Surveyor Job Description
If you’re a detail-minded individual who enjoys working outside, becoming a surveyor might be a good career option. Surveyors compile precise measurements to gather information about specific areas of land. Their services are sought by the government, mining companies, oil and gas extraction firms, construction companies, realtors, and others looking to make decisions based on surveyors’ reports. Surveyors generally work full-time and may need to put in extra hours when deadlines loom. Inclement weather and rugged terrain are two “workplace” hazards they sometimes encounter. Traveling to projects can involve a substantial distance, and surveyors may need to arrange temporary accommodations nearby instead of commuting. When not on a site, surveyors typically can be found in an office meeting with people or working on computers.
Surveyor Duties and Responsibilities
A surveyor’s responsibilities vary based on who is seeking his or her service. But whether a realtor hires a surveyor to establish property lines for a client wanting to purchase a house or a mining firm needs to know a layout before digging, some core tasks are central to most surveying positions. Thus, aspiring surveyors should expect to do the following:
Observe an Area
People who hire surveyors want to know exactly what exists in a specified region. They insist on precise measurements that provide a comprehensive, accurate assessment. To this end, surveyors rely not only on what they actually see but also on advanced measuring equipment.
Besides their own observations, surveyors often track down land records/titles and previous surveys. This information provides a history of the region, demonstrates changes over time, and may assist in answering ownership questions.
By drawing up maps and similar paperwork for the area being examined, surveyors provide official documentation of boundaries, natural features, man-made structures, and the like. This information assists with such things as planning construction, designating flood zones, and establishing property lines. If disputes ever arise concerning the plot of land in question, these written records provide a point of reference.
Surveyors convey their findings to the interested parties, such as construction project managers or government officials. Besides providing written reports, surveyors may hold discussions to answer questions.
Surveyor Skills and Qualifications
Commitment to accuracy is a must! The information surveyors provide may be used, for instance, to settle a property dispute in court or determine whether a building can be erected on a certain piece of land, so no detail can be overlooked. Other things needed to perform the job properly include:
- Interpersonal skills – being good at both listening and communicating enables surveyors to understand what is being asked of them and to convey information to diverse groups, such as team members, lawyers, and architects
- Organization – deadlines loom frequently, so surveyors need to budget their time and resources effectively to complete tasks being asked of them
- Teamwork – surveying is often carried out by a crew, so being able to collaborate and get along with others promotes operations getting done
- Physical requirements – walking, carrying equipment, and standing on one’s feet for a good amount of time requires fitness, stamina, and excellent footwear
- Industry-specific knowledge – accumulating information in the field, interpreting results, and drawing up visual representations involves mastery of technology such as Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
Surveyor Education and Training
Exact licensure requirements vary by state but typically involve earning a bachelor’s degree from an ABET-accredited post-secondary institution, passing the Fundamentals of Surveying exam, working four years under the tutelage of a licensed surveyor, and passing the Principles and Practice of Surveying exam. Sometimes people with only an associate’s degree may be able to get a license with additional work experience. And all surveyors should plan on being lifelong learners since license renewal requires continuing education.
Surveyor Salary and Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists the national median annual salary for surveyors as $59,390, with a median hourly wage of $28.56. Surveyors in the 10th percentile earn less than $33,600 a year, while the highest 10 percent earn more than $98,300 a year.
According to the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook, there are 44,800 surveyors employed in the United States. With job prospects expected to increase 11 percent over the next decade, this figure will likely reach 49,800 by 2026. Because surveying has close ties to the construction industry, demand may be particularly good in geographical regions experiencing growth.
We’ve searched the web for sources that can help you learn more about becoming a surveyor. Here are a few to check out:
National Society of Professional Surveyors – This group’s website answers key questions such as “Who needs a surveyor?” and “What do surveyors do?” and is particularly interested in getting younger generations involved in the profession.
The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying – This non-profit is a great place to learn about professional licensure.
Surveyor Reference Manual – The sixth edition of this comprehensive book covers a plethora of subjects surveyors need to know about and serves as a valuable resource when studying for licensure exams.
How Does Land Surveying Work? – Get a look (literally) at what surveyors do with this YouTube video put out by the City of Bloomington, Minnesota.
ABET – This organization sets accreditation standards for post-secondary institutions offering technical disciplines; using its search engine can help you find some of the best surveying programs throughout the country
Surveyor Network – This LinkedIn group provides a forum for its 19,000+ members from around the world to network and discuss topics of interest.
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