Land surveyors perform a variety of tasks, including recording the dimensions and physical features of an area of land. Individuals interested in pursuing this field will likely need a bachelor's degree. In addition to a degree, land surveyors also need to be licensed, with specific licensure requirements depending on the state in which the license is sought.
Land survey education often begins with a bachelor's degree program in surveying or a related major. Becoming fully licensed requires passing two exams and completing the prerequisite work experience, which is usually four years. Surveying courses focus on physics and geography, among other topics, and practical training includes field work and time spent with computer-aided design (CAD) programs.
|Required Education||Bachelor's degree; an associate's degree and related work experience may be substituted|
|Other Requirements||Licensure required after four years of training; Must pass the Fundamentals of Surveying (FS) exam upon graduation and the Principles and Practice of Surveying (PS) upon completion of training|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||decline 2%*|
|Median Annual Salary (2015)||$58,020*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Job Description for Surveyors
Surveyors are professionals who observe land, recording dimensions and physical identifiers such as shape and color. They may outline land, airspace or water boundaries and check soil or rock samples for mineral concentrations. Surveyors can find work in many industries, including engineering, architecture, construction and government. During projects, they may be part of a team that consists of other professionals from these fields. Surveyors must be skilled in math and earth sciences and must be knowledgeable about local government regulations for the area in which they wish to practice.
Most surveying jobs require a bachelor's degree in surveying or a related major. The non-surveying requirements include sequences in physics and calculus. The surveying curriculum includes coursework in geography, geology, and surveying techniques. A surveying program may be offered with a related major such as mapping science or cartography. Some programs offer concentration areas, which might include design or photo surveying.
Many surveying programs incorporate practical experience into the curriculum. Laboratory courses allow students to practice surveying techniques by working with instruments such as levels, lasers, electronic distance meters and optical alignment devices. Programs also include extensive time working with computers in programming and computer-aided design. Students often take cooperative internships in the summer to gain work experience with licensed surveyors.
Many state licensing boards require that applicants have graduated from a program accredited by ABET, formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. While individuals with degrees from programs without ABET accreditation can still become licensed, it may require additional years of work experience.
Becoming licensed requires passing two exams administered by the National Council for Examiners of Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). The first is the Fundamentals of Surveying (FS) exam, which may be taken near the completion of a bachelor's program. The FS exam covers mathematical, scientific and basic surveying concepts. Following four years of work experience, individuals may sit for the Principles and Practice of Surveying (PS) exam. The PS exam covers specific topics in surveying such as standards, legal principles, professional practices, business practices and types of surveys.
Career and Salary Statistics for Surveyors
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that the field of surveyors will experience a 2% decrease in jobs between 2014 and 2024, which is about average. Additionally, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for surveyors was $58,020 in May of 2015.
Partially because of the projected decline in surveying opportunities, it might be advisable to earn a bachelor's degree through an ABET-accredited program. Though specifics may vary from state to state, all states require licensure, which is a multi year process that includes considerable supervised work experience and passing two NCEES exams.