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What is the deference between a Surveyor and a Civil Engineer. And why do the civil engineers always claim superior over surveyors especially in the developing country?

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  • The construction industry has it's own unique classifications which differ from the definitions of the State Board of Professional Engineers & Land Surveyors. Anybody that looks through an instrument in this State is generally called an engineer if he working on a construction site. When I worked on a construction site in my younger days, I was on the payroll as an engineer but an engineer I was not. The masonry contractor for one of my former clients told me, "Charlie, you the best engineer I ever saw." I kept trying to tell him, I'm a surveyor, not an engineer. I finally gave up, if he wants to believe I am the best engineer he ever saw, why should I argue with him?
    The registration board in my state now requires a 4 year BS degree along with a number of years experience before you can take the "Land Surveyor in Training" exam. Then, with more experience you can take the exam for "Professional Land Surveyor". Historically, the key element that separates the Professional surveyor from a highly skilled technician is his knowledge of the law pertaining to boundary retracement & establishment. Fully half of the PLS exam, when I took it, was law or leagal in nature. The surveyor (PLS) is said to have a quasi legal authority to establish property lines. The courts have the final authority but they depend heavily on the Professional surveyor. The scope of the Professional surveyor's responsibilities has expanded greatly in recent years with GPS and the associated sciences. The Professional Surveyor is much more than a expert measurer.
  • In Russia if you decide to become engineer you must get higher education. For example if you want to build roads you must get highway engineering education. After that you could design roads, survey roads, organize the work of people and mechanisms in the road construction area. To make a long story short, you can work as any specialist related with road construction, therefore "civil engineer" = surveyor and vice versa. The same things with building construction, mechanic engineering, etc

  • Laws vary from place to place. Here, when you are laying out somebody else's design, you are not performing the function of a professional & as long as the professional you are working for has a proper license, that is all that is needed. You are only acting in a professional capacity if you are in responsible charge of a project that requires registration. The person in responsible charge must be licensed for the activity involved. Here, a surveyor can design the alignment of a road & the grades. He can not design engineering properties such as the pavement. There is crossover between the two disciplines. I have ample surveying to keep me busy without the need to encroach on anothers territory.
  • I am licensed in the state of Oregon as a Civil Engineer and a Land Surveyor.  In simple terms, Engineers design, Surveyors determine the location of objects.  I have a BS in Civil Engineering with emphasis on Land Surveying.  My goal was to be a licensed Surveyor some day.  Never thought about engineering.  But when going to collage I was exposed to may aspects of civil design that was interesting.  One example is roadway alignment, both vertical and horizontal.  Who has the legal right to design a road?  The surveyor and engineer both have the knowledge of all the computations.  The Engineer is responsible to design the road.  The Surveyor has to be able to place the road on the ground and guide the contractor in construction activity.  I had a partner once that claimed Surveyors were the only one qualified to design roads.  He based that statement on all the non-tangent horizontal curves, and bad grades in a vertical curve that he had to stake in the field.  On top of that, Engineers do not play well with spirals, although a lot of Surveyors I know do not understand the reason for offset spirals.

    I get paid the same no matter if I am designing a sewer system or researching a deed boundary gore.  When someone claims that my services should only be a few hundred dollars, I suggest that they contact their neighbor's cousin who had Cub Scout first aid training the next time their child falls out of a tree. That was they do not have to pay a co-pay at emergency.

  • Who is the lead professional on a project depends on the nature of the project. If it is essentially an engineering project and surveyors are in a supporting role, then of course, an engineer should be the lead professional. I have worked for engineering companies but essentially, I have been self employed the past 35 years. Professional jealousy is unfortunate as we would all be ahead of the game if we would learn to work together toward a common goal. Unfortunately, surveyors seem to more often be the target as opposed to the cause. Here, an engineer can not practice surveying unless he holds a land surveying license. I once had the misfortune to have to work under an engineer with a surveyors license. To make a long story short, he had no clue what he was doing when it came to surveying. He didn't understand geodesy or State Plane coordinates. It has been my experience that people don't respect what they don't understand. This in no way implies that all dual registered professionals fall in this category, as they surely do not.
    The picture is changing, however. Surveyors are becoming more appreciated as the need for precise positioning is increasing. The demands of the profession necessitate that surveyors be better educated than ever before. Unfortunately, the legal knowledge and expertise a surveyor must possess to properly retrace a so called, forensic boundary has historically been under appreciated.
    • Thanks Sir Charlie B. For your professional advice from your experience...

  • Surveyor knows exactly location thus need to allocate a civil engineer so as to implement the project .
    After civil engineer implement the project , requires monitoring survey and quality control at each stage of the project!
    I don't think so someone to be or feeling himself superior makes him to be important instead you can be inferior and still a hot cake
  • As I am in the middle, I have study both careers and I have stay working as both, I think that I can be more neutral. Usual scopes/responsibilities:


    1. Surveying works: surveys and stake out.
    2. Benchmarks.
    3. Quantities.
    4. Adjust of design.
    5. Some other works (less common): geodetics, photogrametry, SIG, Geophysics...

    Civil Engineer:

    1. Execution: supplior, client and staff.
    2. Planning.
    3. Technical Office: checking of design, geometry, hypothesis...
    4. Cost control on site.
    5. Production and scenarios: different scenarios for the final result of a project, changes and deviations...
    6. QA/QC involvement.
    7. HSE involvement.
    8. Management: on site, on direction, on areas...
    9. Some other works (less common): Design, Structural calculation, Hydraulical Calculation...

    So it is not an issue of who is above who in an organization Chart Tree, usually, a Civil Engineer will work as Supervisor, Superintendent, Site Manager... So on an organization chart tree, a Civil Engineer will be above a surveyor, but the experience is another issue. Actually, I´m working for Tecnicas Reunidas (an engineering and construction spanish company) as Civil Supervisor, and I am working as Civil, Surveyor, QA/QC, HSE, Fauna Handler, IT, Planner... so it depends on you. On TR, there are disputes between Project Director in order to get me in a Project (I´m not saying that I´m very good at any issue). The main issue is if you get involved ONLY on surveying or you decide to get involved in any other area. On my experience, there is no difference on salary or prestige. And from my point of view, the only Engineer that is working as Engineer his complete life, is a Surveyor: Every new project is a new development, goals and problems for us... so our brain should be there.

    Maybe Civil Engineers take the prestige, but when you deal with any of them, face to face, they will admit that they are working, mainly, moving papers, dealing with the client and fightinf with Microsoft Excel... Is it Engineering???

    I don´t know why there is an eternal battle between Civil Engineers and Surveyors. For me, it is simple: Try to build any project (not a simple one) without a surveyor and try to do it without a Civil Engineer... Can anyone reply this question?

    • Thanks @ David, from your reply it seams they all need each other for best result but in most circumstances, The civil Engineer like to claim prestige and that's my point of argument sir.

      Thanks for your time 

    • I think everyone think is better than anyone. But honestly they depend on each other and that what civil engineer hates! They think they can do every thing by themselves.
      Also surveyor needs alot of money to work with civil engineer .
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