Land surveyors jobs require individuals to determine the position of specific points accurately on the face of the Earth and distances and angles between fixed points. Before construction can begin, land surveying is a necessary part of the planning process. Civil engineers depend heavily on the work of surveyors before they begin building projects. Surveying determines the exact position of existing land features and helps in creating accurate maps and diagrams detailing these locations.
Land surveying has always been a part of construction projects. Ancient Egyptians used surveying to plot the flooding of the Nile River each year. They also used land surveying in creating the pyramids. There is evidence to suggest that the people who built Stonehenge used geometry to plot the location of the stones.
The most common work of a land surveyor is marking the lines between properties. This is necessary before fences can be erected or buildings can be constructed. Determining the legal property lines prevents landowners from encroaching on land owned by someone else. Homeowners will call a surveyor if they wish to add a fence or an outbuilding because municipalities have specific laws as to how close to property lines these can be constructed. Having a survey prevents disputes once the work is done.
In addition to plotting the boundaries for pieces of land, land surveyors also determine the value of land based on its natural features. They may be used to appraise property or to determine its suitability for building. Since they are required to take precise measurements of the land and its features, part of a surveyor’s job is conducted outdoors. The majority of the work, however, is done in an office. This includes research, writing reports and filing paperwork with government agencies.
Surveyors are licensed by the state in which they work. Often, when they are plotting boundaries, they use metal stakes or concrete columns bearing their registration number to mark the corners of the land. This provides accountability in case of a future dispute.
People seeking this type of work need to take land surveying courses that include training in mathematics, engineering, geometry, trigonometry, physics and law. Land surveyors use special equipment to take measurements, do research, and use their own observations. With the information they gather, they create detailed maps that determine property ownership, create land maps, and show boundaries. Traditionally, land surveyors have used altimeters and compasses to determine height, distance and triangulation.
Someone seeking to become a surveyor usually pursues a bachelor’s degree in either land surveying or surveying engineering. Land surveyor schools teach students how to determine distances and heights using specialized equipment.
Once they receive their degree, they can pursue a position as a survey intern. After working as a survey intern for two to four years, a surveyor can qualify to take the professional land survey licensing examination for the state in which they work.
After successfully passing the exam, the surveyor will receive their license and can pursue a land surveyor position. Land surveyor salary levels range from $40,000 to $65,000 per year, depending on where they work. Once a person has worked as a surveyor for a number of years, they may wish to pursue a supervisor’s job, increasing their salary range to between $50,000 and $100,000. They may also wish to start their own business.
Some surveyors choose to increase their opportunities by pursuing land surveying jobs overseas. Oil and gas companies employ land surveyors to help in their search for natural energy sources. The Middle East and Asia are popular places to look for these jobs, since construction projects are booming there.