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Become A Surveyor

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Working As A Surveyor

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

  • Outdoors/walking/standing

  • Repetitive

  • $58,261

    Average Salary

What Does A Surveyor Do

Surveyors make precise measurements to determine property boundaries. They provide data relevant to the shape and contour of the Earth’s surface for engineering, mapmaking, and construction projects.

Duties

Surveyors typically do the following:

  • Measure distances and angles between points on, above, and below the Earth’s surface
  • Travel to locations and use known reference points to determine the exact location of important features
  • Research land records, survey records, and land titles
  • Look for evidence of previous boundaries to determine where boundary lines are located
  • Record the results of surveying and verify the accuracy of data
  • Prepare plots, maps, and reports
  • Present findings to clients and government agencies
  • Establish official land and water boundaries for deeds, leases, and other legal documents and testify in court regarding survey work

Surveyors provide documentation of legal property lines and help determine the exact locations of real estate and construction projects. For example, when a house or commercial building is bought or sold, it may need to be surveyed to prevent boundary disputes. During construction, surveyors determine the precise location of roads or buildings and proper depths for building foundations. The survey also shows changes to the property line and indicates potential restrictions on the property, such as what can be built on it and how large the structure can be.

When taking measurements in the field, surveyors make use of the Global Positioning System (GPS), a system of satellites that locates reference points with a high degree of precision. Surveyors use handheld GPS units and robotic total stations to collect relevant information about the terrain they are surveying. (Robotic total stations use laser systems and GPS to automatically calculate distances between boundaries and geological features of the survey area.) Data is then loaded into a computer, where surveyors interpret and verify the results.

Surveyors also use Geographic Information Systems (GIS)—technology that allows surveyors to present spatial information visually as maps, reports, and charts. For example, a surveyor can overlay aerial or satellite images with GIS data, such as tree density in a given region, and create digital maps. They then use the results to advise governments and businesses on where to plan homes, roads, and landfills.

Although advances in surveying technology now allow many jobs to be performed by just one surveyor, they also may work with the help of a crew. The crew may consist of a licensed surveyor and trained survey technicians. The person in charge of the crew, known as the party chief, may be either a surveyor or a senior surveying technician. The party chief leads day-to-day work activities.

Surveyors may be involved in settling boundary disputes. When property is sold or new construction takes place, such as the building of a fence, issues may arise because of outdated records or the misinterpretation of available records. A surveyor can be called in to settle the dispute, and may provide testimony in court if the involved parties do not come to an agreement.

Surveyors also work with civil engineers, landscape architects, and urban and regional planners to develop comprehensive design documents.

Some surveyors work in specialty fields to survey particular characteristics of the Earth.

The following are two types of surveyors:

Geodetic surveyors use high-accuracy technology, including aerial and satellite observations, to measure large areas of the Earth’s surface.

Marine or hydrographic surveyors survey harbors, rivers, and other bodies of water to determine shorelines, the topography of the floor, water depth, and other features.

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How To Become A Surveyor

Surveyors typically need a bachelor’s degree. They must be licensed before they can certify legal documents and provide surveying services to the public.

Education

Surveyors typically need a bachelor’s degree because they work with sophisticated technology and math. Some colleges and universities offer bachelor’s degree programs specifically designed to prepare students to become licensed surveyors. A bachelor’s degree in a closely related field, such as civil engineering or forestry, is sometimes acceptable as well.

Many states require individuals who want to become licensed surveyors to have a bachelor’s degree from a school accredited by ABET and approximately 4 years of work experience under a licensed surveyor. In other states, an associate’s degree in surveying, coupled with more years of work experience under a licensed surveyor, may be sufficient. Most states also have continuing education requirements.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Candidates with significant work experience as a survey technician can become licensed surveyors. To receive credit for this experience, candidates must work under a licensed surveyor. Many surveying technicians become licensed surveyors after working for as many as 10 years in the field of surveying. The amount of work experience required varies by state.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

All 50 states and the District of Columbia require surveyors to be licensed before they can certify legal documents that show property lines or determine proper markings on construction projects. Candidates with a bachelor’s degree must usually work for several years under the direction of a licensed surveyor in order to qualify for licensure.

Although the process of obtaining a license varies by state, the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying has a generalized process of four steps:

      • Complete the level of education required in your state
      • Pass the Fundamentals of Surveying (FS) exam
      • Gain sufficient work experience under a licensed surveyor
      • Pass the Principles and Practice of Surveying (PS) exam
Important Qualities

Communication skills. Surveyors must provide clear instructions to team members, clients, and government officials. They also must be able to receive instructions from architects and construction managers, and explain the job’s progress to developers, lawyers, financiers, and government authorities.

Detail oriented. Surveyors must work with precision and accuracy because they produce legally binding documents.

Physical stamina. Surveyors traditionally work outdoors, often in rugged terrain. They must be able to walk long distances for long periods.

Problem-solving skills. Surveyors must figure out discrepancies between documents showing property lines and current conditions on the land. If there were changes in previous years, they must discover the reason behind them and reestablish property lines.

Time-management skills. Surveyors must be able to effectively plan their time and their team members’ time on the job. This is critical when pressing deadlines exist or while working outside during winter months when daylight hours are short.

Visualization skills. Surveyors must be able to envision new buildings and altered terrain.

