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How to Become a Surveyor

By Ajoke Aminu


Are you ready to map the path to your professional future as a surveyor?

We understand that this is uncharted territory and you need guidance. Like a skilled cartographer, this article draws the map to becoming a successful surveyor—from education and mastering the arts of measurements, to job outlook and prospects, this guide will navigate you through the ins and outs of how to become a surveyor!

Career Summary

Surveyor Salary

Surveyor Salary

The surveyor salary can vary widely depending on factors such as location, level of experience, education, specialization, and the industry in which they work.

Here is a general overview of surveyor salary:

  • Entry Salary (US$42k)
  • Median Salary (US$54k)
  • Executive Salary (US$70k)

Apparently, the surveyor salary typically falls slightly below the general average income of US citizens.

What is a Surveyor?

A surveyor is a professional responsible for measuring, mapping, and assessing land, airspace, and water bodies to determine boundaries, dimensions, and characteristics. They play a crucial role in various industries, including construction, real estate, urban planning, and environmental management. Surveyors utilize advanced equipment and techniques to collect accurate spatial data, which is vital for making informed decisions in land development, infrastructure projects, and more.

Career Progression of a Surveyor

  • Entry-Level/Junior Survey Technician: Assists senior surveyors with fieldwork, data collection, and equipment setup and learns fundamental surveying techniques and software.
  • Survey Instrument Operator: Operates surveying instruments like total stations and GPS equipment. Also responsible for accurate data collection in the field.
  • Party Chief: Leads survey teams in the field, overseeing data collection, measurements, and crew coordination and ensures accurate and efficient surveying operations.
  • Project Surveyor: Manages survey projects, from planning to execution and coordinates with clients, stakeholders, and survey teams to ensure project success.
  • Licensed Surveyor: Holds a professional license and manages surveying projects independently. Also validates survey data, establishes boundaries, and prepares legal documents.
  • Survey Manager/Director: Oversees multiple survey projects, teams, and resources and develops surveying strategies, manages budgets, and ensures quality control.
Surveyor Career Progression


  • Impactful Contribution: They play a vital role in shaping urban planning, infrastructure, and land development.
  • Variety of Environments: Surveyors work outdoors, exploring different landscapes and settings.
  • Constant Learning: Advancements in technology and techniques ensure continuous learning and skill development.


  • Challenging Weather: Fieldwork often involves exposure to unfavorable weather conditions.
  • Physical Demands: Surveyors engage in physically demanding tasks, including carrying equipment and traversing varied terrain.
  • Time Constraints: Some projects require working long hours or under tight deadlines.

Surveyor Skills That Make You Stand Out

  • Mathematics and Geometry Proficiency
  • Attention to Detail
  • Technical Competence (GIS, CAD, GPS)
  • Strong Communication Skills
  • Problem-Solving Abilities

High-Demand Surveyor Specialties

  • Land Surveying
  • Geodetic Surveying
  • Hydrographic Surveying
  • Mining Surveying
  • Construction Surveying

How to become a Surveyor

Surveyor 5 Steps to Career

Education Pathways to Become a Surveyor

Navigating the world of becoming a proficient surveyor begins with a deliberate educational voyage. Just as accurate measurements are the cornerstone of your future profession, your educational choices will shape the trajectory of your career. This guide offers insights into the educational pathways that will equip you with the knowledge, skills, and expertise needed to thrive. Whether you’re charting a course from high school or seeking to pivot into this field, education as the compass on your journey awaits.

What Degree Do I Need to Become a Surveyor?

Your journey to becoming a surveyor will unveil a landscape where education serves as a pivotal cornerstone. The question of whether a degree is essential is a compass point that guides aspiring surveyors, so let’s delve into the significance of formal education as the foundation for a successful career in surveying. Usually, a Bachelor’s Degree in Surveying, Geomatics, or spatial science provides a comprehensive education encompassing surveying methodologies, spatial data analysis, legal aspects, and advanced technology utilization.

Notably, this degree is a prevalent selection for individuals aspiring to establish themselves as professional surveyors and embark on the path toward licensing. Alternatively, degrees in related fields such as civil engineering, geography, or environmental science can serve as a foundation for a surveying career, although additional coursework or training in surveying may be required to bridge any knowledge gaps. From associate’s degrees to advanced studies, this journey illuminates the educational avenues that shape skilled surveyors and open doors to a world of precision and possibility.

