How To Become A Surveyor

A surveyor makes exact measurements in order to define the boundaries of a property. This is necessary to determine where the exact locations of real estate and construction projects are and to give legal documentation as to where property boundaries lie. Your work is necessary to prevent boundary disputes. In order to do this, you can be asked to look for evidence on the existence of previous boundaries as well as to research land titles and existing survey and land records.

Aside from measuring boundaries, you may also measure points below the surface of the earth. For instance, when a property is constructed, you will have to find the proper depths for the foundations. You also have to be mindful of any changes made in the property line since this would also tell if there are restrictions as to the type of structures that can be constructed on the property. You also have to establish where the boundaries for land and water are as well.

To do your job well, you will use new technology such as GPS or Global Positioning Systems which allow you to find reference points with a very high degree of accuracy. Part of this system of satellites is the Geographic Information System (GIS) which would allow you to present visual data such as reports, charts and more commonly, maps so they are better understood by clients. One way that you can use this technology is when you need to overlay aerial images with GIS data in order to produce computerized maps.

You may also advise clients, typically governments and businessmen, on where their planned structures such as roads and homes should be built. You may also be asked to settle boundary disputes by providing your expert opinion on the matter under question. If the parties will not be able to come to an agreement, you may be called to give your testimony in court.

There are many different specializations in this career. You can work as a geodetic surveyor where you’ll be measuring large swathes of land; as a geophysical prospecting surveyor where you will be measuring sites where potential petroleum or natural gas products are located or as a marine or hydrographic surveyor where your work involves measuring bodies of water to find out where the shorelines are, how deep the water is and what the topography of the bottom is.

This profession requires a keen eye for detail. Since you will be producing documents that will form part of legal records, you have to be precise and accurate. You also have to be comfortable working with modern technologies such as GPS and GIS and be able to visualize distances for prospective construction projects.

You must also be a good problem solver since you may be called upon to determine where a property line is after various environmental and non-environmental factors may have affected its location. You also need to have great interpersonal and communication skills since you will usually be working as part of a team composed of architects, construction managers and other professionals. If you are heading a survey party, you need to give clear instructions.

Why Become A Surveyor

One reason to become a surveyor is because it allows you to put your math and measuring skills to daily use. If you are comfortable around numbers and measurements then this is a career that you’ll certainly find fulfillment in. It is also a satisfying career for those who want to work in the outdoors. Travel—even to remote areas— is also a regular part of the job so if you enjoy discovering new places, then this career would be a good match for you.

Surveyor Work Environment

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that 69 percent of surveyors worked for architectural, engineering and related services companies in 2012. The rest were hired by local and state governments, companies operating in the heavy and civil engineering construction industries and the mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction industries.

Surveyors work both in the field and in the office where they prepare their reports. When on the field, they may have to walk and climb long distances carrying heavy equipment. They may also have to do their tasks on all kinds of weather conditions when on a site. If surveying in urban areas where there is heavy traffic, they need to wear bright or reflective clothes so that motorists can spot them more easily.

Field work may also entail travel far from home for long periods at a time, such as when they are working on a mining or oil and gas extraction site. Surveyors generally work fulltime but may have to extend work hours when there are a lot of tasks to finish, especially in periods of a construction boom.

Surveyor Salary

The May 2013 Occupational Employment and Wages report of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that the mean annual wage of surveyors is $59,570. This is slightly lower than the $62,540 received by cartographers and photogrammetrists, which were also grouped in the same category. In 2012, the agency reported that the highest paid surveyors worked for state governments ($68,590) followed by those hired by local governments ($61,880).

Surveyors in heavy and civil engineering construction got $57,250 while those in mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction got $55,260. Those working for architectural, engineering and related services firms were paid $54,430. Moreover, the highest paid surveyors received more than $90,920 while the lowest paid got less than $32,190 in 2012.

Average Surveyor Annual Salary


The average annual salary for surveyors is $65,300 a year. Salaries start at $34,470 a year and go up to $100,420 a year.

Average Surveyor Hourly Wage


The average hourly wage for a surveyor is $31.40. Hourly wages are between $16.57 and $48.28 an hour.

Stats were based out of 43,430 employed surveyors in the United States.

Highest Paying States For Surveyors

Top Paying Cities For Surveyors

Data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Surveyor Career Outlook

The job outlook is expected to be good for surveyors in the ten-year period covering 2012 to 2022. The employment rate is expected to rise 10 percent in that time frame, a rate that is as fast as the average for all job types. The demand will come from the thrust to improve the nation’s infrastructure as well as for oil and gas extraction projects in some states. There are going to be excellent job opportunities for those who hold bachelor’s degrees in the field.

Surveyor Degree

Most states now want aspiring surveyors to hold a bachelor’s degree in surveying or closely related field from an ABET-accredited school. There are some states that require only an associate’s degree in surveying.

In order to get a surveyor license—which is necessary for one to practice the profession—the education degree must be combined with work experience. Each state determines the number of years of work experience but for bachelor’s degree holders, it is about two years. Those who hold associate’s degree may need to work longer. The work experience must be done under a licensed surveyor to be credited.

In order to get a license, the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying requires completion of the degree, passing the Fundamentals of Surveying exam, getting the needed work experience and then taking and passing the Principles and Practices of Surveying exam.

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