CareerExplorer’s step-by-step guide on how to become a surveyor.
Is becoming a surveyor right for me?
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If you're interested in becoming a surveyor, there are a few subjects that you can focus on in high school to prepare yourself for this career path. Some of these subjects include:
- Mathematics: Surveyors use math extensively in their work, so taking courses in algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus can be helpful.
- Science: Surveying often involves knowledge of science, including physics and earth science. Courses in these areas can provide a strong foundation for a surveying career.
- Computer Science: Surveyors frequently use computer software to help with data analysis and visualization, so taking courses in computer science can be beneficial.
- Technical Drawing: Surveyors also need to be skilled in technical drawing and have a good understanding of basic drafting principles.
- Geography: Surveying involves a lot of work with maps and understanding the physical layout of land, so taking courses in geography can be useful.
The formal education needed to become a surveyor varies depending on the state where you plan to practice. In general, surveyors typically need to have a degree in surveying or a related field and gain field experience before obtaining a license or certification from a professional organization.
Here is an overview of the typical formal education requirements to become a surveyor in the United States:
- High School Diploma or Equivalent: A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required to begin pursuing a degree in surveying.
- Bachelor's Degree: A four-year degree in surveying or a related field, such as civil engineering or geography, is typically required to become a licensed surveyor.
- Field Experience: Many states require surveyors to gain a certain amount of field experience before becoming licensed. This can typically be gained through internships or entry-level jobs.
- Licensure/Certification: After completing a degree and gaining field experience, surveyors must typically pass the Fundamentals of Surveying (FS) exam and the Principles and Practice of Surveying (PS) exam before obtaining licensure or certification from a professional organization.
Internships can be an excellent way for students studying surveying or related fields to gain practical experience in the industry and build their skills and knowledge. To find internship opportunities in surveying, students can search online job boards, network with professionals in the industry, and check with their school's career center or academic department.
Here are some potential internship opportunities for aspiring surveyors:
- Surveying Firms: Many surveying firms offer internships for students. These internships can provide hands-on experience with surveying equipment, data analysis, and other tasks commonly performed by surveyors.
- Government Agencies: Government agencies such as the U.S. Geological Survey and state departments of transportation often offer surveying internships. These internships can provide experience with large-scale surveying projects and working with government regulations.
- Construction Companies: Construction companies often work with surveyors on projects such as site surveys and construction layout. Interning with a construction company can provide experience with surveying in the context of construction projects.
- Engineering Firms: Engineering firms often work with surveyors on projects such as transportation infrastructure and land development. Interning with an engineering firm can provide experience with surveying as part of a larger project team.
- Land Surveying Apprenticeships: Some states offer apprenticeships for aspiring surveyors. These apprenticeships typically involve a combination of classroom instruction and on-the-job training.
Licensure is required for surveyors in order to practice as a professional surveyor in most states in the United States. The specific licensure requirements can vary by state, but typically include the following:
- Education: Surveyors must have a Bachelor's Degree in Surveying or a related field, such as civil engineering or geography.
- Experience: Most states require surveyors to have a certain amount of experience, typically two to four years, working under the supervision of a licensed professional surveyor.
- Examination: Surveyors must pass the Fundamentals of Surveying (FS) exam and the Principles and Practice of Surveying (PS) exam, which are administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES).
- Application: After completing the education, experience, and examination requirements, surveyors must apply for licensure with the state board of licensure.
- Continuing Education: Surveyors must complete a certain number of continuing education credits every year to maintain their licensure.
In addition to licensure requirements, surveyors are also often required to adhere to professional and ethical standards set forth by professional organizations such as the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS). These standards can include guidelines on surveying practices, client confidentiality, and professional conduct.
In addition to licensure, surveyors may also choose to pursue certifications from professional organizations in order to demonstrate their expertise in a particular area of surveying. Some common certifications for surveyors include:
- Certified Survey Technician (CST): The National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS) offers a series of four levels of CST certification, which recognize surveying technicians who have demonstrated knowledge and skill in the field.
- Certified Hydrographer (CH): The Hydrographic Society of America offers the CH certification for surveyors who specialize in hydrographic surveying, which is the mapping of underwater features and navigation hazards.
- Certified Federal Surveyor (CFedS): The Bureau of Land Management offers the CFedS certification for surveyors who work on federal lands and projects. This certification requires completion of a specialized training program.
- Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Certification: The GIS Certification Institute offers several levels of certification for professionals who use GIS software to analyze and manage geographic data. While not specific to surveying, GIS certification can be beneficial for surveyors who work with geospatial data.
There are several specializations within the field of surveying that professionals can choose to specialize in, including:
- Geodetic Surveying: This specialization involves the measurement and mapping of large areas of land, including the earth's surface, using advanced equipment and techniques.
- Construction Surveying: This specialization involves providing precise measurements and layout services for construction projects, including roads, bridges, and buildings.
- Land Surveying: This specialization involves surveying and mapping land parcels for the purposes of boundary establishment, property division, and land use planning.
- Hydrographic Surveying: This specialization involves measuring and mapping the physical features of bodies of water, including their depths, currents, and shorelines.
- Mining Surveying: This specialization involves measuring and mapping mining sites, including underground mines, to determine the location and quantity of mineral deposits.
- Photogrammetry: This specialization involves using aerial photography and remote sensing techniques to create maps and 3D models of land and properties.
- Forensic Surveying: This specialization involves using surveying techniques to gather evidence for legal cases, including boundary disputes and accident investigations.
- Environmental Surveying: This specialization involves measuring and mapping environmental features, such as soil and water quality, for the purposes of environmental planning and resource management.
Professional Societies and Associations
There are several professional societies and associations for surveyors that offer networking opportunities, training and education, and resources for career development. Here are a few examples:
- National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS): This is the largest professional organization for surveyors in the United States. It offers educational opportunities, advocacy on behalf of the surveying profession, and access to resources and networking opportunities.
- American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM): This organization focuses on advancing the surveying and mapping professions through education, research, and advocacy. It offers training programs, conferences, and other resources for members.
- International Federation of Surveyors (FIG): This is a global organization that represents the surveying profession worldwide. It offers networking opportunities, training and education programs, and advocacy for the profession.
- Professional Surveyors Canada (PSC): This is the national organization for surveyors in Canada. It offers education and training programs, advocacy on behalf of the profession, and networking opportunities for members.
- Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS): This is a professional organization for surveyors in the United Kingdom and around the world. It offers training and education programs, professional accreditation, and networking opportunities for members.