Geodetic Surveyors


Education and Training Requirements

High School

Take math and science courses. Be sure to include algebra, geometry, and trigonometry, which will help you to become comfortable with making different calculations. Earth science, chemistry, and physics classes are also useful. Geography will help you learn about different locations, their characteristics, and cartography. Mechanical drawing and other drafting classes are beneficial for learning how to visualize abstractions, gaining exposure to detailed work, and understanding perspectives. Computer science classes are also good preparation for working with technical surveying equipment.

Postsecondary Training

Many geodetic surveyors have a bachelor's degree in surveying or engineering, along with on-the-job training. They may also start their careers through their school's work-study program. This may entail working as an apprentice while completing a one- to three-year program in surveying and surveying technology offered by community colleges, technical institutes, and vocational schools.

Other Education or Training

Geodetic surveyors must know analytical or scientific software programs like Carlson Simplicity Sight Survey and National Geodetic Survey VERTCON; computer-aided design software like Autodesk AutoCAD and Bentley MicroStation; map creation software such as ESRI ArcGIS software and various Geo-Plus products; and e-mail and spreadsheet software.

Geodetic surveyors stay up to date on technological developments and standard practices in the surveying profession through continuing education offered by groups such as the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing and state-level organizations.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Geodetic surveyors may become certified as floodplain surveyors or as federal surveyors through the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS). The NSPS partnered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to create the certification program for floodplain surveyors, and it partnered with the Bureau of Land Management to create the certified federal surveyors program. The NSPS also offers the certified survey technician credential to applicants who pass an  examination and meet other requirements. Four levels of certification are available in two primary tracks—field and office. Visit https://cstnsps.com for more information. 

Surveyors who specialize in photogrammetry and geographic information systems (GIS) may receive certification from the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing and from the GIS Certification Institute. 

All 50 states and the District of Columbia require that geodetic surveyors making property and boundary surveys be licensed or registered. Licensure requirements vary, but most require a degree in surveying or a related field, specified years of work experience, and passing of examinations in land surveying. The higher the degree obtained, the less experience required. Geodetic surveyors with bachelor's degrees may need four years of on-the-job experience, while those with a lesser degree may need up to 10 years of prior experience to obtain a license. State licensure departments provide information on the requirements. Federally employed surveyors must pass a civil service examination and meet educational, work experience, and other specified requirements for the position.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Most employers prefer to hire geodetic surveyors who are licensed, have three to four years of experience in the field, and hold a bachelor’s degree.

Surveyors must have strong mathematical skills and be detail oriented. The job requires the ability to work with numbers and perform mathematical computations accurately and quickly. Geodetic surveyors must also be able to visualize and understand two- and three-dimensional objects, including spatial relationships, and form perceptions by comparing shapes, sizes, lines, shadings, and other forms. Physical fitness is also helpful in this line of work, because geodetic surveyors spend a great deal of time walking on various types of terrain, in varying conditions, and carrying different types of equipment. The ability to work independently as well as with others is also important.