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In 2008, surveyors earned an average salary of $52,980. The middle 50 percent earned $38,800 to $70,010. The highest 10 percent earned more than $85,620.
Surveyors establish official land, airspace and water boundaries. They write descriptions of land for deeds, leases and other legal documents; define airspace for airports; and take measurements of construction and mineral sites. Other surveyors provide data about the shape, contour, location, elevation or dimension of land or land features.
When measuring boundaries, surveyors select known reference points in the field and calculate the location of important features in the survey area. Surveyors often use the Global Positioning System (GPS) to locate reference points with a high degree of precision.
Surveyors also research legal records, look for evidence of previous boundaries, and analyze data to determine the location of boundary lines. Some surveyors perform specialized functions. Geodetic surveyors measure large areas of the earth’s surface. Geophysical prospecting surveyors mark sites for sub-surface exploration, usually to look for petroleum. Marine or hydrographic surveyors survey harbors, rivers and other bodies of water.
Most surveyors need at least an associate degree in applied technology, and all need licensing. A number of universities offer bachelor’s degree programs in surveying. Many community colleges, technical institutes and vocational schools offer programs in surveying or surveying technology.
The best salaries will go to those that hold bachelor’s degrees in surveying or civil engineering.
Licensing: All 50 states and all U.S. territories license surveyors. Specific requirements for training and education vary among the states.
Most state licensing boards require that individuals pass a written examination given by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES). Most states also require surveyors to pass a written examination prepared by the state licensing board.
The National Society of Professional Surveyors, a member organization of the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping, has a voluntary certification program for surveying technicians.
Entering the Field: High school graduates with no formal training in surveying usually start as apprentices. Beginners with postsecondary school training in surveying usually can start as technicians or assistants.
With on-the-job experience and formal training in surveying, workers may advance to senior survey technician, then to party chief. Depending on state licensing requirements, in some cases they may advance to licensed surveyor.
Career Changers: Career changers should review their states’ licensing requirements and talk to specific employers about training and education requirements. The fastest route would be to secure a paid apprenticeship with a surveying firm while earning a certificate or associate degree in surveying.

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