Land Surveyor Assistant: Job Duties & Career Info

Find out the job duties of land surveyor assistants. Discover what education and training are required to enter a career in this field, and learn about related career options.

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Career Definition

Land surveyor assistants, also called surveying and mapping technicians, work under the direction of licensed land surveyors and adjust and operate surveying instruments to determine precise boundaries of land parcels, airspaces and water sites. The most commonly used instrument is the total station. A familiar site in construction areas and along roadways, it sits atop a tripod and measures and records angles and distances simultaneously. This information is then compiled to determine exact boundaries. A land surveyor assistant may adjust the total station, clear sight lines, position targets and take manual measurements. Land surveyor assistants compile notes, make sketches, and enter the data obtained into computers either in the field or at the office.

Becoming a Land Surveyor Assistant

Required Education

Land surveyor assistants must have formal training in surveying, surveying technology, or a related field that will provide the knowledge base of geometry, engineering and trigonometry required for this job. Geology, forestry, engineering, computer science, and astronomy courses also provide a solid base from which to learn land surveying. Many community colleges and vocational schools offer 1-, 2-, and 3-year programs in surveying or surveying technology. However, those with a bachelor's degree may be more attractive to employers and may more easily advance to crew chief, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Although certification is not required for assistants, several organizations offer professional certification in this field, such as the Certified Survey Technician credential from the National Society of Professional Surveyors.

Skills Required

Land surveyor assistants must enjoy working outside and be able to work in all types of weather. They must also be able to stand for long periods of time and climb terrain with heavy packs of instruments. Land surveyor assistants must also be able to analyze and interpret the data gathered in the field, which does not always fit together perfectly.

Career and Economic Outlook

The BLS reported that demand for surveying and mapping technicians is expected to increase by 14% from 2012 to 2022, which is an about-average rate of job growth for that period. Growth is driven by increased use of computerized geographic information systems (GIS) that provide the data for online mapping systems. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for surveying and mapping technicians as of May 2012 was $39,670.

Alternative Career Options

Surveyor

Those who prefer to lead the survey team might find the job of surveyor an attractive option. Surveyors are licensed professionals who use global positioning systems (GPS), GIS, and other surveying tools to determine legal land boundaries. Although education requirements vary by state, in many states surveyors must earn a bachelor's degree from an ABET-accredited program. Licensure requirements generally include a bachelor's degree, experience working with a licensed surveyor, and passing both the Fundamentals of Surveying and Principles and Practice of Surveying exams. Surveyors had a median annual salary of $56,230 as of May 2012, according to the BLS. Additionally, the BLS projects that jobs for surveyors will increase by 10% from 2012 to 2022, which is an about-average rate for that period.

Cartographer

Like surveyors and survey technicians, cartographers use sophisticated equipment to measure land and water areas, but cartographers use their measurements to create maps. The skill set for both careers is similar, and in some states, cartographers must be licensed surveyors. A bachelor's degree with extensive instruction in GIS, geography and computer programming is required to become a cartographer. The median annual salary for all cartographers in 2012 was $57,440, and the median salary for cartographers working for the federal government was $84,850, according to the BLS. The BLS projects that jobs for cartographers and photogrammetrists will increase 20% from 2012 to 2022, which is faster than average.

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