Land Surveying Courses and Classes Overview

Courses in land surveying are typically found in land surveying certificate and associate's degree programs. Students in these programs learn how to use basic and advanced surveying and mapping technology in preparation for entry-level work or to bolster an existing skill set.

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Essential Information

Land surveyors establish boundaries of land, water and airspace to determine property ownership. Therefore, land surveying courses prepare students for professional surveying licensure exams. Classes or programs are often found in engineering, architecture or geography departments. Many land surveying classes are part of geomatics programs at colleges and universities, but there are also 1-year certificate and 2-year associate's degree programs in land surveying. In addition to a high school diploma or GED, land surveying programs may ask for related work experience, a certain GPA and the completion of prerequisite coursework.

The core curriculum is similar at both education levels, but additional general education classes are included in the associate's degree program. One of the requirements is some sort of hands-on work, such as an internship or capstone. Distance learning and bachelor's degree programs in the field are other options for aspiring land surveyors.

Here are a few common concepts found in land surveying courses:

  • GIS technology
  • CAD technology
  • Analysis of highways and infrastructure
  • Topographic surveying
  • Boundary surveying
  • Legal principles

List of Land Surveying Classes

Introduction to Land Surveying Course

This first course in a land surveying program includes discussion of land ownership, property rights, laws governing property and definitions of land ownership and other surveying related terms. Students research property ownership through property records. Maps are used to establish property boundaries. Students may be introduced to primary tools for surveying and making maps, such as field equipment, mapping and GIS (geographic information systems) software, GPS (global positioning system) handhelds and computer aided design.

Computations Course

Using coordinate geometry, instruction is focused on computations necessary to identify survey points on land. Spherical coordinates and Cartesian coordinate systems are discussed. In this course students use advanced computations and thus trigonometry is a prerequisite.

Advanced Course

This highly technical class introduces the concept of creating a flat map, a plane, to describe a curved surface. Geodesy, measuring the shape of the Earth, is introduced. Students learn how to use the North Star to determine direction. Determining errors in precision measurement is covered. This course is one of the last courses taken in a land surveying program.

Plane Surveying Course

Plane surveying introduces students to the skills and technological knowledge required for working in the field. Students learn how to measure, calculate and record direction, distance and elevation using standard field equipment; advanced skills are taught through projects in which students use GPS for data collection and geometric calculations to measure curves. Prerequisites for this technical course are beginning land surveying and trigonometry.

Legal Course

This course is taken after the introduction to land surveying course and plane surveying have been completed. Students practice interpreting and preparing land descriptions for titles according to the U.S. Public Land Survey System. Additional topics include boundary dispute case law, senior rights and title transfers. Strong reading skills are required for this course, which is based on the interpretation and analysis of often complex legal concepts and language.

Public Land Survey System Course

The Public Land Survey System is a U.S. government maintained database of public land. Students interpret data and maps from this survey system to identify and survey public lands. Data quality issues are discussed. This course may be an elective.

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