Some entry-level positions may be attainable with an associate’s degree in surveying or a related field. However, these roles might have limited responsibilities and opportunities for advancement.

A bachelor’s degree in surveying, geomatics, or a related discipline provides a well-rounded education in surveying techniques, data analysis, legal aspects, and spatial technologies. Many employers prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree for roles with greater responsibility and complexity.

Pursuing a master’s degree can be beneficial if you’re interested in specialized areas of surveying, such as geodetic surveying or remote sensing. This can open doors to advanced positions, research, and academia.

In some regions, you might be able to work as a surveyor with a certain amount of practical experience and passing a licensing exam, even without a degree. However, having a degree can often make the licensing process smoother.

Why Does a Surveyor Need a Degree and License?

The symbiotic alliance between a degree and a license forms the bedrock of a surveyor’s journey, shaping them into skilled professionals armed with both expertise and credibility. Like coordinates converging to a precise point, the acquisition of a degree and the attainment of a license intersect to equip surveyors with the knowledge, technical prowess, and ethical framework essential for success in this field. Here is why a surveyor’s voyage is incomplete without these twin pillars–unraveling the profound impact they have on both professional growth and industry integrity.

  • Comprehensive Knowledge: A degree equips you with a comprehensive understanding of surveying principles, techniques, and technologies. This educational foundation ensures that you’re well-versed in the intricacies of accurate measurements, mapping, and data analysis.
  • Professional Competence: A degree signifies your commitment to mastering the craft of surveying. It demonstrates that you possess the knowledge and skills needed to excel in a profession that demands precision and accuracy.
  • Industry Recognition: A degree is a universally recognized indicator of expertise. It enhances your employability and sets you apart in a competitive job market by showcasing your dedication to continuous learning and professional growth.
  • Licensing Legitimacy: Earning a surveyor’s license validates your expertise and proficiency. It attests that you have met specific standards set by regulatory bodies, establishing your credibility as a competent and ethical surveyor.
  • Career Advancement: A license opens doors to advanced positions and responsibilities. Licensed surveyors often have access to higher-paying roles and opportunities for leadership and project management.
  • Legal Compliance: Many jurisdictions require surveyors to be licensed to perform certain types of work, especially those related to property boundaries and legal disputes. Licensure ensures you’re operating within legal parameters.
  • Client Confidence: Clients, whether they are individuals, businesses, or government agencies, often prefer to work with licensed professionals. Your license instills confidence in your ability to provide accurate and reliable surveying services.
  • Ethical Standards: Licensing typically involves adherence to a code of ethics, ensuring that you maintain the highest standards of professional conduct, integrity, and accountability.
  • Quality Assurance: Licensing boards uphold stringent standards for licensing, ensuring that only qualified individuals can practice. This quality control benefits the profession as a whole.

How Long Does it Take to Obtain a Surveying Degree and License?

The pursuit of a degree in surveying is a voyage marked by education and the accumulation of expertise. Aspiring surveyors often find themselves at the crossroads of choosing the educational path that will shape their careers. The question of how long it takes to acquire a surveying degree is a crucial compass point that guides this journey.

Gain insights into the durations of educational pursuits required to unlock the doors:

  • Associate’s Degree: An associate’s degree in surveying typically takes around 2 years of full-time study. This option provides a foundational understanding of surveying concepts and can lead to entry-level roles in the field.
  • Bachelor’s Degree: A bachelor’s degree in surveying or geomatics usually takes around 4 years of full-time study. This comprehensive program delves deeper into surveying methodologies, spatial data analysis, legal aspects, and technology utilization.
  • Master’s Degree: Pursuing a master’s degree can take an additional 1 to 2 years beyond a bachelor’s degree. This option is suitable for those seeking specialized knowledge, research opportunities, or advanced roles in surveying.

