What Is a Land Surveyor? Your Guide To the Profession

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 1 October 2022 | Published 23 July 2021

Updated 1 October 2022

Published 23 July 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Understanding the terrain and boundaries of a geographic area is essential to construction and engineering projects, land records and government projects. Working as a land surveyor offers professionals a career using both technical abilities and communication skills to map and analyse land areas. Learning more about this role can help you decide if this is a career you wish to pursue. In this article, we explain the job of a land surveyor including key skills, salary, and education prerequisites with a how-to guide to help you get started in your career.

Related: 20 Careers of the Future (With Salaries)

What is a land surveyor?

A land surveyor is a professional who maps boundary lines and measures land areas. Surveyors physically visit areas to complete their assessments, sharing their data with other professionals in the real estate and construction industries or for government purposes. They are trained to utilise various disciplines like mathematics and physics to analyse land masses and establish geographical boundaries for government, residential, and business endeavours. When measuring, land surveyors detect and record these items:

  • Elevations

  • Distances

  • Contours

  • Depressions

  • Boundaries

Land surveyors learn to complete different surveys to determine specific information depending on project needs and existing geographical records. They typically complete one of the following common types of surveys:

  • Topographic survey: when completing a topographic survey, land surveyors map land elevations by taking field measurements to complete projects related to commercial and residential properties.

  • Land or urban planning: land surveyors may take measurements to help determine the most efficient use of a space within an urban area.

  • Mortgage location survey: a mortgage location survey involves mapping residential or commercial surfaces to determine what features exist on a property.

  • Boundary or Cadastral survey: surveyors use boundary surveys to confirm or redefine the boundaries of a property for building and permitting purposes.

  • Elevation or flood survey: these surveys record the location of a structure in relation to the base flood elevation.

  • Route survey: a route survey shows the path of a feature such as a roadway or a pipeline. These surveys may involve calculating routes that do not follow a straight line.

What does a land surveyor do?

Land surveyors use many skills to define land boundaries for various projects. Here are some of the main duties they complete as part of their jobs:

  • Measure distances between specified reference points

  • Determine boundaries and distinct parts of land features by completing surface maps

  • Use equipment such as robotics, GPS software and hardware, and prisms to conduct land surveys

  • Record survey data in physical documents and software programs

  • Compare survey data with previous records

  • Verify the accuracy of survey data

  • Advise cartographers before the creation of new maps

  • Consult with contractors and architects to complete building and site plans

  • Share survey results with government agencies and officials

  • Analyse property records to compare current measurements to previous land area measurements

  • Define the latitude and longitude of land features

  • Lead teams of surveyors on large-scale projects

  • Create maps or plats of surveyed land

  • Use hand signals to communicate information with other survey team members across long distances

Related: 10 Most Essential Data Analysis Skills

What's included in a land survey?

Land surveys typically include the following information to help interested parties determine how to develop or map a piece of property:

  • Boundaries: a correct land survey includes land boundaries in clear measurements. This includes verifying the boundaries of adjacent land areas to the surveyed property.

  • Property improvements: anything already built on the land such as a home or a fence is considered a property improvement and are included in the survey.

  • Written descriptions: a land survey includes a written description of the property boundaries and features. This information may be included in the property deed.

  • Elevation: a survey establishes if a property is on a floodplain. Land surveys can include the high and low elevation of the land within the survey area.

  • Property restrictions: anything that can impact future development on a property, including property restrictions, easements, and building setbacks are usually included in a land survey.

The average salary of a land surveyor

The national average salary for a land surveyor is $3,693 per month. Where you work, your educational background and your level of experience all contribute to your earning potential. Gaining additional certifications may also increase your salary. After licensure, you may also gain additional compensation.

Related: Highest Paying Jobs In Singapore

What skills do land surveyors need?

Here are some main skills used by successful land surveyors:

  • Technical knowledge: surveyors need a background in mathematics, physics, and geography to complete their duties. Using levelling and measuring tools is also an important technical skill that surveyors learn in order to pursue a position as a surveyor.

  • Written communication: surveyors may create written descriptions of survey data regarding land areas after measuring and collecting data. Strong writing skills can help you complete accurate descriptive reports about the land you have surveyed.

  • Attention to detail: with work involving finding minute details through field measurements or recorded data, surveyors' attention to detail can help establish boundaries for government, commercial, and residential buildings as well as mapping projects.

  • Physical stamina: working as a land surveyor requires you to spend time outside in various weather conditions. You may find yourself walking across large areas of land as you prepare data for survey plats and reports.

Read more: What Are Technical Skills?

What kind of education does a land surveyor need to have?

To work as a land surveyor, there are certain educational requirements. Many companies look for surveyors with a bachelor's degree in surveying or a related field like civil engineering. Surveyors also complete internships to learn their trade while shadowing established professionals in the field. Depending on the area where you practise, you can begin by obtaining a surveying licence or certificate. Both national and international organisations offer licencing for surveyors to prove their knowledge of current professional standards and safety guidelines.

What environments do land surveyors work in?

Working as a land surveyor involves performing duties both outdoors and indoors - once the fieldwork is done, surveyors have to complete records and analyse survey data in an office setting. Surveyors typically work for an engineering or surveying firm. Others may work for government agencies, collecting information for official projects or records.

Land surveyors spend lots of time outdoors enduring varying weather conditions as they use different tools to map out the terrain. While collecting data and mapping out boundaries, they may also be required to walk long distances or climb over land masses.

How to become a land surveyor

Consider these steps to help you begin a career as a land surveyor:

1. Complete prerequisite studies

Before earning an undergraduate or graduate degree, it's important to study mathematics and science. Courses in trigonometry, geometry, and other advanced mathematics can prepare you for the complex tasks involved in surveying. Taking on advanced classes in maths during your secondary school years will stand you in good stead for moving on to a relevant field of undergraduate studies.

2. Earn a degree

After completing your secondary education and junior college, you can pursue an undergraduate degree in engineering or a surveying training programme.

3. Consider an internship

Completing an internship in surveying can help you gain working knowledge and experience in using surveying tools in the field. You may also find a paid internship to help you transition from post-secondary studies to a full-time job as a land surveyor.

4. Obtain a practising certificate

Individuals who wish to complete certain surveys can obtain a practising certificate from the Land Surveyors Board, where you first register as a surveyor. Next, you can pay a fee and take a professional examination. Surveyors renew their practising certificates every year.

5. Gain experience

Start your career with an entry-level position, where you can learn and practise working under an experienced land surveyor. For example, you may get a job assisting the supervising land surveyor in a firm or government agency.

6. Earn a licence for your business or partnership

The Land Surveyors Board of Singapore requires land surveyors who own their own businesses and conduct boundary surveys to be licenced. The process of getting licenced is similar to that of gaining a practising certificate. However, corporations or limited partnerships may apply as an organisation.

Disclaimer: Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article is affiliated with Indeed. Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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