How Do I Become a Land Surveyor?

If you are detail-oriented and good at visualizing sizes and distances, you might be wondering how to become a land surveyor. Land surveyors assess land through measurements to decide where official boundaries and property lines should be located. In making these determinations, land surveyors also consider past land records and previous boundaries.

A large part of a land surveyor’s job is to take accurate measurements. Once on the site to be evaluated, land surveyors record distances, directions and angles in relation to particular reference points on, below and above the Earth’s surface. A licensed land surveyor will usually take measurements with the help of trained survey technicians. Satellites in the Global Positioning System (GPS) assist land surveyors in accurately choosing reference points. Another type of technology, a Geographic Information System (GIS), applies the information from a land surveyor’s measurements to generate a map of the land.

Based on their measurements and observations, land surveyors define the official boundaries of a property. Land surveyors’ recommendations influence construction in an area by specifying information such as the exact location where a road or building should be built. A land surveyor provides a legal assessment of land during real estate transactions. Land surveyors’ determinations affect the descriptions of land that are used in legal documents, such as deeds, and leases, as well as the development of maps and other design documents.

Most land surveyors work in engineering and architectural services. Others find employment with local governments, state governments and engineering construction firms. Some land surveyors are self-employed. When land surveyors aren’t completing measurements, assessments and other field work, they may work in an indoor office, where they perform research into past land records, evaluate their data and measurements and create maps. Land surveyors collaborate with cartographers, architects, construction managers, civil engineers, landscape architects, and urban and regional planners to create maps and reports and develop community projects and designs.

Aspiring land surveyors begin preparing for their career by earning a bachelor’s degree in surveying technology or similar fields like forestry and civil engineering from an accredited school. Graduates can then work as survey technicians under the direction of an established licensed surveyor. Upon completing approximately four years of relevant experience, the aspiring land surveyor can apply for state licensure. Obtaining a license also requires successful completion of the Fundamentals of Surveying and Principles and Practice of Surveying exams.

The United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that career opportunities for land surveyors will increase by 25 percent between 2010 and 2020. This rate of growth is faster than the 14 percent expected growth rate for all occupations. As of May 2010, land surveyors earned a median salary of $54,880 per year, noticeably higher than the $33,840 median salary for all occupations. If you have problem-solving abilities, attention to detail and visualization skills, knowing how to become a land surveyor can put you on track to begin a career in a rapidly growing field.

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