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How to Become a Professional Land Surveyor

Steps to Becoming a Land Surveyor

National Surveyors Week 2021 is a great time for inspiring the next generation Land Surveyor.  Becoming a professional land surveyor takes time, patience and research.  In this article, let's research what it takes to become a land surveyor.  We will also learn about surveying education and various licensure requirements, surveyor job duties, and job outlook to find out if Land Surveying is the career for you.


But First, We'll look at What a Surveyor Does

Land Surveyors are professional measurers.   In other words, Surveyors measure, create and map boundary lines for land, air and water spaces. Surveying is done to facilitate construction, engineering, land evaluation and the sale of real estate. Surveyors investigate previous records and examine the area in question for any prior surveys. Locations of land masses, features and structures are noted to ensure accuracy of the measurements. The end results are recorded, filed appropriately and presented to the client or responsible agency.


The following chart gives you an overview about becoming a surveyor.


Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Surveying and mapping; land surveying/geomatics; surveying engineering technology
Key Skills Detail oriented; mathematical and technical skills; problem-solving skills; written and verbal communication skills
Licensure and Certification Licensure is required in all states; certification is voluntary
Job Growth (2018-2028) 6%*
Median Salary (2018) $62,580*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics


Here are 5 Steps to Becoming a Land Surveyor

What exactly is a land surveyor?  A surveyor is a technical specialist who determines boundaries and creates surface maps using measurements gathered from land and data from deeds, titles, maps and previous surveys. You would measure contours, depressions, elevations and distances; determine the longitude and latitude of prominent features; and direct and coordinate the activities of subordinates. You would also organize existing records, verify the accuracy of land measurements, enter data into mapping software and write descriptions of a surveyed area.

Step 1: Prepare in High School

How to become a surveyor - high schoolHigh school level courses in geometry, algebra and trigonometry help build a base of background knowledge you can apply to surveying. Courses in drafting or mechanical drawing, computers and geography may also be helpful. A high school diploma or General Educational Development (GED) certificate is generally an admission requirement for bachelor's degree programs, and surveying programs may require prerequisites in math.


Step 2: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Bachelors degree for becoming a  land surveyorAccording to O*Net OnLine, about 42% of surveyors have bachelor's degrees. Some states may require you to have a degree for licensing purposes. Relevant bachelor's degree majors include surveying and mapping, surveying and geomatics and surveying engineering technology.

Surveying degree programs generally include a combination of classroom instruction and field experiences to teach you applied technical math, computer-aided design and the use of tools such as Global Positioning System (GPS) and Global Information System (GIS) technology, laser rangefinders and AutoCAD design software. Boundary law, statistical analysis and photogrammetry are other possible course topics. Some schools may require you to complete a capstone project.

Step 3: Obtain a License

How to get a land surveyor licenseYou need a surveyor's license in all U.S. states and territories; some may require you to pass the Fundamentals of Surveying (FS) exam administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying. After working under supervision for four years, you may attempt the Principles and Practice of Surveying (PS) exam to become fully licensed. Many states supplement the PS exam with their own exam.

Step 4: Pursue a Job

Finding Land Surveeying JobsArchitectural and engineering firms are your leading employment prospects, but a small number of opportunities are also available with government agencies, construction firms and utility companies. Estimated figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show about 45,310 surveyors held jobs in 2018. From 2018-2028 employment was projected to increase by six percent. According to the BLS, the decline may be due to the increased use of advances in surveying technology, thus allowing surveyors to complete more work in less time and reducing the demand for more personnel. As of May 2018 surveyors earned a median salary of $62,580.

Where to find Land Surveying Jobs

Step 5: Consider Certification

Certification for becoming a land surveyorObtaining certification is voluntary but could lead to a promotion or a higher salary. You can earn the Certified Survey Technician (CST) credential from the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS), which offers the credential at four levels. Level one is open to anyone who can pass the exam. To be eligible for the level two exam, you need 1.5 years of experience. Level three requires 3.5 years of experience and level four requires 5.5 years. NSPS rules obligate you to pass the level three exam before you can take level four exam.

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Land Surveyor

Mark Smith
Columbus Ohio Land Surveying
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