How to Become a Surveyor
Though educational requirements have risen, there is still the need to master traditional tools and methods.
Surveyors typically need a bachelor’s degree. They must be licensed before they can provide surveying services to the public and certify legal documents.
Surveyors typically need a bachelor’s degree.
About 26 colleges and universities offer a relevant bachelor's degree program, such as surveying technology. A degree in a closely related field, such as civil engineering or forestry, is often acceptable as well.
Some states require the degree to be from a school accredited by ABET (formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology). Most states also have a continuing education requirement.
Surveyors who are not licensed can work as survey technicians, but they must work under the supervision of licensed surveyors. For more information, see the profile on surveying and mapping technicians.
All 50 states and the District of Columbia require surveyors to be licensed before they can certify legal documents showing property lines or determine proper markings on construction projects. Licensure requires a number of years of experience working under the direction of a licensed surveyor. It usually takes about 4 years of work experience for a candidate with a bachelor’s degree to earn a license.
The process for getting a license varies by state, but the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying has a generalized process of four steps:
- 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.
Communication skills. On the job, surveyors have to give team members clear instructions. After the work in the field is done, surveyors must be able to explain the job’s progress to developers, lawyers, financiers, or government authorities.
Detail oriented. Surveyors must work with precision and accuracy because mistakes can be costly.
Interpersonal skills. Surveying is a cooperative operation, so surveyors must be able to work well on a team.
Listening skills. Surveyors receive instructions from designers, such as architects, and they must listen carefully. They also depend on others on their team and must allow team members to respond as needed. They are often required to interview land owners about land boundaries and then interpret this information to resolve land boundary issues.
Physical stamina. Surveyors traditionally work outdoors and often in rugged terrain. They must have the ability to stand on their feet for many hours and over many weeks.
Problem-solving skills. Surveyors must figure out discrepancies between documents showing property lines and current conditions on the land. If there have been changes in previous years, they must figure out why the changes occurred so that property lines can be reestablished.
Time-management skills. Surveyors must be able to plan not only their time on the job but also that of their team members. This is critical when there are pressing deadlines or while working outside during winter months when daylight hours are short.
Visualization skills. Surveyors must be able to envision objects, distances and sizes.