Exploring this Job
Become familiar with surveyor terms, projects, and tools used in this profession by reading books and magazines on the topic. Professional associations publish various newsletters and magazines that are helpful. One of the best opportunities for experience is a summer job with a construction outfit or company that requires survey work. Even if the job does not involve direct contact with survey crews, it will offer an opportunity to observe surveyors and talk with them about their work.
Some colleges have work-study programs that offer on-the-job experience. These opportunities, like summer or part-time jobs, provide helpful contacts in the field that may lead to future full-time employment. Volunteering at an appropriate government agency is another way to explore the field. The U.S. Geological Survey and the Bureau of Land Management usually have volunteer opportunities in select areas.
On proposed construction projects, such as highways, airstrips, and housing developments, it is the surveyor's responsibility to make necessary measurements through an accurate and detailed survey of the area. The surveyor usually works with a field party consisting of several people. Instrument assistants, called surveying and mapping technicians, handle a variety of surveying instruments including the theodolite, transit, level, surveyor's chain, rod, and other electronic equipment. They also use Global Positioning System units and Geographic Information Systems to collect data and view images of terrain to create maps and reports. In the course of the survey, it is important that all readings be recorded accurately and field notes maintained so that the survey can be checked for accuracy.
Surveyors may specialize in one or more particular types of surveying.
Construction surveyors make surveys for construction projects, such as highways, bridges, airstrips, shopping centers, and housing developments. They establish grades, lines, and other points of reference for construction projects. This survey information is essential to the work of the numerous engineers and the construction crews who build these projects.
Land surveyors establish township, property, and other tract-of-land boundary lines. They use maps, notes, or actual land title deeds to survey the land, checking for the accuracy of existing records. This information is used to prepare legal documents such as deeds and leases.
Land surveying managers coordinate the work of surveyors, their parties, and legal, engineering, architectural, and other staff involved in a project. In addition, these managers develop policy, prepare budgets, certify work upon completion, and handle numerous other administrative duties.
Highway surveyors establish grades, lines, and other points of reference for highway construction projects. This survey information is essential to the work of the numerous engineers and the construction crews who build the new highway.
Geodetic surveyors, also known as geodesists, measure large masses of land, sea, and space that must take into account the curvature of Earth and its geophysical characteristics. Their work is helpful in establishing points of reference for smaller land surveys, determining national boundaries, and preparing maps. Geodetic computers calculate latitude, longitude, angles, areas, and other information needed for mapmaking. They work from field notes made by an engineering survey party and also use reference tables and a calculating machine or computer.
Marine surveyors, also known as hydrographic surveyors, measure harbors, rivers, and other bodies of water. They determine the depth of the water through measuring sound waves in relation to nearby land masses. Their work is essential for planning and constructing navigation projects, such as breakwaters, dams, piers, marinas, and bridges, and for preparing nautical charts and maps.
Mine surveyors make surface and underground surveys, preparing maps of mines and mining operations. Such maps are helpful in examining underground passages within the levels of a mine and assessing the volume and location of raw material available.
Geophysical prospecting surveyors locate and mark sites considered likely to contain petroleum deposits. Oil-well directional surveyors use sonic, electronic, and nuclear measuring instruments to gauge the presence and amount of oil- and gas-bearing reservoirs. Pipeline surveyors determine rights-of-way for oil construction projects, providing information essential to the preparation for and laying of the lines.
Photogrammetric engineers, also known as photogrammetrists, determine the contour of an area to show elevations and depressions and indicate such features as mountains, lakes, rivers, forests, roads, farms, buildings, and other landmarks. Aerial, land, and water photographs are taken with special equipment able to capture images of very large areas. From these pictures, accurate measurements of the terrain and surface features can be made. These surveys are helpful in construction projects and in the preparation of topographical maps. Photogrammetry is particularly helpful in charting areas that are inaccessible or difficult to travel.
Cartographers prepare maps, charts, and drawings from aerial photographs and survey data. They also conduct map research, developing new mapping techniques and investigating topics such as how people use maps.
Forensic surveyors serve as expert witnesses in legal proceedings that involve industrial, automobile, or other types of accidents. They gather, analyze, and map data that is used as evidence at a trial, hearing, or lawsuit. These professionals must have extensive experience in the field and be strong communicators in order to explain technical information to people who do not have a background in surveying.