When you learn how to become a land surveyor, you will become a highly-skilled professional. As a surveyor, you will fulfill a very important role for the construction industry, development, and for environmental sites. Of course, the right education and training are necessary to become a land surveyor.
There are many steps to go through if you want to enter this career. Before we look at how to become a land surveyor, let’s look at the job duties. This will help you better understand if becoming a surveyor is right for you.
Job Duties of a Land Surveyor
As a land surveyor, you will use specialized equipment and tools to take measurements for residential and commercial construction sites. You may also take precise measurements for preserved land areas and other areas of land that could be used.
Your job duties will include the following:
- Measuring the angles and the distance between the points below, above, and on the surface of the land
- Traveling to sites and locations with reference points to figure out the precise location of features found on the land
- Using survey records and other research data to determine the actual boundary lines of a property
- Preparing plots, maps, and reports of your findings for construction companies, government agencies, and any other clients
- Establishing the actual boundaries in an official capacity for the land and the water for deeds, leases, and other legal documents
While you may not need to do all of these job duties, as a land surveyor, you will focus mostly on the boundaries of the land. However, these job duties may come up, as you work for different types of clients.
How To Become a Land Surveyor in 6 Steps
Step #1 – Get your Bachelor’s Degree
While getting a degree isn’t a technical requirement to land a job as a land surveyor, it’s required by many employers. Most states will require a bachelor’s degree to become licensed, as well.
You want to get a degree in surveying, if possible. A degree in mathematics may also be acceptable. Make sure the program you complete is an ABET-accredited program. This is required by most states for licensing.
Check with your state for licensing requirements before choosing your degree program. You will likely take courses in cartography, physics, calculus, geography, surveying techniques, and geology.
Step #2 – Pass the Fundamentals of Surveying Exam
The Fundamentals of Surveying (FS) exam is necessary for all those wanting to become land surveyors. It’s available to students about the graduate and those that have graduated with a bachelor’s degree. The exam is offered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). If you want to become a land surveyor, you must pass this exam.
After passing the FS exam, you will become a surveyor-in-training. You will need to work under a licensed surveyor to gain experience.
Step #3 – Gain Experience
You will need to gain work experience before you can become a licensed land surveyor. After passing the FS exam, you will need to work under a licensed surveyor to meet the requirements of your state. Some states will require more hours than others.
While you’re in training, you will likely not be able to sign off on surveying documents. It will depend on the state you work in, but this is rather common.
Step #4 – Pass the Professional Surveyor License Exam
After you’ve met the experience requirement for your state, you will need to pass the Professional Surveyor (PS) exam. This is the second of the two exams from the NCEES. Passing this exam will allow you to become a licensed surveyor in your state. You will need at least four years of experience working under a licensed surveyor to take this exam.
Step #5 – Become Licensed in Your State
Passing both the FS and the PS exams will allow you to gain your national license as a surveyor. You may also need to take a state exam before you can gain a state license. It will depend on your state. Some states require an additional exam, while others don’t.
Necessary Skills for a Land Surveyor
If you want to become a land surveyor, you should have or develop the following skills:
- Communication – You will likely work with a team and you will have to communicate with both your team and your clients. It’s common to interact with government officials, engineers, lawyers, and construction workers in this field.
- Strength and Endurance – Physically, you will need to be able to handle the outdoor work. You might need to do quite a bit of walking, standing, and heavy lifting as a land surveyor.
- Time Management – Managing your time wisely is a big deal in this industry. You will need to work on a deadline and work in unpredictable weather. Coordinating schedules with your team will also be an important part of the job.
- Attention to Detail – Your job is to take precise measurements. Paying close attention to detail is a necessary skill. You will also need to create legal documents, which require attention to detail.
- Problem-Solving – As a land surveyor, you will be solving problems with property documents regularly. You will need to figure out the discrepancies and find the truth.
These skills are very important to this type of career. If you want to know how to become a land surveyor, develop these skills as you follow the steps above.
Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Land Surveyor
How much can I make as a land surveyor?
The average salary in the United States for land surveyors is about $67K per year, according to ndeed.com. The top employers in this industry will pay quite a bit more for experienced land surveyors, however. Some will pay more than $100K per year.
Your location will also help to determine your salary. The highest paying states for land surveyors include:
- Alaska – $129K, on average
- California – $109K, on average
- New Mexico – $92K, on average
- Minnesota – $85K, on average
- Michigan – $85K, on average
If you work in one of these states, you are more likely to make a higher salary than the national average for land surveyors.
Land surveyors with data collection skills tend to make a higher salary, too. This is a very important skill and many employers look for it when hiring a land surveyor.
What type of benefits do land surveyors get?
As an employee, you will likely gain access to many benefits. Land surveyors commonly get paid time off, health insurance, life insurance, and a 401(k). In some cases, your employer will offer a 401(k) matching program, a credit union membership, and even a flexible spending account. Other benefits are also possible, but these are the most common.
What is the work environment like for a land surveyor?
Most of your job will be spent outside on construction sites, but you will also work in an office. The office work will include compiling the data you have gathered into reports. Many land surveyors will travel to different construction sites or plots of land to perform the majority of their job.
When you do work in the office, you may be performing research and confirming the accuracy of the measurements you took. Surveyors also create maps and other documents for their clients, the courts, and other agencies. It’s common to work with a team, but some land surveyors will work alone.
What type of equipment will I use as a land surveyor?
It’s common for a land surveyor to use levels, prisms, reflectors, tripods, mounts, and poles. You may also use high-visibility gear, safety headwear, and GPS devices. Depending on the type of surveying you need to complete, some or all of these tools may be necessary.
What type of land surveyor can I become?
There are several different types of land surveyors you can become including:
- Mine surveyors
- Geodetic surveyors
- Boundary surveyors
- Construction surveyors
- Marine or hydrographic surveyors
- Forensic surveyors
As a land surveyor, you can specialize in one of these fields.
Do I need a degree to become a land surveyor?
Technically, you don’t need a degree, but it’s very helpful. About 27% of land surveyors don’t have a college degree. However, 28% hold an associate’s degree, and another 44% hold a bachelor’s degree. If you want to land a job as a land surveyor, you will likely need to get a college degree.
When you decide you want to learn how to become a land surveyor, you want to make sure you understand the career. It’s a big deal to go through the training and work as a land surveyor. If this is the right career for you, use the steps above to become a land surveyor.