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At a Glance

  • Determine official boundaries for land, air, and water
  • Direct the work of survey parties
  • Often use Global Positioning System (GPS)
  • Work both indoors and outdoors
  • May work longer hours in the summer
  • Have a bachelor's degree
  • Need a license

Career summary

Surveyors measure and map land, air space, and water boundaries.

They write descriptions of land for deeds, leases, and other legal documents. They define airspace for airports. They survey bodies of water to get data to construct piers and other structures. Surveyors also measure construction and mineral sites. They provide data that defines the size, shape, outline, or elevation of land or land features.

Surveyors direct the work of survey parties. It consists of a party chief and several technicians and helpers. These workers use survey tools to measure distances, directions, and angles between points. They also measure elevations of points, lines, and contours on the earth's surface. Surveyors plan the fieldwork and select known survey reference points to measure. They determine the exact location of important features in the survey area.

In addition, surveyors research legal records. They look for visual evidence of previous boundaries. They record the results of the survey and verify that the data is accurate. From this data, they prepare plots, maps, and reports. They also talk to engineers, clients, or others involved with the project.

Surveyors use global positioning systems (GPS). This is a satellite system that precisely locates points on the earth by using radio signals. To use this system, surveyors place a receiver, mounted on a tripod, at a desired point. The receiver collects signals from several satellites. From these signals it can locate a precise position. The receiver can also be placed in a vehicle for tracing out road systems. Surveyors interpret and check the results.

Surveyors also use aerial photography and geographic information systems (GIS). GIS are computerized data banks of specialized data about the earth's surface.

Related careers

This career is part of the Architecture and Construction cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Military careers

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to surveyors.

Common work activities

Surveyors perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, surveyors:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Surveyors frequently:

It is important for surveyors to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for surveyors to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Surveyors need to:


Reason and problem solve

Use math and science

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a surveyor, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Surveyors typically need a bachelor's degree. About 26 colleges and universities offer a relevant bachelor's degree program, such as surveying technology. A degree in a closely related field, such as civil engineering or forestry, is often acceptable as well.

Work experience

Most states require four years of surveying experience to become a licensed surveyor. 

On-the-job training

New surveyors generally receive some training on the job. The length of training varies by employer. In general, you will receive up to three months of training.

Because of rapid changes in surveying technology, you spend time each year learning new hardware and software.

Military training

Some branches of the military train people to be surveying, mapping, and drafting technicians. Training lasts nine to 31 weeks, depending on your specialty. Additional training occurs on the job.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum (external link) may be different from your state's graduation requirements (external link). Surveyors use advanced math. Try to take math through Trigonometry.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups (PDF file) that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Most employers prefer a four-year degree in surveying or a related field.

Employers look for surveyors who have the ability to visualize distances, sizes, and abstract forms. They must be able to work accurately because mistakes are costly. Surveyors need good eyesight, coordination, and hearing. This is because they communicate with other team members verbally and with hand signals. Good people skills and the ability to work as part of a team are also important. For survey party chiefs and other supervisory jobs, leadership skills are necessary.

Employers may prefer to hire experienced workers who are licensed.


One should realize that the position of surveyor or party chief is rarely, if ever, a starting job. A strong educational background in math and science is helpful. Public speaking and good written communication skills are also helpful.

Costs to workers

Some workers may wish to join a professional association, which may have annual dues.


Land surveyors who make legal property and boundary surveys in Washington are required to be registered with the Washington State Department of Licensing. There are two levels of licensing.