Here’s a general overview of the timeline to obtain a surveyor’s license:

  • Educational Requirements: Most licensing boards require a certain level of formal education, typically a bachelor’s degree in surveying or a related field. The time it takes to complete the degree program varies, as mentioned earlier.
  • Work Experience: After obtaining the required degree, you’ll likely need to accumulate a certain amount of supervised work experience as a surveyor. This period can vary but often ranges from 2 to 4 years.
  • Licensing Exams: Many licensing boards require you to pass one or more licensing exams. The time it takes to prepare for and pass these exams can vary based on your familiarity with the content and your study approach.
  • Application Process: The process of applying for a surveyor’s license, submitting documentation, and waiting for approval can also impact the timeline. It’s essential to follow the specific requirements of your licensing board.

Considering these factors, the overall timeline to obtain a surveyor’s license can range from several months to a few years. It’s recommended to research the licensing requirements in your jurisdiction and work closely with your educational institution and potential employers to ensure you’re on track to meet the necessary criteria.

How Much Does it Cost to Study Surveying at a University?

Across the United States, a vast educational landscape hosts a multitude of institutions–a staggering 1,231 colleges, to be precise–that extend the opportunity to partake in Surveying Engineering programs. In the year 2023, the financial canvas of pursuing such programs presents a nuanced spectrum. For in-state residents, the average undergraduate tuition and fees stand at approximately US$10,511, painting an accessible pathway towards mastering the intricacies of surveying.

However, for those venturing across state lines to seek this expertise, the financial palette takes on a different hue. Out-of-state students, driven by their aspiration to grasp the nuances of surveying engineering, encounter an average tuition and fees cost of approximately US$32,113. These figures, reflective of the current educational terrain, emphasize the diverse financial considerations that individuals weigh as they embark on the journey of becoming skilled surveying engineers.

As the surveying engineering community continues to thrive and evolve, scholarships stand as a bridge, connecting aspiring talents with the education they need to make a meaningful impact on the world of surveying. Aspiring surveying engineers can find solace in the fact that a multitude of scholarships are scattered throughout the academic landscape, awaiting discovery. These scholarships, often established by educational institutions, private organizations, and industry associations, serve as a testament to the collective belief in the potential of future surveying professionals. With varying eligibility criteria, these financial lifelines cater to a diverse range of students, including those demonstrating academic excellence, leadership potential, and a commitment to advancing the field.

How to Become a Licensed Surveyor through Online Education

In the digital age, the possibility of becoming a licensed surveyor through online education has opened a new avenue for aspiring professionals. With the evolution of online learning platforms and technology-enabled education, the journey toward obtaining a surveying license can now be charted from the comfort of one’s own space. Here, we shed some light on how virtual learning can seamlessly blend with the rigorous requirements of licensing in this precision-driven field.

  • Licensure Research: Understand your jurisdiction’s licensure criteria, including education, experience, and exam requirements.
  • Choose an Accredited Online Program: Choose a reputable online surveying program accredited by recognized bodies.
  • Enroll and Learn: Take courses covering surveying fundamentals, geomatics, and legal aspects online.
  • Gain Practical Experience: Seek supervised work opportunities to meet experience prerequisites.
  • Exam Preparation: Utilize online resources to prepare for required licensure exams.
  • Apply for Licensure: Submit your application to the licensing board, including the necessary documents.
  • Exam Completion: Take required licensing exams, often available online.
  • Continuing Education: Stay updated with online resources to fulfill ongoing education requirements.

Several examples of surveying licenses include:

  • Professional Land Surveyor (PLS): Offered by various state licensing boards, this license designates individuals as qualified land surveyors. It requires meeting educational requirements, accruing work experience, and passing a licensing exam.
  • Certified Federal Surveyor (CFedS): This certification is specifically for surveyors working on federal lands or projects. It showcases expertise in federal surveying regulations.
  • Certified Survey Technician (CST): While not a license, this certification recognizes technicians’ skills and knowledge in surveying tasks. It’s offered at various levels, demonstrating proficiency in specific areas.
  • Geographic Information Systems Professional (GISP): While not exclusive to surveying, this certification showcases expertise in geographic information systems. Surveyors involved in GIS-related work might find this certification beneficial.

Specific Web Resources to Hone Your Surveying Skills

In the fast-paced digital age, with easy access to information, advancing in the field of surveying has changed. The internet, full of various resources, is a crucial tool for surveyors wanting to gain essential skills. Online platforms offer specialized insights, tutorials, and knowledge. As traditional learning merges with online resources, these platforms serve as guides, helping people understand surveying accurately and confidently.