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Surveyor jobs

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Surveyor Demographics

Gender

  • Male

    70.7%
  • Female

    27.2%
  • Unknown

    2.1%

Ethnicity

  • White

    79.1%
  • Hispanic or Latino

    11.0%
  • Asian

    7.2%
  • Unknown

    2.0%
  • Black or African American

    0.7%
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Languages Spoken

  • Spanish

    59.1%
  • French

    10.7%
  • Italian

    3.9%
  • Chinese

    3.6%
  • Arabic

    3.6%
  • German

    3.2%
  • Japanese

    2.3%
  • Mandarin

    1.9%
  • Russian

    1.6%
  • Portuguese

    1.6%
  • Vietnamese

    1.0%
  • Korean

    1.0%
  • Khmer

    1.0%
  • Norwegian

    1.0%
  • Dakota

    1.0%
  • Hebrew

    1.0%
  • Swahili

    0.6%
  • Carrier

    0.6%
  • Amharic

    0.6%
  • Urdu

    0.6%
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Surveyor Education

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Real Surveyor Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Staff Surveyor Braemar Technical Services, Inc. Port Orchard, WA Apr 23, 2015 $127,161
Staff Surveyor Braemar Technical Services, Inc. Port Orchard, WA Aug 14, 2015 $127,121
Mechanical Surveyor Lloyd's Register Drilling Integrity Services, Inc. Houston, TX Oct 01, 2014 $118,414
Blow Out Preventer Subsea Surveyor Lloyd's Register Drilling Integrity Services, Inc. Houston, TX Jul 09, 2014 $118,414
Surveyor FS DET Norske Veritas (U.S.A.), Inc. Houston, TX Mar 21, 2016 $108,846
Certification & Inspection Surveyor DET Norske Veritas (U.S.A.), Inc. Katy, TX Aug 29, 2015 $100,368
Surveyor Highbury Concrete, Inc. Bronxville, NY Jun 01, 2014 $100,000
Surveyor New York City Land Surveyors, PC New York, NY Jan 08, 2016 $98,506
Surveyor New York City Land Surveyor, PC New York, NY Jan 08, 2016 $98,506
Surveyor II American Bureau of Shipping Morgan City, LA Apr 22, 2015 $97,074
Offshore Surveyor DOF Subsea Inc. Houston, TX Sep 16, 2014 $93,911
Surveyor Lloyd's Register North America, Inc. Iselin, NJ Dec 12, 2014 $92,165
Surveyor II American Bureau of Shipping (Abs) Plantation, FL Feb 09, 2016 $92,012
Surveyor II American Bureau of Shipping (Abs) Houston, TX Jul 09, 2016 $91,936
Dynamic Positioning Surveyor Lloyd's Register Drilling Integrity Services, Inc. Houston, TX Oct 01, 2014 $83,387
Surveyor Lloyd's Register North America, Inc. Bellevue, WA Aug 09, 2016 $82,347
Surveyor II American Bureau of Shipping (Abs) Morgan City, LA Aug 30, 2015 $82,158
International Surveyor Joint Commission Resources, Inc. Oak Brook, IL Sep 13, 2013 $82,000
Surveyor 1 American Bureau of Shipping (Abs) Houston, TX Jul 05, 2011 $79,200
Surveyor Lloyd's Register North America, Inc. Webster, TX Sep 15, 2012 $77,792
Surveyor Lloyd's Register North America, Inc. Houston, TX Sep 15, 2012 $77,792
Surveyor II American Bureau of Shipping (Abs) North Charleston, SC Aug 19, 2013 $75,795 -
$92,000
Petroleum Surveyor Amspec Services Inc. Saint Rose, LA Nov 01, 2013 $59,648
Petroleum Surveyor Amspec Services, LLC. Saint Rose, LA Nov 01, 2013 $59,648
Surveyor Lloyd's Register North America, Inc. Houston, TX Sep 04, 2013 $58,635
Hydrographic Surveyor Fugro Chance Inc. Houston, TX Sep 29, 2014 $58,261 -
$70,282
Petroleum Surveyor Amspec Services Inc. Saint Rose, LA Nov 01, 2013 $58,170
Petroleum Surveyor Amspec Services, LLC. Saint Rose, LA Nov 01, 2013 $58,170
Surveyors Sandis Sunnyvale, CA Dec 21, 2011 $57,387
Building Surveyor Facility Engineering Associates, PC Dallas, TX Sep 01, 2013 $57,018

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Top Skills for A Surveyor

GPSTopographicMapsBoundarySurveysRoboticTotalStationConstructionLayoutSafetyDataCollectionTopographicSurveysSurveyDataAutoCADPipelineAs-BuiltSurveysSurveyCrewCustomerServiceSurveyEquipmentLegalDescriptionsGISLeicaTopconSurveyTechnician

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Top Surveyor Skills

  1. GPS
  2. Topographic Maps
  3. Boundary Surveys
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Navigated through desert riparian habitats using GPS
  • Operated a reflector rod and electronic measuring device for road slope staking, topographic maps and property corners.
  • Major accountabilities: Boundary surveys Topographic surveys Accurately handling measurement equipment Plotting points for contractors accurately and quickly
  • Conducted field surveying works using Robotic Total Stations and GPS.
  • Performed commercial construction layout, grade work, property, topographic surveys and elevation surveys.

Top Surveyor Employers

Surveyor Videos

A Day in the Life of a Land Surveyor

A day in the life of a Quantity Surveyor

A Career as a Chartered Surveyor

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