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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.

Learn more about what a Surveyor does

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.

Surveyor Career Paths

Average Salary for a Surveyor

Surveyors in America make an average salary of $56,505 per year or $27 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $101,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $31,000 per year.
Average Surveyor Salary
$56,505 Yearly
$27.17 hourly
$31,000
10 %
$56,000
Median
$101,000
90 %

What Am I Worth?

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Surveyor Education

Surveyor Majors

15.2 %

Surveyor Degrees

Bachelors

45.1 %

Associate

22.3 %

High School Diploma

17.9 %

Top Colleges for Surveyors

1. Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA • Private

In-State Tuition
$18,454
Enrollment
40,108

2. Stanford University

Stanford, CA • Private

In-State Tuition
$51,354
Enrollment
7,083

3. University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA • Private

In-State Tuition
$55,584
Enrollment
10,764

4. Northwestern University

Evanston, IL • Private

In-State Tuition
$54,568
Enrollment
8,451

5. SUNY College of Technology at Alfred

Alfred, NY • Private

In-State Tuition
$8,570
Enrollment
3,721

6. University of Florida

Gainesville, FL • Private

In-State Tuition
$6,381
Enrollment
34,564

7. Maine Maritime Academy

Castine, ME • Private

In-State Tuition
$13,478
Enrollment
979

8. University of Southern California

Los Angeles, CA • Private

In-State Tuition
$56,225
Enrollment
19,548

9. California State University - Bakersfield

Bakersfield, CA • Private

In-State Tuition
$7,309
Enrollment
9,142

10. SUNY at Binghamton

Vestal, NY • Private

In-State Tuition
$9,808
Enrollment
13,990

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%

Choose From 10+ Customizable Surveyor Resume templates

Zippia allows you to choose from different easy-to-use Surveyor templates, and provides you with expert advice. Using the templates, you can rest assured that the structure and format of your Surveyor resume is top notch. Choose a template with the colors, fonts & text sizes that are appropriate for your industry.

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Surveyor Demographics

Surveyor Gender Distribution

Male
Male
72%
Female
Female
28%

After extensive research and analysis, Zippia's data science team found that:

  • Among surveyors, 27.6% of them are women, while 72.4% are men.

  • The most common race/ethnicity among surveyors is White, which makes up 83.9% of all surveyors.

  • The most common foreign language among surveyors is Spanish at 60.0%.

Online Courses For Surveyor That You May Like

Advertising Disclosure  The courses listed below are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the course, we may receive a commission.
Survey Data Collection and Analytics
coursera

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 3
udemy
4.2
(251)

Master the use of Ground Control Points (GCPs) to make your UAV mapping projects absolutely survey grade!...

The Ultimate Guide for Land Surveying with Drones - Part 2
udemy
4.4
(454)

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

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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 California, New Jersey, New York, and Washington. Surveyors make the most in California with an average salary of $92,520. Whereas in New Jersey and New York, they would average $84,773 and $76,034, respectively. While surveyors would only make an average of $75,329 in Washington, 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. North Dakota

Total Surveyor Jobs:
6
Highest 10% Earn:
$105,000
Location Quotient:
1.43 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. Oregon

Total Surveyor Jobs:
29
Highest 10% Earn:
$102,000
Location Quotient:
1.55 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. California

Total Surveyor Jobs:
97
Highest 10% Earn:
$135,000
Location Quotient:
0.74 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
Full List Of Best States For Surveyors

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Top Surveyor Employers

Most Common Employers For Surveyor

Rank  Company  Average Salary  Hourly Rate  Job Openings  
1Escalent$85,599$41.1533
2American Bureau of Shipping$84,156$40.4672
3Issues & Answers$83,739$40.2617
4Venture Data$83,205$40.0035
5Promark Research$79,566$38.2539
6Kiewit$77,996$37.5016
7Stantec$72,961$35.0821
8Blue Raven Solar$64,195$30.8658
9*n/a*$63,237$30.4026
10RetailData$63,236$30.4017

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