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Surveyor: Education for a Career in Land Surveying

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

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Surveyors are essential in determining the limits of property, whether it is a question of countries, states, counties, towns, businesses or even people's yards. Your best bet to become a licensed surveyor is to graduate from a surveying program that has been approved by ABET.

Essential Information

Land surveyors provide vital geographic and property information. While there are some exceptions, prospective surveyors will likely need a bachelor's degree. Once school has been completed, surveyors must pass additional exams for licensure and certifications.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Other Requirements Licensing from National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying
Certification Voluntary Certified Survey Technician credential
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* Decline, -2%
Average Salary (2015)* $58,020

Source:*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Land Surveying Career Education

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), land surveyors are professionals who take measurements related to the earth's surface. They make observations and record data on land features, dimensions and important structures. Land surveyors often assist engineers and construction workers by making schematics of work sites. They may work for construction and oil companies or the government.

Educational Requirements

Students may consider programs that have met the standards of ABET, Inc., formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. According to ABET, many state licensing boards require applicants to have graduated from an approved surveying program.

While some surveying jobs may be entered with an associate's degree or less, most jobs require a bachelor's degree. Students may consider programs in surveying, geomatics, engineering or a related field. These curricula have requirements in calculus, earth science, physics and statistics. Many programs include a course in technical writing.

The core coursework will vary depending on the major. Many curricula include topics in land systems, boundary line analysis, computer-aided design and photogrammetry. Courses are often coupled with labs that allow students to work hands-on with surveying technology, sometimes in outdoor environments. Some programs offer certificates for individuals with a degree related to surveying, such as civil engineering.

Licensing Requirements

The BLS reports that surveyors are licensed in all states. The licensing process involves passing two exams and earning work experience. The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) administers both exams.

Students who are about to graduate may sit for the Fundamentals of Surveying (FS) exam, which covers topics in math, science and basic surveying principles. Individuals who have passed the FS exam and worked for at least four years may take the Principles and Practice of Surveying (PS) exam, often the last requirement for licensure. The PS tests individuals on specific surveying concepts, including legal principles, surveying types and professional techniques.

Certification Options

The National Society of Professional Surveyors offers the Certified Survey Technician (CST) credential. This credential is offered in four levels that are based on work experience and passing scores on certifying exams. Some state land surveying associations offer certifications that are based off of the CST. The BLS indicates that certification may be required for promotions.

Job Outlook and Salary Info

While demand for surveyors can depend on economic conditions and the need for new construction, the BLS projected a 2 percent decline in employment opportunities for these professionals from 2014-2024. The best job prospects were expected for those with experience using digital mapmaking and geographic information systems (GIS) technologies. As of May 2015, surveyors earned an average annual salary of $58,020.

Though you might be able to land a surveying job with an associate's degree, partially because of the projected decline in job opportunities, you might be wise to earn a bachelor's degree. All states require you to become licensed by the examination/practical experience process administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying. Certification by the National Society of Professional Surveyors can also work to your advantage in securing a position and professional advancement.

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