fix problems with their equipment. They also must note potential problems with the day’s work plan.

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Instrument Operator jobs

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Instrument Operator Demographics

Gender

Male

87.4%

Female

10.1%

Unknown

2.5%
Ethnicity

White

84.2%

Hispanic or Latino

7.5%

Asian

6.3%

Unknown

1.3%

Black or African American

0.6%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

36.4%

Portuguese

9.1%

Ukrainian

9.1%

Romanian

9.1%

French

9.1%

Russian

9.1%

Polish

9.1%

Korean

9.1%
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Instrument Operator Education

Schools

University of Nebraska - Lincoln

9.8%

University of Florida

8.2%

Texas A&M University

6.6%

Lamar Institute of Technology

4.9%

Santa Fe Community College

4.9%

Virginia Commonwealth University

4.9%

Sinclair Community College

4.9%

Sam Houston State University

4.9%

University of Phoenix

4.9%

Old Dominion University

4.9%

Central Piedmont Community College

4.9%

New Jersey Institute of Technology

4.9%

The Community College of Baltimore County

4.9%

Park University

4.9%

County College of Morris

4.9%

Lexington Community College

3.3%

Michigan Technological University

3.3%

Central Georgia Technical College

3.3%

University of Tennessee - Knoxville

3.3%

Lincoln College of Technology - Denver

3.3%
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Majors

Surveying, Mapping, And Hydraulic Technologies

12.8%

Civil Engineering

9.1%

Business

8.2%

Geography

6.8%

Natural Resources Management

5.9%

Electrical Engineering

5.5%

Engineering

5.5%

General Studies

4.6%

Civil Engineering Technologies

4.6%

Drafting And Design

4.1%

Chemistry

4.1%

Education

3.7%

Environmental Science

3.7%

Geology

3.7%

Computer Science

3.2%

Management

3.2%

Criminal Justice

3.2%

Surveying Engineering

2.7%

Psychology

2.7%

Mechanical Engineering

2.7%
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Degrees

Other

36.7%

Bachelors

29.9%

Associate

17.3%

Certificate

7.1%

Masters

6.3%

Diploma

1.8%

Doctorate

0.8%
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Top Skills for An Instrument Operator

BoundarySurveysTopographicSurveysRoboticTotalStationsDataCollectionTopconAs-BuiltSurveysPipelineAutoLevelConstructionStake-OutSurveyCrewPropertyCornersLeicaSurveyEquipmentTDSAdjustsSurveyInstrumentsSokkiaR8SetupCarlsonNikon

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Top Instrument Operator Skills

  1. Boundary Surveys
  2. Topographic Surveys
  3. Robotic Total Stations
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Experience with topographic boundary surveys, elevations, and standard boundary surveys.
  • Performed Topographic Surveys for residential and commercial properties.
  • Gained experience in commercial and residential construction as well as new data collection techniques.
  • Used the Hewlett Packard TDS-48 Data Collector and Topcon Total Station.
  • Gas pipeline, completed profile of thirty seven mile gas line through the mountains with traversing and locating land features.

Top Instrument Operator Employers

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