  • National Geodetic Survey (NGS) Online Tools: The NGS offers a range of online tools, such as the Online Positioning User Service (OPUS) for post-processing GPS data and the Geoid Slope Validation Tool for geoid validation.
  • Land Surveyors United: This community-based platform has a variety of resources, including tutorials on surveying equipment and techniques, groups for specific topics, and a forum for discussions and questions.
  • Surveyor Connect: This platform offers a library of surveying tutorials covering topics like total stations, GPS, and field procedures.
  • Surveying Mathematics Made Simple Book: While not a website, this book offers a straightforward guide to surveying mathematics.
  • ESRI Learn GIS: ESRI’s platform provides a range of GIS tutorials that can be valuable for surveyors working with geographic information systems.

Suitable Career Experience for a Surveyor

Ambitious surveyors aiming to chart their course in the world of surveying should prepare to embrace a wealth of career experience. From geospatial technology, lending your expertise to geographic information systems (GIS) projects that fuse data with maps to the construction industry, a prime opportunity to flex your surveying muscles while ensuring structures rise on solid ground. So, whether you’re measuring lands or shaping cityscapes, each experience you gather will add a unique layer to your surveyor’s toolkit. Anchored by your passion and fueled by a zest for exploration, your journey will transform into a tapestry of expertise that’s truly unparalleled.

What does a Surveyor do? | Responsibilities & Industries

Here’s a breakdown of the key duties of a Surveyor:

  • Measuring and Mapping: Surveyors use specialized equipment such as theodolites, total stations, and GPS technology to accurately measure distances, angles, and elevations on the Earth’s surface. They create detailed maps and plans that showcase the physical features of a given area.
  • Boundary Determination: Surveyors establish and mark property boundaries to prevent disputes between landowners. They research historical records and legal documents to determine the exact limits of a property.
  • Construction Layout: In construction projects, surveyors play a vital role in marking the positions of structures, roads, and utilities on the ground according to architectural plans. This ensures that the construction aligns accurately with the design.
  • Topographic Surveys: Surveyors create topographic maps that represent the natural and man-made features of a landscape, including contours, vegetation, water bodies, and buildings. These maps are essential for urban planning and engineering projects.
  • Monitoring and Analysis: Surveyors may monitor changes in the landscape over time, such as land movement, erosion, or subsidence. This information is crucial for assessing potential risks and planning appropriate responses.
  • Collaboration: Surveyors often collaborate with engineers, architects, urban planners, and other professionals to ensure that projects are executed accurately and efficiently.

Surveying Industries include:

  • Construction
  • Real Estate
  • Infrastructure Development
  • Urban Planning
  • Environmental Conservation
  • Mining and Resource Exploration
  • Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
  • Land Development
  • Forestry and Agriculture
  • Telecommunications
  • Government and Public Works
  • Energy Sector.

What are Internship Opportunities for a Surveyor?

Enter the practical field of surveying, where internships provide direct experience and skill development. These positions offer a combination of hands-on practice and theoretical understanding. Let’s explore the diverse range of internship paths that will pave the way for your future as a skilled surveying professional.

  • Land Surveying Intern: Work alongside seasoned professionals to learn the intricacies of boundary determination, topographic mapping, and construction layout.
  • Construction Site Surveying Intern: Immerse yourself in the dynamic world of construction, assisting in accurate measurements, layout verification, and project coordination.
  • GIS Intern: Dive into the world of Geographic Information Systems, where you’ll gather, analyze, and visualize spatial data for various applications.
  • Geodetic Surveying Intern: Explore the art of precise global measurements as you contribute to projects involving Earth’s shape, rotation, and gravitational field.
  • Urban Planning Intern: Collaborate on urban development projects, utilizing surveying skills to support city planning, infrastructure layout, and zoning analysis.
  • Environmental Surveying Intern: Join teams that assess environmental impact, monitor land changes, and contribute to ecological conservation efforts.
  • Mining Surveying Intern: Gain insight into the extraction industry by assisting in the measurement and mapping of mining sites, ensuring safe and efficient operations.
  • Real Estate Surveying Intern: Shadow professionals in property boundary determination, aiding in land transactions and learning about legal aspects.
  • Hydrographic Surveying Intern: Delve into underwater mapping and navigation by supporting hydrographic projects involving rivers, lakes, and coastal areas.
  • Remote Sensing Intern: Learn to interpret satellite and aerial imagery, extracting valuable insights for environmental monitoring and land analysis.
  • Engineering Surveying Intern: Collaborate on engineering projects, assisting with measurements, setting control points, and contributing to infrastructure development.
  • Cadastral Surveying Intern: Explore property ownership documentation and assist in establishing accurate boundaries for legal and administrative purposes.

