This Content Originally Published by a land surveyor to Land Surveyors United Network
It wasn't my intention to get into a heated argument - well maybe a warm one HA.. - After being in this business for over 30 years it begins or began to get more than a bit irritating to hear everyone that could turn an angle or use a metal detector call themselves a surveyor.. A nurse isn't a doctor, a para-legal isn't a lawyer and an instrument man isn't a surveyor. Now having said that, one shouldn't belittle the knowledge that each of these people possess with respect to the years they've put into their fields. Still, we've all seen ( maybe ) an I-man that couldn't do a transform on the fly and was nothing more than button pusher for calling out coords. There is a huge difference between working in the survey world and being a true surveyor.
Best of luck from the land-locked side,
If you remember the old adage, "Rome wasn't built in a day". Today's surveying is every bit as technical & complicated as engineering. We have to deal with GPS, different datums & projections & we have to know boundary law, among other things. A fellow surveyor once wrote, not in these exact words but essentially, "ignorance of the law is not an excuse, everyone is presumed to know the law. When the highest court in the land comes to a 4 - 5 decision, that is the law & you should have known it". I am not saying we should be lawyers but guess who is there with bells on waiting to file a suit if we make an error in a boundary decision? Knowing the law isn't a guarantee you won't wind up in court but it will help you get it right & increase your chances of winning if the worst happens.
I read from " Evidence & Procedures for Boundary Location, by Brown Robillard & Wilson", that the definition of a profession is elusive & has been given numerous definitions. Two of the principles most often cited are that it requires extensive knowledge & from the above text' "Professional stature cannot be attained by self-proclamation, it must be earned, and others must bestow the title on the profession". Knowledge is knowledge no matter how it is attained. We have all read about people that don't have any degree that achieved great things but these people generally have a lot of education. I know a civil engineer that has no degree in anything, not even a GED & he is registered in 4 States. He does have about 160 semester hours of engineering, math, & physics. He will be the first to tell anybody that asks, that is the hard way to do it, GET A DEGREE! Society depends almost entirely on institutions of higher learning for documentation & without that, your chances of success are slim.
Continuing Education requirements are a good concept but I am very disappointed in the available courses & also the quality.
First, do not confuse putting stakes in the ground with surveying. If you are doing layout work for a contractor (which is what I gather by your post ), doing lay out work for the construction of sewers, sidewalks or foundations, you are most likely working off of control points or property corners established by an LS. You also aren't - or should not be - doing any work that would attempt to represent boundary lines, legal easements, right of ways, floodways, flood protection elevations, recover or re-establish original monuments, sub-divide land, preform any analysis of recorded deeds, land patents and plats. You are also not qualified to review evidence of deeds, writings, of recovered or lost monuments, to interpret the intent of preceding professional surveyors or of the descriptions, surveys, plats and written notes and writings of these predecessors.
Second, you are correct in regards to the slow growth of surveyors wages. This is and has been a topic of discussion and concern for the past 20 years. To the professions credit, adoption of standards and model laws of competent practice have begun to reverse this and we are currently see a growth in compensation.
Third, what is the benefit of a degree? As one that takes pride in a profession it's east to point to the requirements of continuing education, of maintaining competency of practice, the acceptance of liability, the perpetuation of knowledge, the maintenance of land title and evidence, and finally the acceptance the knowledge must be paired with ability.
What you profess to be doing is analogous to the building of a fine home. Master masons and carpenters laid the foundations and framed the walls to be square, true and plumb. Licensed plumbers and electricians installed their responsible items. You come in after all the supporting and critical work has been completed, inspected and verified as correct and functional, and hang the drywall.
I am not confusing putting stakes in the ground with surveying... there is a lot more to construction surveying than just simply putting stakes in the ground, and its funny you say that because most of the "Surveyors" today in the land surveying side have all of their calculations done for them in the office and they are nothing more than information gatherers from what i've seen being trained lately... the reason for that is because most of the good ones have figured out the wages were terrible and they moved onto something they can actually earn a real wage at... construction surveyors work (or in my line of work) work inside of a plant whom are working on assumed datum and dont have surveyors bring in State Plane coordinates... they don't care where they are in the real world, only what they have inside of their boundary... we take their boundary monuments and run our own control loops, benchmarks, Calculate every piling, Foundation and anchor bolt and everything else required to complete the job... the same as land surveyors do, only we hire Rodman for what land surveyors pay their party chiefs... most construction companies are hiring Rodman anywhere from 17-20 an hour, with no experience, and paying surveyors anywhere from 30-45 an hour, and believe me when i tell you there are just as many good construction surveyors as there are Land Surveyors... they just figured out there is no money in the land surveying side.
now i have no interest in getting into a p****** match, and im not trying to pick a fight with you, but how many people in your company do you think could layout an entire plant of around 200 acres and do the entire thing with a .015" tolerance? from one side to the other, everything has to fit within less than a quarter of an inch... if thats not high caliber surveying, i dont know what is.
Neither industry is better than the other, they are just 2 different sides of the same coin.
I think it hurt. (and I have a degree)
The problem is rooted in the desire of surveyors to be grouped with the likes of engineers, doctors or lawyers when in fact surveying is more of a trade. We are more like plumbers or electricians than engineers. We go outside, we get hot, sweaty, dirty, kill rattlesnakes or freeze our nuts off looking for a section corner in the dead of winter. We learn the bulk of our profession BY DOING, not by reading a text book or taking an exam. All the 4 year degree does is glass ceiling the guys that might make excellent surveyors, but have no way or desire to attend college.
Once upon a time, at least around here, we had a system of growing surveyors. They could graduate high school, go to work as a rodman, then a drafter or a party chief, and eventually climb the ladder to be a PLS. They had something to aspire to as a HS grad. Sadly that is no more. Now, we get guys that have a degree and say they want to be a surveyor, but think the degree entitles them to a posh salary with ZERO practical experience. The flip-side to that is: we constantly cycle though short-time employees under that glass ceiling. So you end up with a situation that does not promote business or professional growth.
That's my 2 cents.....
I am not going to pretend there are no problems. There are always problems. Success depends on what you set as a goal. If I wanted to be an engineer, I would be an engineer, I have an engineering degree. I like being a surveyor better. No doubt the average salary of an engineer is higher than that of a surveyor but you are comparing the salary of a registered professional engineer to that of a survey crewman. Times are changing, once you could be a member of the bar with a high school degree or less. I know plumbers that make more than either. If money is all you consider & if you like being a crewman & don't care about being in on the decision making process, go for it!
My first year in business for myself the going rate for a survey crew was about $30 an hour. I ran a two man crew & grossed well over $100,000. You can live comfortably working for somebody else but you will never be financially independent unless you learn how to invest money. I made more money totally by accident in real estate than I ever made working but surveying is what made it happen. I have worked for the US Forest Service, the State DNR. & a large construction company, not to mention a fortune 500 A&E company. If it is surveying, I have done it. I have surveyed everything from large boundaries to railroad car dumpers & ships for the Navy.
There are definitely bumps in the road but particularly if you value independence, surveying can be rewarding.
The reason for the education (at least for me) was to get registered & the reason for getting registered was independence..