Education and Training Requirements

High School

Prepare for this career by taking plenty of math and science courses in high school. Take algebra, geometry, and trigonometry to become comfortable making different calculations. Earth science, chemistry, and physics classes are also helpful. Geography will help you learn about different locations, their characteristics, and cartography. Benefits from taking mechanical drawing and other drafting classes include an increased ability to visualize abstractions, exposure to detailed work, and an understanding of perspectives. Taking computer science classes will prepare you for working with technical surveying equipment.

Postsecondary Training

It has become the industry standard for surveyors to earn a bachelor's degree in surveying or engineering combined with on-the-job training. Other entry options include obtaining more job experience (sometimes as an apprentice) combined with a one- to three-year program in surveying and surveying technology offered by community colleges, technical institutes, and vocational schools.

Other Education or Training

The American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, American Association for Geodetic Surveying, and state-level organizations offer webinars, seminars, and other continuing education opportunities.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

The National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS) has partnered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to create a certification program for floodplain surveyors. The NSPS has also partnered with the Bureau of Land Management to create the certified federal surveyors program.

The American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing offers voluntary certification for surveyors who specialize in photogrammetry and GIS. Certification is also provided by the GIS Certification Institute. 

All 50 states and the District of Columbia require that surveyors making property and boundary surveys be licensed or registered. The requirements for licensure vary, but most require a degree in surveying or a related field, a certain number of years of experience, and passing of examinations in land surveying. Generally, the higher the degree obtained, the less experience required. Those 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. Those seeking employment in the federal government must take a civil service examination and meet the educational, experience, and other specified requirements for the position.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Licensed surveyors must have four years of experience in the field and hold a bachelor’s degree. The ability to work with numbers and perform mathematical computations accurately and quickly is essential. Other helpful qualities are the ability to visualize and understand objects in two and three dimensions (spatial relationships) and the ability to discriminate between and compare shapes, sizes, lines, shadings, and other forms (form perception).

Surveyors walk a great deal and carry equipment over all types of terrain so endurance and coordination are important physical assets. In addition, surveyors direct and supervise the work of their team, so you should be good at working with other people and demonstrate leadership abilities.