Land Surveyor: Career Summary, Employment Outlook, and Education Requirements

Explore the career requirements for land surveyors. Get the facts about typical job duties, employment outlook and salary information to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Engineering & Technology Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Land Surveyor?

Land surveyors use technology like GPS and GIS to measure distances, geographic features and boundaries. They may research things like land records and land titles to find previous boundaries and determine where the boundaries are today. These professionals also record and verify the results of their surveys to create maps and reports. Land surveyors often need to present their findings to the government, the public or even testify in a court of law.

The profession often involves working in a crew made up of a licensed surveyor and survey technicians. The job typically requires a decent amount of travel. The following table presents an overview for this career.

Education Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Surveying and mapping
Key Responsibilities Measure, record and analyze land features and property boundaries; utilize Global Positioning System (GPS) technology
Licensure Typically required
Job Outlook (2014-24) -2%*
Average Salary (2015) $61,880*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Land Surveyor Defined

As a land surveyor, you usually work as part of a team in order to measure, record and analyze land features and property boundaries. You use specific equipment to measure distances based upon known references and establish the location of key land features based upon their distance from the earth's surface. Surveyors often use Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to acquire precise measurements.

According to the National Society of Professional Surveyors, the different types of surveys include those for property, construction layout, topographic surveys, and global information services. Common employers include construction companies, engineering firms and architectural offices. As a land surveyor, you may spend most of your time on the job outdoors, but surveyors do spend some time in libraries and government offices where you'll research land records and legal documents which may pertain to the land under consideration for any given assignment.

What Is My Employment Outlook?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that approximately 43,140 surveyors were employed in the U.S. in May 2015. Between 2014 and 2024, the BLS expected job decline of 2% for land surveyors. The decrease is due to more advanced technology that enables surveyors to conduct more work in less time. As a result, fewer surveyors are needed. As of May 2015, the BLS reported that the income for the middle 50% of surveyors was between $43,380 and $77,230. The highest-paid surveyors are employed by the federal government.

What Education Do I Need?

You might consider earning a Bachelor of Science in Surveying and Mapping or completing a technical training program at a community college. You may prefer a program accredited by ABET, Inc. (formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology). A few prospective land surveyors may be able to find opportunities for on-the-job training in the field, but this is becoming increasingly rare. Additionally, all land surveyors must pass professional licensing exams, which are administered by the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping.

Land surveyors must be physically fit and able to stand for long periods. You may also be asked to walk long distances, to climb hills and to navigate over rough terrains in varying weather conditions. Most of these tasks must be completed while carrying surveying tools and equipment.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Those interested in related professions can pursue careers as civil engineers, landscape architects or cartographers and photogrammetrists. All of these professions require at least a bachelor's degree. Civil engineers are responsible for designing, building and overseeing a variety of construction projects, including those involving roads, bridges, airports and more. Landscape architects primarily design and construct outdoor spaces, such as parks or campuses. Cartographers and photogrammetrists are similar to land surveyors in that they measure and interpret geographic data to produce maps and/or charts. Their work is often used in emergency response, education and more.

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