How to Become a Surveyor

Surveyor Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year $53,230
Avg. Pay / hour $25.59
Education 4+ Years
Job Outlook 6%

Surveyors work in a wide range of industries including architecture, engineering and other related services.

These professionals use their skills, experience and education in order to study, calculating the surface of the Earth and finally mapping it.

Depending on the industry, Surveyors will gather and analyze different kinds of information of the Earth for different purposes.

They may work with legal information to determine boundaries.

In order to complete a surveying project, professionals will use a variety of complex technological equipment in order to determine precise measurements.

Some specialized surveying careers include Geodetic Surveyors, Geophysical prospecting surveyors, and Marine/Hydrographic surveyors.

Students who want to become a Surveyor can also look into becoming a surveying or mapping technicians.

These professionals don’t have as many responsibilities as a Surveyor or make as much in wages but the educational requirements aren’t as extensive or require as much schooling.

Education Requirements to Become a Surveyor

In order for candidates to become a Surveyor, they must have completed a Surveying program and seek licensure from their state.

However, a handful of states may accept candidates with a high school diploma and certification.

Surveying programs can be found at a number of colleges, universities, vocational and technical schools and some community colleges.

Programs to become a Surveyor can be completed by attending a one yea r, two year, three year or four year educational institution.

Students can attend a program that focuses on surveying or surveying technology.

All states have different qualifications when licensing Surveyors but the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) lists four general steps to becoming licensed.

Make sure to research your state’s requirements in order to become a Surveyor.

According to the steps implemented by the NCESS, the first one has already been mentioned above, completing the appropriate educational requirements.

The second step would be to complete the Fundamentals of Surveying Exam FS Exam.

Passing the first exam would then qualify a candidate for the third step?to work under the guidance of an experienced surveyor for a minimum of four years.

Finally, the last step requires the candidate to pass the Principles and Practice of Surveying exam PS Exam.

Passing the final certification exam would allow candidates to work independently without the guidance and supervision of another Surveyor.

Surveyor Job Description

Depending on the specialization they go into, Surveyors can be responsible for a variety of tasks.

For the most part, Surveyors will use a variety of technology and equipment to measure the surface of the Earth and determine water, airspace and land boundaries.

All the information they gather will be used to establish and write descriptions for land which is then used to create deeds and other documentation.

The airspace information would be used to create boundaries for airports.

Finally the information they gather is also important in order to determine the measurements for mining and construction sites.

Surveyors who specialize in a specific industry will perform variations of the aforementioned obligations.

For example, Geodetic Surveyors will use highly advanced techniques and use satellite surveillance in order to calculate the surface of the Earth.

Marine/hydrographic surveyors work specifically on studying bodies of water and their boundaries.

These bodies of waters include shorelines, harbors, and the depth of water in certain areas.

Geophysical prospecting surveyors mark locations that will be used to explore the subsurface of the Earth for mining in order to search for things such as petroleum.

Surveyor Salary and Career Path

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that in 2008 the median wage for surveying professionals was approximately $52,980 per year.

The salary range for these professionals during the same year was approximately $29,000 to $85,600 per year.

Surveying Technicians assist Surveyors in collecting data.

These professionals had a median income of $35,000 in 2008 with a salary range of $21,600 to $58,000 per year.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that this profession is expected to experience a healthy growth through the year 2018.

The BLS reports that this growth will be approximately 19%.

This expected growth can be attributed to the fact that accurate geographic information will be high in demand from various sources.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$57,810
New Hampshire$67,500
New Jersey$81,470
New Mexico$60,620
New York$83,350
North Carolina$78,890
North Dakota$71,890
Rhode Island$67,940
South Carolina$50,190
South Dakota$73,090
West Virginia$64,260
Puerto Rico$35,950

The top earning state in the field is California, where the average salary is $98,670.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

California - $98,670
Alaska - $91,900
Washington - $87,490
New York - $83,350
New Jersey - $81,470
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Surveyors, OCC Code 17-1022, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a surveyor?

A surveyor is a professional who makes precise measurements to determine boundary lines and prepare construction sites in order to avoid legal disputes.

As a surveyor, you will measure distances and angles between different points, research land records and titles, travel to the site to determine the exact location of different features, prepare maps and plots and present your findings to the employer/client.

The exact tasks depend on the type of project and the surveyor’s specialty.

Boundary and land surveyors make measurements in order to determine the exact location and boundaries of a property.

Engineering and construction surveyors determine the location of buildings and roads and establish what can be built on a particular property.

Forensic surveyors survey accident scenes to see if the landscape has been impacted.

Other surveyors specialize in marine and hydrographic surveying, others map tunnels in underground mines and others measure the Earth’s surface.

Regardless of the field of expertise, a surveyor’s job usually includes both office work and fieldwork and many surveyors have to travel to different parts of the country during projects.

How much does a surveyor make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for surveyors was $62,580 as of May 2018.

Salaries vary depending on the employer, the surveyor’s specialty and his or her experience.

Some surveyors make less than $35,000 while others earn more than $100,000 a year.

How much does it cost to become a surveyor?

Surveyors typically hold a bachelor’s degree and they also need a state license before providing surveying services to the public.

In order to be eligible for a state license, most states require applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree from a college accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.

Tuition costs vary depending on the school and the program you choose.

A four-year program in civil engineering will cost you, on average around $43,000-$44,000 a year.

What is the demand for surveyors?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for surveyors is expected to grow 6 percent from 2018 to 2028.

Job opportunities vary region by region and year by year because it is dependent on construction activity; when construction slows, the competition for jobs is expected to be strong.

Holding a bachelor’s degree from an institution accredited by ABET, having a few years of experience and a state license will give you better job prospects.

How long does it take to become a surveyor?

Surveyors need around 8 years of training and work experience before being able to certify legal documents and to provide surveying services to the public.

A surveyor’s training starts with four years of college followed by approximately 4 years of training and work experience under the supervision of an experienced surveyor.

The licensure process usually starts right after finishing college, when prospective surveyors take the Fundamentals of Surveying exam.

After gaining sufficient experience you are ready to take the Principle and Practice of Surveying exam and if you pass, you become a licensed surveyor.

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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