Registered Professional Land Surveyor Career Info and Requirements
Registered professional land surveyors measure areas on and below the earth's surface to collect geospatial data for land use planning, boundary mapping and other governmental purposes. Land surveyors obtain state licensure by meeting work and testing requirements established by their state's licensing board.
Career Information for Registered Professional Land Surveyors
Professional land surveyors collect land feature data, including elevation, shape and location information using global positioning system (GPS) technology. They use this data to verify historic data and establish official boundaries. They must maintain records of their work for verification and preparing maps and reports for legal documents.
Land surveyors who measure large areas of the earth's surface are called geodetic surveyors. Others may work as geophysical prospecting surveyors to mark sites below earth's surface for natural resource exploration. Those who focus on measuring bodies of water, such as harbors and rivers, are employed as hydrographic surveyors.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that surveyors held 57,600 jobs in 2008 (www.bls.gov). Most surveyors work for firms that provide surveying and mapping services to other industries. Federal government agencies employ a large number of surveyors, particularly the United States Geological Survey, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. Those employed by state and local government agencies may work for highway departments and urban planning agencies.
Most surveyors are full-time salaried employees. Salaries vary based on work experience, level of education and employer. The BLS reported in May 2008 that the median annual income of surveyors was $52,980.
Education Requirements for Registered Professional Land Surveyors
All states require professional surveyors to be licensed. Some states require only a high school diploma and additional training, such as an apprenticeship program. High school students interested in a surveying career can prepare by taking algebra, trigonometry, geometry and computer science classes.
The BLS reported that an increasing number of states require bachelor's degrees in surveying from a school accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Many colleges and universities offer 4-year bachelor's degrees in surveying or in a related field, such as civil engineering, geography or forestry. Junior colleges, technical institutes and vocational schools offer surveying programs that last b1-3 years. Surveying program coursework typically includes mathematics, statistics, geography, cartography and geographic information science (GIS).
Licensure Requirements for Surveyors
Most state licensing boards require candidates to pass examinations administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). According to the NCEES, becoming a licensed professional land surveyor is typically a 4-step process involving two exams (www.ncees.org). Candidates first complete the level of education required by their state. They may take the first NCEES exam at the end of their degree program or just after graduating.
The first exam is the Fundamentals of Surveying, which consists of 170 multiple-choice questions covering topics in mathematics, geodesy, computer operations, data and image acquisitions, mapping and boundary law. After passing this exam, candidates enter the workforce. In most states, candidates need four years of experience under the supervision of a licensed surveyor to qualify for the second NCEES exam.
The Principles and Practice of Surveying exam typically serves as the final step to becoming a registered professional land surveyor. This is an open-book exam of 100 multiple-choice questions testing a candidate's knowledge of legal principles, standards, specifications and professional survey practices, including research and field practices.
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