About the Job

A surveyor makes precise measurements to determine property boundaries. To prepare sites for construction projects and to prevent any legal disputes, surveyors use those boundary lines. A surveyor also helps collect data used to determine the shape of the Earth’s surface. Engineering, mapmaking, and construction projects use this information.

What You’ll Do

Surveyors measure the distances and angles between points on, above, or below the Earth’s surface. This helps them determine where boundary lines are; these are then used for construction projects, databases, or property lines for
residential and commercial sales.

During construction, surveyors have to determine the exact locations of roads or buildings and the depth for foundations. They will also note potential restrictions on a property and what can or cannot be built on it.

Surveyors use the Global Positioning System (GPS) to locate reference points to begin a project. They will then use GPS units and robotic laser systems to collect information about the site. All the data are loaded into a computer and then used to verify the results.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS)—the technology that allows surveyors to present spatial information visually as maps, reports, and charts, is also used. They can overlay aerial images with GIS data to create digital maps. Those maps are then provided to governments and businesses in order for them to know where to plan homes or roads.

Surveyors also work with civil engineers, landscape architects, and urban and regional planners to develop comprehensive design documents.

The following are examples of types of surveyors:

  • Geodetic surveyors use high-accuracy technology, including aerial and satellite observations, to measure large areas of the Earth’s surface.
  • Marine or hydrographic surveyors survey harbors, rivers, and other bodies of water to determine shorelines, the
    topography of the floor, water depth, and other features.

Qualities and Skills Needed

Communication skills
Attention to detail
Math skills
Physical stamina
Problem-solving skills
Time-management skills
Visualization skills

Education Required

Because of the sophisticated technology and math used in this career, surveyors are typically required to have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited ABET school in surveying; a degree in civil engineering may also be accepted.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Surveyors must be licensed in order to provide services to the public and to certify legal documents. However, a survey technician with four years of experience may be able to become licensed in Maryland following several competency tests. In many states, an associate’s degree in surveying, coupled with several years of work experience under a licensed surveyor, may be sufficient. Most states also have continuing education requirements. The licensing requirements for Maryland can be found at the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation’s website.

Although the process of obtaining a license varies by state, the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying has a generalized four step process:

  • Complete the level of education required in your state
  • Pass the Fundamentals of Surveying (FS) exam
  • Gain sufficient work experience under a licensed surveyor
  • Pass the Principles and Practice of Surveying (PS) exam
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The average salary is $63,133 but will vary depending on experience and training.