Surveyor Job Facts: Duties, Salary, and Requirements

A surveyor looks through a level on construction site
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A surveyor determines legal property boundaries. He or she provides data, and compiles legal documents called surveys, for building, mapmaking, and real estate projects. A homeowner may hire a surveyor when there is a need to ascertain property lines for a construction project. Government agencies also use surveying services when they are building roads.

When buying or selling a home or commercial property, one may need a survey done of property lines.

 People who work in this discipline are also called land, site, or property surveyors. 

Quick Facts

  • In 2016, surveyors earned a median annual salary of $61,140.
  • 44,800 people held this job title in 2016.
  • Engineering firms employed the majority of surveyors but some worked for construction companies and state or local governments.
  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expect 11 percent growth in this job between 2016 and 2026. Individuals who have bachelor's degrees will fare better in the job market.

Job Duties

When choosing an occupation, it is essential to know what your job duties would be if you were employed in that field. We looked at job announcements on to learn about the job duties surveyors should expect to have:

  • Conduct physical site surveys using a variety of equipment and tools
  • Prepare sketches and notes, and perform electronic data collection
  • Prepare site surveying documents as needed
  • Process field data, coordinate field staff, and interface with CADD group
  • Prepare legal descriptions
  • Verify the accuracy of survey data, including measurements and calculations conducted at survey sites
  • Schedule project in logical steps and budget time and resources required to meet deadlines and profitability targets
  • Review CAD drawings prepared by survey technicians
  • Calculate areas of land parcels and easements to be acquired using mathematics and computer software
  • Researches previous survey evidence, maps, deeds, physical evidence, and other records to obtain data needed for surveys

Education and Licensing Requirements

To work as a surveyor, you will usually need a bachelor's degree. Most employers prefer job candidates who have majored in surveying. Some will hire workers who have degrees in civil engineering and forestry.

Regardless of where in the United States you want to work, you will need a license. Each state, as well as the District of Columbia, have specific requirements that its professional licensing board sets. They may include a college degree from an ABET-accredited program, passing multiple exams, and getting several years of work experience. Contact the professional licensing board in the state in which you want to work for further details. NCEES (National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying) maintains links to list of licensing boards on its website.

What Soft Skills Do You Need?

In addition to the training you will receive in school, and through work experience, you will also need certain soft skills to have a successful career as a surveyor.

Soft skills are personal characteristics that that one does not attain through formal training. They are:

  • Reading Comprehension: You must be able to understand written documents.
  • Mathematics: An aptitude for applying mathematical principles to solve problems is necessary.
  • Detail Oriented: Since you will be preparing legal documents, accuracy is of the utmost importance. You must take great care when taking and recording measurements.
  • Listening Skills: You will have to understand instructions from others, including architects and project managers.
  • Speaking Skills: You will have to communicate information to members of your team and your clients.
  • Time ManagementIt will be necessary to plan your and your team's time on each job.

What Will Employers Expect From You?

Let's take a look at what employers have to say about what they want from their job candidates.

These came straight from job announcements on

  • Demonstrate leadership and strong communication skills
  • Internship in a related field
  • Have a valid driver’s license
  • Knowledge of general construction practices and procedures
  • Be a team player and able to work autonomously
  • Ability to demonstrate basic computer skills and to learn new technology easily
  • Demonstrated professionalism

Related Occupations

 DescriptionAnnual Salary (2016)Educational Requirements
Surveying TechniciansAssist surveyors$42,450High School Diploma
Urban or Regional PlannersHelp communities decide how to best use their land$70,020Master's Degree in Regional Planning
Construction Project ManagerCoordinates construction projects$89,300Bachelor's Degree in Construction-Related Field
ArchitectDesigns houses, apartment and office buildings, and shopping centers$76,930Bachelor's or Master's in Architecture

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 (visited July 24, 2017).
Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online (visited July 24, 2017).