Registered Professional Land Surveyor Career Info and Requirements

Sep 12, 2019

Professional land surveyors require little formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and licensure requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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A professional surveyor performs precise measurements outdoors and indoors to determine a properties' boundaries. Requirements for a professional land surveyor vary by state, but may include a high school diploma or equivalent and an associate's or bachelor's degree in a relevant field.

Essential Information

Registered professional land surveyors measure areas on and below the earth's surface to collect geospatial data for land use planning, boundary mapping and other governmental purposes. Land surveyors obtain state licensure by meeting work and testing requirements established by their state's licensing board.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Other Requirements State licensure
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 6%*
Median Annual Wage (2018) $62,580*

Source: *U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information for Registered Professional Land Surveyors

Professional land surveyors collect land feature data, including elevation, shape and location information using global positioning system (GPS) technology. They use this data to verify historic data and establish official boundaries. They must maintain records of their work for verification and preparing maps and reports for legal documents.

Land surveyors who measure large areas of the Earth's surface are called geodetic surveyors. Others may work as geophysical prospecting surveyors to mark sites below earth's surface for natural resource exploration. Those who focus on measuring bodies of water, such as harbors and rivers, are employed as hydrographic surveyors.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that surveyors held 45,310 jobs in May 2018. Most surveyors work for firms that provide surveying and mapping services to other industries. Federal government agencies employ a large number of surveyors, particularly the United States Geological Survey, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. Those employed by state and local government agencies may work for highway departments and urban planning agencies.

Most surveyors are full-time salaried employees. Salaries vary based on work experience, level of education and employer.

Education Requirements

All states require professional surveyors to be licensed. Some states require only a high school diploma and additional training, such as an apprenticeship program. High school students interested in a surveying career can prepare by taking algebra, trigonometry, geometry and computer science classes.

The BLS reports that an increasing number of states require bachelor's degrees in surveying from a school accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Many colleges and universities offer 4-year bachelor's degrees in surveying or in a related field, such as civil engineering, geography or forestry. Junior colleges, technical institutes and vocational schools offer surveying programs that last 1-3 years. Surveying program coursework typically includes mathematics, statistics, geography, cartography and geographic information science (GIS).

Licensure Requirements

Most state licensing boards require candidates to pass examinations administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). According to the NCEES, becoming a licensed professional land surveyor is typically a 4-step process involving two exams. Candidates first complete the level of education required by their state. They may take the first NCEES exam at the end of their degree program or just after graduating.

The first exam is the Fundamentals of Surveying, which consists of 170 multiple-choice questions covering topics in mathematics, geodesy, computer operations, data and image acquisitions, mapping and boundary law. After passing this exam, candidates enter the workforce. In most states, candidates need four years of experience under the supervision of a licensed surveyor to qualify for the second NCEES exam.

The Principles and Practice of Surveying exam typically serves as the final step to becoming a registered professional land surveyor. This is an open-book exam of 100 multiple-choice questions testing a candidate's knowledge of legal principles, standards, specifications and professional survey practices, including research and field practices.

Before a surveyor can become fully licensed, he or she will be required to pass two exams in addition to completing any formal education. A solid understanding of mathematics, science and geography will be beneficial for prospective applicants.

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