Surveying Engineer: Career Profile

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a surveying engineer. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

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Surveying engineers perform measurements to determine property boundaries. Their work involves measuring distances, researching land records, and presenting findings. Surveying engineers are typically required to have a bachelor's degree and obtain licensing.

Essential Information

When a landowner wants to change their property, they must have certain legal documents, like a boundary survey. Landowners turn to surveying engineers, usually simply called surveyors, to obtain those documents. Surveying engineers need a bachelor's degree in surveying or another relevant field, and they must hold a state license, which commonly requires experience and passing several examinations.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Licensing License required in all states
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* -2% (decline)
Median Salary (2015)* $58,020

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

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Surveying Engineer Career Overview

Surveying engineers work in city, county, and state offices to measure and record the geographic elements of the earth. A surveyor is a professional who has obtained a 4-year degree in surveying or a related field and a professional license. They may work in offices or in the field, supervising other individuals or taking charge of surveying projects to obtain specific records.


Surveyor duties may include researching legal and land records, using geographic information systems (GIS) and global positioning systems to learn geographic elements of an area and conducting surveys that will determine a parcel's boundaries for the legal description (www.onetonline.org). A surveyor assumes responsibility for the accuracy of surveys on their projects, including those done by aspiring surveyors who work under the guidance of the licensed surveyor.

Licensure Requirements

The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) notes that individual states set the regulations for licensure of professional surveyors, but that there is a common four-step process for licensure (www.ncees.org). There are two exams that aspiring surveyors must pass. The first is the Fundamentals of Surveying (FS) exam, which covers topics like boundary law and administration, field data acquisition, GIS concepts and principles of land development. The second exam is the Professional Surveyor (PS) exam, which includes federal and state standards and an overview of the federal land system. The PS exam also covers legal concepts, like controlling elements in legal descriptions, types of conveyances, types of surveys, surveying practices, project management and contracts.

After passing the PS exam, the NCEES notes that individuals must gain at least four years of work experience. During this time, an aspiring surveyor typically works with a licensed professional surveyor.

Salary Information and Occupational Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that in 2014, there were 44,300 surveyors working in the United States (www.bls.gov). The lowest 10% earned below $32,850 and the highest 10% earned above $95,800. In Texas, the state with the highest level of employment for surveyors, the BLS notes that surveyors earned an average salary of $62,050 annually; in Alaska, which the BLS ranks as the state with the highest concentration of jobs for surveyors, these professionals earned an average of $83,490. The BLS projects that the hiring of surveyors is expected to decline by 2% in the 2014-2024 decade.

Surveying engineers use sophisticated technology to measure distances and determine property boundaries. Many surveying engineers gain experience under a licensed surveyor, and a bachelor's degree and licensing is usually required. Jobs for surveyors are projected to decline slightly through 2024.

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