How Do I Become a Surveyor?

If you have an eye for detail and visualization and pay close attention to making precise measurements, you might wonder how to become a surveyor. Surveyors designate boundaries between properties on land as well as in the air and in bodies of water. Surveyors play a crucial role in preparing properties for construction, renovation, mapping and real estate transactions. Work as a surveyor involves research, collaboration and the use of special tools to make precise measurements in the field.

Surveyors measure distance, direction, and angles of property features to accurately determine the size and shape of a site. They use measuring tools and equipment as well as technology such as Global Positioning System (GPS) and Geographic Information System (GIS). This part of the job requires frequent field work. In the case of existing properties, surveyors may also have to research both in the field and in land record databases to determine where past surveyors determined the boundary lines existed. Surveyors express their measurements and findings in written descriptions, reports, records, maps and plots.

Most surveyors find employment in the architectural industry, but others work in civil engineering and construction or for state or local governments. Some surveyors are self-employed. They take on work on a per-project or contract basis, and have both the freedom to be their own bosses and the responsibilities of finding work and running a business.

To begin preparing for a career as a surveyor, candidates must pursue a formal education from an accredited college or university. Degree programs such as surveying technology are popular choices with aspiring surveyors, though they are still somewhat rare. Other aspiring surveyors will study civil engineering, forestry or another related subject.

Upon completing their educational careers, aspiring surveyors can begin working as survey technicians, getting hands-on experience using tools and equipment in the field under the guidance of surveyors. Candidates typically work in these supervised positions for four years before they are eligible to apply for state licensure to become a full-fledged surveyor qualified to work independently. In addition to earning a bachelor’s degree and meeting a work experience requirement, aspiring surveyors must also pass any examinations required by the state in which they intend to work, such as the Fundamentals of Surveying and Principles and Practice of Surveying tests.

Surveyors earn a median annual salary of $54,880, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS reports that surveyors employed by local governments earn $60,930 per year, and those employed by state governments earn $71,020 annually. Career opportunities for surveyors are growing faster than opportunities for other occupations. During the 2010 to 2020 decade, the BLS expects jobs for surveyors to increase by 25 percent, compared to only 14 percent job growth anticipated across all occupations. If you pay close attention to details, have excellent visualization skills and enjoy being active and spending time outdoors, knowing how to become a surveyor could be your first step toward a rewarding new career.

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