What Skills Will I Learn as a Surveyor?

Being a surveyor is a transformative journey where each step you take unveils a palette of invaluable skills waiting to be mastered–a perfect blend of technical precision of measurements with the artistry of spatial visualization. From crafting accurate maps to deciphering legal intricacies, your skill set as a surveyor will become a testament to your expertise in shaping our physical and digital landscapes.

Let’s check out the expedition of growth and knowledge:

  • Measurement Precision: From using theodolites to GPS technology, you’ll master the art of accurate measurements, ensuring every distance and angle is captured with precision.
  • Mapping Expertise: You’ll learn to create detailed maps that showcase land features, elevations, and boundaries, turning geographical data into informative visuals.
  • Data Analysis: As a surveyor, you’ll gather and interpret data from various sources, transforming raw information into actionable insights for decision-making.
  • Technical Tool Proficiency: From total stations to laser scanners, you’ll become adept at using cutting-edge surveying equipment, harnessing technology to your advantage.
  • Spatial Thinking: Surveying nurtures your ability to visualize three-dimensional landscapes from flat measurements, a skill that enhances your problem-solving prowess.
  • GIS Integration: Geographic Information Systems will become your ally as you organize, analyze, and present spatial data, contributing to diverse projects.
  • Legal Understanding: You’ll delve into property laws and regulations, developing the skills to accurately define property boundaries and navigate legal documents.
  • Attention to Detail: The surveyor’s mantra revolves around meticulousness, ensuring that every measurement, calculation, and map is error-free.
  • Communication Skills: As a bridge between technical data and practical applications, you’ll refine your ability to convey complex information clearly to diverse audiences.
  • Project Management: Surveying involves coordinating multiple elements. You’ll learn how to manage projects, timelines, and resources effectively.
  • Problem-Solving: Whether it’s dealing with challenging terrains or unexpected measurements, your knack for creative solutions will flourish.
  • Collaboration: Surveyors interact with various professionals, from architects to urban planners. Collaborative skills are essential for seamless project execution.
  • Adaptability: The field of surveying evolves with technology and trends. You’ll learn to adapt, ensuring your skills stay relevant in a changing landscape.
  • Ethics and Professionalism: As a steward of accurate information, you’ll embody the highest standards of ethics, integrity, and professionalism.

What’s the Career Outlook for Surveyors?

The employment landscape for surveyors is anticipated to exhibit minimal fluctuations between the years 2021 and 2031. While significant expansion in employment opportunities might not be on the horizon, the profession continues to hold its ground as an essential component of various industries. Not to forget, it also offers the allure of an attractive surveyor salary.

Despite this restrained growth outlook, the field is expected to see an average of approximately 3,800 job openings annually throughout the span of the next decade. These recurring opportunities underscore the sustained demand for surveyors’ expertise, serving as a reminder of the crucial role they play in shaping our built environment and enabling informed decision-making.

Surveyor Popular Career Specialties

What are the Job Opportunities of a Surveyor?

As a surveyor, you’re not just a measurer of distances–you’re an architect of accurate landscapes, a navigator of boundaries, and a custodian of spatial data. From the towering skyscrapers that touch the clouds to the intricate details of underground terrain, your expertise shapes the physical and digital worlds we inhabit. Let’s uncover the multifaceted world of surveying, where every measurement holds the key to unlocking new possibilities.

