Survey Engineer: Employment & Career Info

Apr 05, 2019

Discover what education and skills a survey engineer needs. Learn about salary and job outlook as well as work responsibilities to decide if this is the right career for you.

Career Definition for a Survey Engineer

Survey engineers measure the shape and contours of terrain above ground and underwater to ensure the accuracy of maps and boundary markers. Their measurements are used to plan roadways and tunnels, build pipelines and bridges, track the movement of pollutants in waterways and determine ocean floor erosion rates after storms and earthquakes. Survey engineers often specialize; a forensics surveyor may reconstruct a traffic accident by analyzing skid marks and road angles, while a hydrographic surveyor may search for fault lines as part of an offshore crew. Many professionals work in the field, collecting information while others are based in an office, analyzing data. They are employed by private engineering or surveying firms, government agencies and municipalities, or as independent consultants.

Education Bachelor's degree required, exam taken after graduation to obtain license
Job Skills Math skills, analytical mind, understanding of management principles and legal aspects
Median Salary (2018)* $62,580 (surveyors)
Job Growth (2016-2026)* 11% (surveyors)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

A Bachelor of Science degree in surveying engineering or a related field, such as civil or electrical engineering or geomatics, is generally required for state licensure. Upon graduation, survey engineers take an assessment exam before entering the workforce, followed by a national proficiency exam and state licensing exam once they've worked under the supervision of an experienced surveyor for four years. The National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS) website lists survey engineering programs accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). The NSPS also offers voluntary certification programs in Survey Engineering specialties.

Skills Required

Survey engineers must be detail-oriented and analytical, with strong math skills and a working knowledge of related disciplines, such as geology, photogrammetry, and Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology. An understanding of land-use management principles and the legal aspects of surveying is essential. Surveyors must be computer proficient and familiar with current hardware and software used in their specialized field. They need good communication skills and the ability to work independently and as part of a team. Surveyors who work outdoors should be able to stand for long periods of time, climb, hike and carry heavy equipment.

Economic Outlook and Financial Forecast

The BLS predicts an 11% increase in job opportunities for surveyors during the 2016-2026 period. Survey engineering professionals work in a variety of settings, but the BLS predicts that most will continue to be employed in architecture and engineering-related businesses, such as construction. Salaries vary by experience, specialty, and employer. In May 2018, the BLS reported that median annual earning for surveyors were $62,580, with the lowest-paid ten percent earning less than $35,160 and the highest-paid ten percent earning more than $102,220.

Alternative Careers

Check out these other options for careers in surveying:

Surveying Technician

For those interested in survey work but who may not want to pursue surveyor education requirements, becoming a surveying technician may be a good option. Surveying technicians assist surveyors in gathering site measurements. They also place measurement markers, input collected information into the computer and find old survey reference points. A high school education is required, and many employers look for surveying technicians who have received additional training from a vocational program. Based on data from the BLS, surveying and mapping technicians should experience an employment increase of 11% from 2016-2026, resulting in the addition of 6,400 positions. In May of 2018, the BLS determined that these technicians earned an annual median salary of $44,380.

Civil Engineer

If using surveying data to design infrastructure projects like bridges, tunnels and roads sounds intriguing, consider a career in civil engineering. The many duties of a civil engineer include researching maps and surveying reports, developing budgets and cost estimates, preparing permit applications, drafting construction drawings and blueprints, analyzing soil and building materials, supervising surveyor activities and examining government regulations. A bachelor's degree in civil engineering is necessary to enter the field and a master's degree is often required for higher-level positions. Civil engineers who offer services to the public are also required to obtain state licensure. As reported by the BLS in 2018, 306,030 civil engineers were employed in the country and received $86,640 in median yearly wages in 2018. The BLS also predicts that employment opportunities for these engineers will increase by 11% between 2016 and 2026.

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