Surveying professionals must have strong mathematical skills in order to understand the complexities of calculating averages, measuring angles and computing land mass areas. Surveying requires specialized equipment, such as high-precision and electromechanical instruments and global positioning technologies, to acquire spatial data, perform data reduction, analyze measurements and make data adjustments. Although entry-level employment can be obtained with an associate degree in surveying technology, employers prefer to hire individuals with a bachelor's degree.
Associate's in Surveying Engineering
Usually lasting two years in length, an associate degree program introduces students to cartographic principles, measurement theory, automated methods in mapping. Training programs present students with opportunities to conduct field surveys and gain valuable experience in data collection and mapping. Students learn to use modern surveying tools and develop strong analytical skills. Typical course topics include:
- Basics of CAD
- Advanced algebra
- C++ programming
Bachelor's in Surveying Engineering
A bachelor's degree in surveying engineering provides theoretical and practical knowledge of geospatial systems, spatial data collecting, global positioning systems and other surveying technologies. Through hands-on assignments students learn to use modern technology to analyze hydraulic systems, land development sites, highways and structures. A bachelor's degree typically takes four years to complete. Course topics usually include:
- Advanced math
- Data collection systems
- Survey computations
- Legal aspects of surveying
- Boundary surveying principles
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The BLS states that surveyors, as of May 2015, make a mean annual wage of $61,880. The employment for this career is expected to decline 2% from 2014-2024.
In order to begin careers in the industry, surveyors are required to obtain licensure through their state licensing board. Specific licensing requirements vary from state to state, but the majority requires candidates to pass the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) examinations and occasionally require additional exams administered by the state. After passing the initial NCEES Fundamentals of Surveying exam, individuals will usually work under the supervision of a licensed surveyor for a period of four years prior to taking the NCEES exam in Principles and Practice of Surveying.
The National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS) offers voluntary certification programs for licensed surveyors. Certification can be obtained at four different levels determined by experience level and examination. Some employers are beginning to require certification for career advancement into positions with greater job responsibilities. At any level, the NSPS Certified Survey Technician (CST) exam is provided in both a field track and office track. The first exam can be taken by entry-level professional with zero experience. The progressive exams are available after that at approximately two year intervals.
State associations for professional surveyors usually offer a number of educational opportunities for individuals in the industry. In addition to one-day workshops and lectures, professional associations typically sponsor an annual conference that can last up to three days. Annual conferences usually offer a variety of breakout sessions and seminars covering a wide array of contemporary topics that are relevant to surveying field and office work. Conferences also provide an exhibition hall and networking opportunities.
To conclude, students that have an interest in becoming a land surveyor can complete an associate's or bachelor's degree program in surveying engineering. Both degree programs focus on high level math classes, along with surveying and data systems.