To become a surveyor, you need to first get an education. You will need at least a bachelor’s degree in surveying or engineering, and many employers prefer candidates with a master’s degree.
After you have your degree, you’ll need to get licensed as a surveyor. This involves passing an exam that shows your knowledge of surveying practices and ethics.
Finally, you’ll need to find employment as a surveyor. This can be as simple as working for an established company or it might involve starting your own business.
How To Become Surveyor
Surveyors are highly skilled professionals that play an important role in the development, building and defining of properties, construction and environmental sites. These professionals undergo specialized education to work in their field and will typically rely on a range of hard skills to perform their jobs.
If you’re interested in becoming a surveyor, there are several steps you’ll need to enter your career. In this article, we’ll explore the role of a surveyor, what their work environment is like and how to become a surveyor so you can determine if this is the career for you.
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What is a surveyor?
Surveyors play an integral role in the land development industry and are responsible for measuring and marking property boundaries and collecting and providing this geographical data to engineers, cartographers and construction companies for development and mapping purposes. Surveyors use specialized technical equipment to perform their jobs, so this career requires a strong set of both hard and soft skills.
Related: Learn About Being a Surveyor
What does a surveyor do?
Surveyors use highly specialized technical equipment and tools to take precise measurements of the geographical layout of potential construction sites, residential and commercial properties, preserved land areas and other areas where there is a potential use for land. Surveyors perform many essential duties for the companies they work for, and these can include:
- Measuring the distance and angles between points above, below and on the land’s surface
- Traveling to various sites and locations using known points of reference to identify the precise location of important land features
- Researching land and survey records and land titles and determining where property and land boundary lines are
- Preparing reports, maps and plots and presenting their findings to government agencies, construction companies and other clients
- Establishing official boundaries for land and water for legal documents including leases and deeds
In addition to these common job responsibilities, surveyors may also perform additional duties, depending on the type of survey work they do. Several types of survey work include:
- Land surveying: Land and boundary surveyors determine the legal boundaries of property and identify the precise locations of construction sites and real estate.
- Engineering and construction surveying: These surveyors determine the locations of buildings, roads and the depths of building foundations for construction projects.
- Forensic surveying: Forensic surveyors record accident scenes and the effects on land areas and the land’s geographical features from accidents.
- Mine surveying: Mining surveyors map tunnels and features of underground mines and help determine the volume of mining materials of surface mines.
- Marine and hydrographic surveying: Marine surveyors survey bodies of water like rivers, bays and harbors to identify topographical features like water depth and the floor of the water body.
- Geodetic surveying: Geodetic surveyors use high-accuracy technological equipment, such as satellite and aerial observation tools, to measure larger areas of the surface of the earth.
Related: What Is a Hydrogeologist?
How to become a surveyor
While your educational studies may differ slightly if you choose to specialize in a specific field of surveying, the following steps outline the general process for becoming a surveyor:
1. Complete a bachelor’s degree
Because surveying requires the use of sophisticated technical equipment and mathematics, a bachelor’s degree program is the most common route to entering a career as a surveyor. Additionally, your state may require you to complete an ABET-accredited program to qualify for licensing after you graduate.
Many ABET-accredited colleges and universities offer bachelor’s programs that are specific to surveying, and the coursework can include subjects like calculus, physics, geography, geology, cartography and surveying techniques.
2. Take and pass the FS exam
The Fundamentals of Surveying (FS) exam is available for graduates and students who will soon be graduating with their bachelor’s degree from an accredited program. The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) offers the first license exam, which is necessary if you want to start a career as a land surveyor.
Passing this exam will make you a surveyor-in-training, where you can then work under the supervision of a licensed surveyor to gain on-the-job experience.
3. Gain work experience
Before you are eligible to be a licensed surveyor, you’ll need to work under the supervision of a licensed surveyor and build your work experience. The years of work experience you’ll need to gain depends on the specific requirements of the state you plan to work in. Similarly, many states require you to have your surveyor’s license before you are qualified and able to sign off on surveying documents.
4. Take and pass the PS exam
The Professional Surveyor (PS) license exam is the second licensing requirement for the NCEES, and if you want to obtain your state licensure to become a fully licensed surveyor, you’ll need to complete the PS exam. Additionally, the PS licensure requires at least four years of experience working with a licensed surveyor before you can sit for the exam.
5. Obtain your surveyor’s license through your state
Once you’ve taken and passed both the FS and PS exams for national licensure, you can take your state’s exam. All surveyors are required to have state licensure to work as professional surveyors. Depending on your state’s exact requirements, you may need to work under a licensed surveyor for some time before taking your state exam.
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Frequently asked questions about working as a surveyor
If you are still curious about what the job of a surveyor entails, the following frequently asked questions can give you some additional insight:
What skills do surveyors develop throughout their education and training?
Surveyors work with highly specialized equipment, including robotic measurement tools, theodolites, GPS, ground-penetrating radar equipment and other technical equipment, and therefore have strong technical skills they develop throughout their education and training.
In addition to strong technical skills, surveyors typically apply written communication, analytical skills and critical thinking skills to work with their equipment, determine areas of measurement and display information and data. Surveyors also work with engineers, site managers and other professionals, so strong teamwork and collaboration skills are necessary for success in the role.
What’s the work environment like for surveyors?
Depending on their specific job responsibilities, surveyors will generally have work hours both in the office and out in the field. Office work usually involves documenting surveying information, compiling data and preparing reports and other paperwork. When surveyors are out in the field, they may be outside for long periods of time to take measurements, determine boundaries and other tasks.
Additionally, surveyors spend a great deal of time traveling to and from different locations, with some fields of surveying involving traveling long distances and long periods of time away from home. While many surveyors generally work regular full-time hours, some specialized professional surveyors may work longer or nontraditional schedules to complete projects.
How can a surveyor advance their career?
Once you become a licensed surveyor, you may have opportunities to advance to leadership roles within the firm or organization you work for. Having a Bachelor’s Degree in Surveying or related field can prepare you for continuing your education and obtaining a master’s degree in your chosen field. Additionally, since surveying requires extensive mathematics, technical use and applications of physics, some surveyors pursue second degrees in engineering or related technical fields, which provides more opportunities for career advancement.