Surveyors

Career, Salary and Education Information

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Top 3 Surveyor Jobs

  • Land Surveyor - LandTech - Rochester, NY

    Familiar with AutoCAD or Carlson Survey Software for drafting and computations. • Self-starter, highly motivated, and a team player • Valid NYS

  • Land Surveyor - Party Chief - Starlight Surveying, Inc. - Anaheim, CA

    Experienced Party Chief (Land Surveyor) to fill long-term position at Irvine

  • Survey Crew Chief and Graduate Surveyor - Anderson, Eckstein & Westrick - Shelby Township, MI

    Education/Experience Requirements: • Bachelor’s Degree in Land Surveying or related field required for

See all Surveyor jobs

What Surveyors Do[About this section] [To Top]

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 of Surveyors

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 mark and document the location of legal property lines. For example, when a house or commercial building is bought or sold, surveyors may mark property boundaries to prevent or resolve disputes. They use a variety of measuring equipment depending upon the type of survey.

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 automated systems known as robotic total stations to collect relevant information about the terrain they are surveying. Surveyors then interpret and verify the results on a computer.

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, other jobs may be performed by a crew, consisting of a licensed surveyor and trained surveying 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 also work with civil engineers, landscape architects, cartographers and photogrammetrists, and urban and regional planners to develop comprehensive design documents.

The following are examples of types of surveyors:

Boundary or land surveyors determine the legal property lines and help determine the exact locations of real estate and construction projects.

Engineering or construction surveyors determine the precise location of roads or buildings and proper depths for building foundations. They show changes to the property line and indicate potential restrictions on the property, such as what can be built on it and how large the structure can be. They also may survey the grade and topography of roads.

Forensic surveyors survey and record accident scenes for potential landscape effects.

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.

Mine surveyors survey and map the tunnels in an underground mine. They survey surface mines to determine the volume of materials mined.

Work Environment for Surveyors[About this section] [To Top]

Surveyors held about 44,800 jobs. The largest employers of surveyors are as follows:

Architectural, engineering, and related services 71%
Government 11
Construction 8
Self-employed workers 2
Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction 2

Depending on the specific job duties, surveying involves both fieldwork and office work. Fieldwork involves working outdoors in all types of weather, walking long distances, and standing for extended periods while taking measurements. Surveyors sometimes climb hills with heavy packs of surveying instruments. When working near hazards such as traffic, surveyors generally wear brightly colored or reflective vests so they may be seen more easily. When working in underground mines, surveyors work in enclosed spaces.

Traveling is often part of the job, and surveyors may commute long distances or stay at a project location for an extended period of time. Those who work on resource extraction projects may work in remote areas and spend long periods away from home.

Surveyor Work Schedules

Surveyors usually work full time. When construction activity is high, they may work more hours than usual.

How to Become a Surveyor[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Surveyors near you!

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 for Surveyors

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. Many states require individuals who want to become licensed surveyors to have a bachelor's degree from a school accredited by ABET. A bachelor's degree in a closely related field, such as civil engineering or forestry, is sometimes acceptable as well. An associate's degree may be sufficient in some cases with additional training.

Surveyor Training

In order to become licensed, most states require approximately 4 years of work experience and training under a licensed surveyor after obtaining a bachelor's degree. Other states may allow substituting more years of work experience and supervised training under a licensed surveyor in place of education.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation for Surveyors

In some states, surveying technicians can become licensed surveyors after working for as many as 10 years under a licensed surveyor. The amount of work experience required varies by state. Check with your state for more information.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations for Surveyors

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 usually must 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:

  1. Complete the level of education required in your state
  2. Pass the Fundamentals of Surveying (FS) exam
  3. Gain sufficient work experience under a licensed surveyor
  4. Pass the Principles and Practice of Surveying (PS) exam

Most states also have continuing education requirements for surveyors to maintain their license.

Important Qualities for Surveyors

Communication skills. Surveyors must provide clear instructions to team members, clients, and government officials. They also must be able to follow 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 and 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 Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for surveyors is $59,390. 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 $33,630, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $98,360.

The median annual wages for surveyors in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Government $67,760
Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction 62,820
Construction 61,710
Architectural, engineering, and related services 58,130

Surveyors usually work full time. When construction activity is high, they may work more hours than usual.

Job Outlook for Surveyors[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of surveyors is projected to grow 11 percent over the next ten years, faster than the average for all occupations. Surveyors will continue to be needed to certify boundary lines, work on resource extraction projects, and review sites for construction.

Job Prospects for Surveyors

Overall job opportunities are expected to be good, but those with knowledge of a variety of surveying specializations and a bachelor's degree from an ABET-accredited school will have the best job opportunities.

Demand for traditional surveying services is closely tied to construction activity, therefore job opportunities will vary by geographic region, and often depend on local economic conditions. When real estate sales and other construction activity slow down, surveyors may face greater competition for jobs. However, because surveyors can work on many different types of projects, they may have steadier work than others in the industry when construction slows.

Employment projections data for Surveyors, 2016-26
Occupational Title Employment, 2016 Projected Employment, 2026 Change, 2016-26
Percent Numeric
Surveyors 44,800 49,800 11 5,000


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

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