  • Land Surveyor: Involved in measuring and mapping land features, boundaries, and elevations for various purposes, including property transactions, construction, and legal disputes.
  • Construction Surveyor: Works on construction sites to ensure that buildings, roads, and other structures are built according to specifications and design plans.
  • Geodetic Surveyor: Specializes in measuring large areas of the Earth’s surface to establish accurate geographic reference points and create precise maps.
  • Cartographer: Designs and produces maps, both digital and physical, using geographic data and specialized software.
  • GIS Specialist: Manages and analyzes geographic information systems (GIS) data to support various applications like urban planning, environmental assessment, and disaster management.
  • Hydrographic Surveyor: Focuses on mapping underwater features, including ocean floors, rivers, and lakes, to aid navigation, environmental monitoring, and resource exploration.
  • Mining Surveyor: Works in the mining industry to create accurate maps of mining sites, assess mineral reserves, and provide data for resource extraction planning.
  • Cadastral Surveyor: Specializes in establishing and demarcating property boundaries, often working closely with legal documentation.
  • Environmental Surveyor: Collects and analyzes data related to the environment, such as pollution levels, land degradation, and ecological changes.
  • Urban Planner: Uses surveying data to help design and plan urban areas, ensuring efficient land use, infrastructure placement, and sustainable development.
  • CAD Technician: Transforms field data into digital maps and plans using Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software and creates detailed and accurate survey drawings.
  • Remote Sensing Specialist: Analyzes data collected by satellite and aerial imagery to study changes in the Earth’s surface and natural resources.
  • Boundary Surveyor: Focuses specifically on determining and marking property boundaries, often working closely with legal experts.
  • Topographic Surveyor: Creates detailed maps showing natural and artificial features of the land, including elevation contours and geographic landmarks.
  • Engineering Surveyor: Supports engineering projects by providing accurate measurements and data for construction, infrastructure development, and maintenance.

What is the Work-Life Balance of a Surveyor?

The work-life balance of a surveyor is an interplay between the precision-driven demands of the profession and the pursuit of personal well-being. Surveyors, entrusted with mapping landscapes and establishing accurate boundaries, often find themselves navigating a unique equilibrium in their daily lives. The nature of their work can vary significantly, with some projects demanding extensive fieldwork, while others involve data analysis and office tasks.

This diversity, coupled with the need to ensure accurate measurements and uphold professional standards, can sometimes lead to irregular hours and periods of intense engagement.

Here are some tips to find the right balance:

  • Coordinate fieldwork schedules to optimize efficiency. Combine tasks in a single trip to reduce travel time and enhance productivity.
  • Leverage cutting-edge surveying tools like GPS, laser scanners, and drones to streamline data collection and analysis. Embracing technology can free up time for personal activities.
  • Regularly inspect and maintain your surveying equipment to prevent unexpected breakdowns that could disrupt your workflow.
  • When setting project deadlines, consider potential challenges and unforeseen delays. Realistic timelines help prevent undue stress.
  • Regularly assess your work-life balance and adjust strategies based on changing workloads and personal priorities.
  • Develop a daily schedule that allocates specific time blocks for different tasks, including fieldwork, data analysis, and personal time.

Careers Related to Surveyor

As we’ve explored the intricacies of this profession, it’s evident that the path of a surveyor demands a blend of precision, commitment, and adaptability. However, the decision should be guided not only by the insights shared but also by introspection into your personal interests, inherent skills, and long-term aspirations. Throughout this article, we’ve emphasized the importance of acquiring a comprehensive understanding of the profession’s nuances, from its role in industries like construction, land development, and mapping, to the specialized skills required in geodetic surveying, hydrographic surveying, and more.

Amidst these factors, your personal interests and inherent skills become paramount. Reflect on whether the intricacies of surveying align with your passion. Do you find joy in meticulous data analysis, outdoor fieldwork, and contributing to the accurate mapping of our environment? Assess your proficiency in mathematics, attention to detail, and adaptability to evolving technologies—cornerstones of a successful surveyor.

Moreover, ponder the alignment of a surveyor’s career trajectory with your long-term goals. Does the prospect of contributing to major construction projects, urban planning, or environmental conservation resonate with your aspirations? Consider how this profession might shape your personal growth and whether it aligns with the lifestyle you envision. As you stand at this crossroads, let the insights garnered here be the foundation for an informed decision—one that harmonizes the profession’s demands with your individual journey, aspirations, and potential.

Careers Related to Surveyor

Ajoke Aminu

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