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Surveyor Careers

Surveying is an ancient profession created in Egypt, around 3000 BC. The job of a surveyor is to measure land. They calculate and mark the boundaries of public, government, or private properties with levels, rods, measuring tape, and more specialized equipment like compasses, clinometers, theodolites, magnetic locators, and other mysterious stuff.

Being a surveyor is exciting and dynamic if you are into analytical thinking, math, counting, and the like. Surveyors check property records, read maps, and carry out research on location. They run around with distance measuring wheels and use geographic information systems to prepare reports for their clients.

Their work contributes to team efforts of construction crews, government agencies, or some other building, planning, or mapping project.

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.


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.

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.


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 Career Paths

Top Careers Before Surveyor

14.8 %

Top Careers After Surveyor

10.5 %

Surveyor Jobs You Might Like

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Average Salary for a Surveyor

Surveyors in America make an average salary of $54,368 per year or $26 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $77,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $38,000 per year.
Average Salary
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Best Paying Cities

Average Salarydesc
Seattle, WA
Salary Range67k - 106k$85k$84,741
San Mateo, CA
Salary Range59k - 100k$77k$76,872
Mahwah, NJ
Salary Range52k - 87k$68k$67,638
New York, NY
Salary Range47k - 80k$62k$62,035
Houma, LA
Salary Range46k - 79k$61k$60,782
Urban Honolulu, HI
Salary Range52k - 67k$60k$59,655

Recently Added Salaries

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State of Nebraska
State of Nebraska
Arch Coal, Inc.
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Allo OSP Survey Tech-Traveling Position Based Out of Nebraska
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Surveyor Resumes

Designing and figuring out what to include on your resume can be tough, not to mention time-consuming. That's why we put together a guide that is designed to help you craft the perfect resume for becoming a Surveyor. If you're needing extra inspiration, take a look through our selection of templates that are specific to your job.

Learn How To Write a Surveyor Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless Surveyor resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

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Surveyor Demographics



67.0 %


28.8 %


4.2 %



82.2 %

Hispanic or Latino

7.2 %

Black or African American

3.9 %

Foreign Languages Spoken


60.0 %


10.8 %


4.1 %
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Surveyor Education


15.3 %
7.1 %



36.8 %


20.2 %


18.2 %

Top Colleges for Surveyors

1. Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA • Private

In-State Tuition

2. Stanford University

Stanford, CA • Private

In-State Tuition

3. University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA • Private

In-State Tuition

4. Northwestern University

Evanston, IL • Private

In-State Tuition

5. SUNY College of Technology at Alfred

Alfred, NY • Private

In-State Tuition

6. University of Florida

Gainesville, FL • Private

In-State Tuition

7. Maine Maritime Academy

Castine, ME • Private

In-State Tuition

8. University of Southern California

Los Angeles, CA • Private

In-State Tuition

9. California State University - Bakersfield

Bakersfield, CA • Private

In-State Tuition

10. SUNY at Binghamton

Vestal, NY • Private

In-State Tuition
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Online Courses For Surveyor That You May Like

Statistics / Data Analysis: Survey Data and Likert Scales

How to Process Survey Data and Analyze Likert Scales In SPSS...

Survey Data Collection and Analytics

This specialization covers the fundamentals of surveys as used in market research, evaluation research, social science and political research, official government statistics, and many other topic domains. In six courses, you will learn the basics of questionnaire design, data collection methods, sampling design, dealing with missing values, making estimates, combining data from different sources, and the analysis of survey data. In the final Capstone Project, you'll apply the skills learned thro...

The Ultimate Guide for Land Surveying with Drones - Part 2

Learn to work with Pix4D & DroneDeploy outputs on QGIS, AutoCAD & Google Earth. Start your own UAV mapping business now!...

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Top Skills For a Surveyor

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 15.0% of surveyors listed survey equipment on their resume, but soft skills such as communication skills and detail oriented are important as well.

  • Survey Equipment, 15.0%
  • GPS, 14.5%
  • Communication, 9.6%
  • Survey Data, 7.8%
  • Data Collection, 5.5%
  • Other Skills, 47.6%
  • See All Surveyor Skills

Best States For a Surveyor

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a surveyor. The best states for people in this position are Washington, Alaska, Idaho, and Maine. Surveyors make the most in Washington with an average salary of $82,962. Whereas in Alaska and Idaho, they would average $81,517 and $72,781, respectively. While surveyors would only make an average of $69,273 in Maine, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. Alaska

Total Surveyor Jobs:
Highest 10% Earn:
Location Quotient:
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. Maine

Total Surveyor Jobs:
Highest 10% Earn:
Location Quotient:
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Idaho

Total Surveyor Jobs:
Highest 10% Earn:
Location Quotient:
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
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Top Surveyor Employers

1. Heath Consultants
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2. American Bureau of Shipping
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3. United States Army
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4. Fugro
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5. United States Census Bureau
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6. Venture Data
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