What does a Surveyor do?

What is a Surveyor?

Surveyors establish official land, airspace, and water boundaries. Surveyors work with civil engineers, landscape architects, and urban and regional planners to develop comprehensive design documents. They work outdoors in many types of terrain, and they also work indoors to prepare legal documents and other reports. They usually work full time.

What does a Surveyor do?

Surveyors typically do the following:

  • Measure distances, directions, and angles between points on, above, and below the Earth's surface
  • Select known reference points and then determine the exact location of important features in the survey area using special equipment
  • Establish official land and water boundaries
  • Research land records and other sources of information affecting properties
  • Look for evidence of previous boundaries to determine where boundary lines are
  • Travel to locations to measure distances and directions between points
  • Record the results of surveying and verify the accuracy of data
  • Prepare plots, maps, and reports
  • Work with cartographers (mapmakers), architects, construction managers, and others
  • Present findings to clients, government agencies, and others
  • Write descriptions of land for deeds, leases, and other legal documents
  • Provide expert testimony in court regarding their work or that of other surveyors.

Surveyors guide construction and development projects and provide information needed for the buying and selling of property. In construction, surveyors determine the precise location of roads or buildings and proper depths for foundations and roads. Whenever property is bought or sold, it needs to be surveyed for legal purposes. In their work, surveyors use the Global Positioning System (GPS), a system of satellites that locates reference points with a high degree of precision. Surveyors interpret and verify the GPS results. They gather the data that is fed into a Geographic Information System (GIS), which is then used to create detailed maps.

Surveyors take measurements in the field with a crew, a group that typically consists of a licensed surveyor and trained survey technicians. The person in charge of the crew (called the party chief) may be either a surveyor or a senior surveying technician. The party chief leads day-to-day work activities.

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How to become a Surveyor

Surveyors typically need a bachelor’s degree. A degree in a closely related field, such as civil engineering or forestry, is often acceptable as well. All jurisdictions 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 four years of work experience for a candidate with a bachelor’s degree to earn a license. Surveyors who are not licensed can work as survey technicians, but they must work under the supervision of licensed surveyors.

What is the workplace of a Surveyor like?

Surveying involves both field work and indoor work. Field work involves working outdoors, standing for long periods, and walking considerable distances. Surveyors sometimes climb hills with heavy packs of instruments and other equipment. When working outside, they are exposed to all types of weather, and they may need to stop outdoor work in bad weather.

Surveyors also do many tasks indoors, including researching land records, analyzing field survey data, mapping, presenting information to regulatory agencies, and providing expert testimony in courts of law. Travelling is sometimes part of the job, and surveyors may commute long distances or stay at project locations for a period of time.

Surveyors usually work full time. They may work longer hours during the summer, when warm weather and long hours of daylight are most suitable for field work.