Land surveyors in the United States are certified professionals responsible for a wide range of information and services including determining boundaries of land, air space and water, property ownership, map-making, planning and organizing property development and creating legal descriptions for the land. Boundary Surveys, Construction Surveys, Hydrographic Surveys, Lot Surveys, and Topographic Surveys are a small sample of the jobs that professionals regularly perform. Work is often outdoors and may require travel, carrying surveying equipment across different types of terrain and being exposed to a range of weather. The United States Geological Survey, Bureau of Land Management, Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA, and other similar agencies often employ surveyors. The variety of work and employment opportunities makes surveying an exciting career option.
Land surveying requires a breadth of knowledge and skills to expertly use computers, measuring devices and mapping systems to collect research and make decisions and graphic presentations. A working knowledge of common, state and federal law, as well as local customs is necessary to aid in determining boundaries, ownership and planning decisions. The ability to read and write legal descriptions is also a valuable supplementary skill for the job. Before one can become licensed, a process of education, examination and experience must be completed.
There are several different educational routes to become a Professional Surveyor in the United States. A combination of educational coursework and on-the-job training is necessary to gain the knowledge and experience to become licensed. Currently about 25 universities offer a B.S. degree in surveying, and there are many 1, 2 and 3-year programs offered at community colleges, vocational and technical schools. Requirements vary by state, but more and more states are beginning to require a bachelor’s degree and 4 or more years of experience. Another educational option is to pursue a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering or forestry, with some coursework in surveying. Whichever option you choose, it is a good idea to find a school or program that is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.
There are 2 examinations required for licensure, the Fundamentals of Surveying (FS), and Principles and Practice of Surveying (PS). The FS is a comprehensive exam offered in April and October. The 8-hour exam is 170 multiple-choice questions broken into morning and afternoon sessions. The exam covers 15 knowledge areas ranging from algebra and trigonometry to written communication, Boundary Law, field data acquisition and graphical communication and mapping. The exam is closed book, but test takers are given a reference book of some formulas and information. Basic theories, formulas and conversions are not included in the reference. After passing the exam, you are classified as a Surveying Intern and may begin working to gain on-the-job experience.
An average of 4 years of experience is required before taking your PS exam, however this varies by state. Contact your local licensing board to determine the specifics for your jurisdiction. Generally you must work for someone who is already licensed and you should gain more responsibility during the course of your internship. After completing the necessary work experience, it will be time to take your PS exam.
The PS exam is comprehensive and tests on the following 5 areas of knowledge: Standards and Specifications, Legal Principles, Professional Survey Practices, Business/Professional Practices and Types of Surveys. The exam is offered in April and October, takes 6 hours broken into morning and afternoon sessions, consists of 100 multiple-choice questions and is open-book. You are eligible for licensure and an exciting career once you have completed your PS Exam.
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