Requirements for land-surveyor-in-training are:

Requirements for professional land surveyor (PLS) are:

For licensing information, contact:

Washington State Department of Licensing
Board of Registration for Professional Engineers and
Land Surveyors Licensing Program (external link)

PO Box 9025
Olympia, WA 98507-9025

For information on testing contact:

National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (external link)
PO Box 1686
Clemson, SC 29633-1686


Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Surveyors (SOC 17-1022)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $28.48 $33.66 $40.31 $46.91 $54.23
Monthly $4,936 $5,833 $6,986 $8,130 $9,398
Yearly $59,230 $70,020 $83,840 $97,570 $112,800
    Bellingham Hourly $29.45 $32.74 $36.64 $42.45 $50.15
Monthly $5,104 $5,674 $6,350 $7,357 $8,691
Yearly $61,267 $68,096 $76,211 $88,279 $104,299
    Bremerton-Silverdale Hourly $22.77 $26.91 $35.62 $45.42 $54.16
Monthly $3,946 $4,664 $6,173 $7,871 $9,386
Yearly $47,357 $55,978 $74,090 $94,465 $112,654
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $29.29 $34.44 $41.56 $46.81 $49.97
Monthly $5,076 $5,968 $7,202 $8,112 $8,660
Yearly $60,918 $71,625 $86,437 $97,363 $103,919
    Olympia-Tumwater Hourly $31.92 $36.26 $41.87 $46.42 $49.42
Monthly $5,532 $6,284 $7,256 $8,045 $8,564
Yearly $66,380 $75,412 $87,084 $96,571 $102,790
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $31.43 $36.79 $43.52 $49.11 $58.77
Monthly $5,447 $6,376 $7,542 $8,511 $10,185
Yearly $65,363 $76,518 $90,529 $102,143 $122,240
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $28.75 $32.72 $36.26 $40.28 $46.69
Monthly $4,982 $5,670 $6,284 $6,981 $8,091
Yearly $59,814 $68,049 $75,412 $83,776 $97,120
    Vancouver Hourly $22.48 $27.51 $34.28 $42.27 $50.39
Monthly $3,896 $4,767 $5,941 $7,325 $8,733
Yearly $46,762 $57,217 $71,289 $87,934 $104,816
    Wenatchee Hourly $30.21 $33.55 $37.41 $46.65 $51.06
Monthly $5,235 $5,814 $6,483 $8,084 $8,849
Yearly $62,824 $69,790 $77,818 $97,034 $106,220
United States Hourly $16.90 $22.40 $30.09 $39.49 $49.15
Monthly $2,929 $3,882 $5,215 $6,844 $8,518
Yearly $35,160 $46,590 $62,580 $82,140 $102,220

Wages vary by employer and area of the country. Wages also vary based on the surveyor's experience and level of education.

Benefits vary by employer. Most full-time surveyors receive typical benefits. These include vacation, sick leave, and health insurance.

Employment and outlook

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Surveyors (SOC 17-1022)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 993 5.2% 16.1% 82
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 23 0.0% 13.4% 2
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 15 6.7% 8.6% 1
    Benton and Franklin Counties 15 -13.3% 15.0% 1
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 57 1.8% 11.9% 4
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 117 6.8% 15.2% 10
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 82 9.8% 14.1% 7
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 28 3.6% 14.6% 2
    King County 368 7.6% 19.6% 32
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 16 6.3% 13.8% 1
    Pierce County 39 10.3% 15.2% 4
    Snohomish County 21 4.8% 12.4% 2
    Spokane County 125 10.4% 13.9% 12
United States 49,200 6.1% 5.2% 4,000

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation will grow steadily. Surveyors will continue to be needed to certify boundary lines, work on resource extraction projects, and review sites for construction.

Opportunities will be best for surveyors who have at least a bachelor's degree and strong technical skills. Job openings will continue to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force.

Other resources

American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (external link)
6 Montgomery Village Avenue, Suite 403
Gaithersburg, MD 20879
Engineer Girl! (external link)
National Academy of Engineering
Land Surveyors' Association of Washington (external link)
526 South E Street
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (external link)
280 Seneca Creek Road
Seneca, SC 29678
National Society of Professional Surveyors (external link)
5119 Pegasus Court, Suite Q
Frederick, MD 21704
Society of Women Engineers (external link)
130 East Randolph Street, Suite 3500
Chicago, IL 60601
Technology Student Association (external link)
1904 Association Drive
Reston, VA 20191-1540
Washington Society of Professional Engineers (external link)


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Holland occupational clusters