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Career Information for a Degree or Certification in Surveying

An undergraduate degree in surveying generally prepares students to perform geographical measurements with precision and write descriptive profiles of landscapes, land use patterns and landscape structures. Continue reading for an overview of programs, as well as career and certification information for some career options for graduates.

Degree programs in surveying can lead to a career as a mapmaker, cartographer, or surveyor of land and water boundaries. Licensure or certification for each field are determined by the state. The employment outlook for cartographers is extremely positive, while those for surveyors are expected to see a slight decline.

Essential Information

Surveying degree programs can be found as bachelor's programs in cartography or surveying and mapping. These degree programs typically includes classes in human and physical geography, cartography and research methods. Some programs may require students to gain hands-on experience through cooperative learning.

Career Cartographer Surveyor
Education Requirements Bachelor's degree in geography, surveying or a related field Bachelor's degree in geography, surveying or a related field
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 29% (all cartographers and photogrammetrists) -2%
Median Salary (2015)* $61,880 annually (for all cartographers and photogrammetrists) $58,020 annually

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Options

Graduates of bachelor's degree programs in surveying are qualified to seek employment as cartographers or land surveyors. Below are overviews and detailed descriptions of these two career options for surveying majors.

Cartographer

Cartographers use mathematics, survey data, demographic reports and other information to create maps of the earth's surface for a wide variety of uses. Working for social scientists, they might create maps that reflect demographic and population statistics. Other types of maps include land use maps, which indicate the locations of urban areas, forest ranges, parks, mining and drilling operations and different types of agriculture, and topographic maps, which describe natural features and elevations. Cartographers must be proficient in computer-aided design, photographic programs, map creation programs and statistical analysis.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for cartographers and photogrammetrists are expected to increase by 3,600, or 29%, between 2014 and 2024. The same site notes that the median annual income for this profession in 2015 was $61,880.

Surveyor

Land surveyors establish land and water boundaries. The Occupational Information Network notes that surveyors might write descriptions of land for legal documents, such as leases and deeds, measure sites for construction or mineral extraction and calculate measurements of an area's topography. In addition to traditional tools of the trade, surveyors must be able to apply new technologies, such as GPS instruments, that allow them to locate points on the earth with a much higher degree of precision.

The BLS noted that employment of land surveyors was expected to decrease by 900 jobs, or -2%, between 2014 and 2024. In 2015, the median annual salary for land surveyors was $58,020, according to the BLS.

Professional Certification or Licensure Information

The BLS notes that licensure is regulated by each state. The American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM) certifies qualified candidates as Certified Federal Surveyors. To become a Certified Federal Surveyor, individuals must have no disciplinary actions on record during the previous five years and must hold registration or licensure in at least one state. Certification candidates must complete seven training classes in topics like federal boundary standards, records investigation, survey analysis and introduction to water boundaries.

A bachelor's degree in surveying or geography includes courses in geography, cartography and legal documents in order to prepare you to become a cartographer or surveyor. After completing an education program, prospective surveyors may seek licensure or certification - though requirements vary by state.


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