Surveying and Mapping Technicians

Career, Salary and Education Information

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What Surveying and Mapping Technicians Do[About this section] [To Top]

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 of Surveying and Mapping Technicians

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.

Work Environment for Surveying and Mapping Technicians[About this section] [To Top]

Surveying and mapping technicians hold about 57,300 jobs. Most surveying and mapping technicians work for firms that provide engineering, surveying, and mapping services on a contractual basis. Local governments also employ these workers in highway and planning departments.

Surveying technicians work outside extensively and can be exposed to all types of weather. They often stand for long periods, walk considerable distances, and may have to climb hills with heavy packs of surveying instruments. Traveling is sometimes part of the job, and surveying technicians may commute long distances, stay away from home overnight, or temporarily relocate near a survey site.

Mapping technicians work primarily on computers in office environments. However, mapping technicians must sometimes conduct research by using resources such as survey maps and legal documents to verify property lines and to obtain information needed for mapping. This task may require traveling to storage sites, such as county courthouses or lawyers’ offices, that house these legal documents.

Surveying and Mapping Technician Work Schedules

Surveying and mapping technicians typically work full time but may work additional hours during the summer, when weather and light conditions are most suitable for fieldwork. Construction-related work may be limited during times of harsh weather.

Mapping technicians who develop and maintain Geographic Information System (GIS) databases generally work normal business hours.

How to Become a Surveying or Mapping Technician[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Surveying and Mapping Technicians near you!

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).

Surveying and Mapping Technician 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.

Surveying and Mapping Technician 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 for Surveying and Mapping Technicians

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 for Surveying and Mapping Technicians

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.

Surveying and Mapping Technician Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for surveying and mapping technicians is $40,770. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $25,270, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $67,320.

Surveying and mapping technicians typically work regular schedules but may work additional hours during the summer, when weather and light are most suitable for fieldwork. Construction-related work may be limited during times of harsh weather.

Mapping technicians who develop and maintain Geographic Information System (GIS) databases generally work normal business hours.

Job Outlook for Surveying and Mapping Technicians[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of surveying and mapping technicians is projected to decline 8 percent over the next ten years. Advancements in surveying technology, such as robotic total stations, let surveyors and surveying technicians complete more work in less time, reducing the demand for surveying technicians.

Surveying and Mapping Technicians Job Prospects

Some job openings will result from the need to replace workers who leave the occupation. Demand for surveying services is closely tied to construction activity, and job opportunities will vary by geographic region, often depending on local economic conditions. When real estate sales and construction activity slow down, surveying technicians may face greater competition for jobs. However, because surveying technicians can work on many different types of projects, they may have steadier work than others when construction slows.

Prospects should be best for those who are trained in Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

Employment projections data for Surveying and Mapping Technicians, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Surveying and mapping technicians 57,300 52,900 -8 -4,300


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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