Are you interested in learning how state borders, city utility lines and airspace boundaries are established? If you want to learn how to make precise measurements of the earth's surface, on land and under water, read on to learn about land surveying and whether it's a good fit for you.
Land surveyors are trained professionals, whose role is to use advanced measurement techniques to locate or establish various types of boundaries between or within spaces. These boundaries may be in the air, on land or even under the water. As a surveyor, you are responsible for establishing the locations of water, sewage and electrical pipes for contractors, air and sea-lanes for travel and shipping and legal property lines. These tasks require extremely accurate measurements, which requires specialized training. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), surveyors more frequently seek postsecondary education today, rather than relying on-the-job-training like in the past (www.bls.gov).
The job prospects for surveyors and survey and mapping technicians are positive. The BLS reports an expected increase in employment for surveyors of 15% and 20% for survey and mapping technicians between 2008 and 2018. As of May 2010, surveyors earned an average yearly wage of $58,140. That same year, the BLS recorded an annual average income of $40,370 for survey and mapping technicians.
The BLS reports that workers with only high school educations most often become surveyors through apprenticeships. Those with more advanced training, such as an associate's degree in surveying, might start as technicians, assisting more senior surveying workers with their tasks. Eventually, with state licensure or certification, technicians can become licensed surveyors or the head of surveying crews, depending upon the licensing requirements of the state in which they work.
Many universities offer both associate's in surveying and surveying bachelor's degree programs. Some programs also offer surveying engineering, and these programs include courses on both the cartographic and mathematical theory, as well as the concrete technical skills, integral to survey training. Surveying graduate degrees do exist but are generally not required to enter the workforce.
Although all states provide surveyor licensing, their licensing requirements vary widely. Some states require you to have a bachelor's degree to be licensed as a head surveyor, and some require that the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) accredit your program. Most states require you to pass a written exam overseen by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES), followed by four years of work experience, culminating in another NCEES exam. Many states also require that you pass a state-prepared exam. For further opportunities, the BLS notes that the National Society of Professional Surveyors offers a series of voluntary certifications that might help you achieve more advanced positions.