Home page

Surveying and Mapping Technicians

At a Glance

  • Work with surveyors, engineers, computer programmers, and laborers
  • Work with a variety of tools and instruments
  • Often use Global Positioning System (GPS)
  • Work both indoors and outdoors
  • May work longer hours in the summer
  • Surveying technicians train on the job
  • Mapping technicians train through formal training programs

Career summary

Surveying and mapping technicians help surveyors measure and map land.

#No alt titles

Surveying and mapping technicians use technology, such as:

Surveying technicians

Surveying technicians inspect, clean, and pack survey tools and instruments. They also set up, operate, and adjust these instruments. They take and record measurements and help prepare survey reports. They measure vertical and horizontal angles using an instrument called a theodolite. Technicians measure distances between surveying points with a tape or electronic equipment. In addition, they use satellites to gather data. They set up instruments to measure the position and elevation of land. They compile notes, make sketches, and enter collected data into computers. Technicians also supervise laborers who clear brush, drive stakes, and carry equipment.

Surveying technicians are part of a team, called a survey party. The team is made up of a party chief, survey technicians, and laborers. The party chief may be an engineer, a licensed land surveyor, or a surveying technician.

Mapping technicians

Mapping technicians use a variety of information to create maps. They use photographs, data from surveys, and other information. Some data, such as elevation and distance measurements, are spatial. Other data, such as population density and land use patterns, are non-spatial.

Mapping technicians use drafting equipment and computers to make maps. They analyze aerial photographs to find data. They may join several photos together. Technicians also research old maps and verify data points by visiting sites. They combine the information and draw a basic map. They add boundaries, elevations, and color. They may supervise workers who draft maps or produce blueprints and photographs.

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 surveying and mapping technicians.

Common work activities

Surveying and mapping technicians perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, surveying and mapping technicians:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Surveying and mapping technicians frequently:

It is important for surveying and mapping technicians to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for surveying and mapping technicians to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Surveying and mapping technicians 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 surveying technician, you typically need to:

To work as a mapping technician, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Surveying technicians generally only need a high school diploma or equivalent, but some have postsecondary training in survey technology. However, mapping technicians often need formal education after high school to study advances in technology such as GIS. Training in drafting, cartography, computer science, or GIS is the best way to prepare.

Work experience

High school graduates with no formal training in surveying usually start as apprentices. As an apprentice, you work as a laborer on survey teams. You haul gear, cut brush, and perform other routine tasks.

High school graduates with no formal training in mapping or geographic information systems start as digitizers. These workers operate equipment that converts map coordinates into computer readable form. As you gain experience, you can advance to analyst or technician level jobs.

On-the-job training

Surveying technicians learn their job duties under the supervision of a surveyor or a surveying party chief. Initially, surveying technicians handle simple tasks, such as placing markers on land and entering data into computers. With experience, they help to decide where and how to measure the land. Training may last up to one year.

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).

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

For surveying technicians, employers require a high school diploma or equivalent. Many employers prefer at least a two-year associate degree in surveying. Some employers prefer to hire those who have a four-year degree.

For mapping technicians, employers prefer applicants who have formal training. Computer-aided drafting (CAD), computer science, cartography, and geographic information systems (GIS) are all preferred areas of study. An associate degree is usually the minimum education required. Some employers prefer applicants who have a bachelor's degree.

Some employers prefer workers who have received certification as survey technicians from the National Society of Professional Surveyors (external link).

#Added NSPS & removed ref to certs offered through state assn as assn does not seem to offer certs itself anymore, 4/13/09, cj. Removed reference to American Congress on Surveying and Mapping as links to it all go to NSPS cited above, 5/7/13 cj. NSPS still offers certs; also made assn name a direct link to their website, 4/8/15 cj. Updated above url 1/31/17 cj. ok 4/3/18 lh, 3/12/19 cj.

Employers also look for workers who are dependable and can follow verbal directions. They prefer workers with problem-solving skills who can work with little supervision.


Summer work experience with the Washington State Department of Transportation or Department of Natural Resources; Forest Service; city, county, or federal government; or private survey firms will help an individual become familiar with this and related occupations. The ability to compute general math and geometry problems with and without the aid of hand-held calculators is important.

#updated & verified above info 4/13/05 CJ.

Costs to workers

Workers who join a professional association must pay a membership fee and annual dues.

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).


Surveying and mapping technicians (SOC 17-3031)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $16.18 $18.24 $24.28 $29.61 $35.37
Monthly $2,804 $3,161 $4,208 $5,131 $6,130
Yearly $33,660 $37,940 $50,510 $61,580 $73,570
    Bellingham Hourly $16.47 $20.57 $26.65 $31.75 $37.42
Monthly $2,854 $3,565 $4,618 $5,502 $6,485
Yearly $34,255 $42,780 $55,414 $66,049 $77,833
    Bremerton-Silverdale Hourly $19.87 $22.13 $26.68 $33.79 $38.30
Monthly $3,443 $3,835 $4,624 $5,856 $6,637
Yearly $41,336 $46,038 $55,485 $70,284 $79,663
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $16.88 $18.78 $28.07 $33.78 $38.57
Monthly $2,925 $3,255 $4,865 $5,854 $6,684
Yearly $35,115 $39,076 $58,386 $70,253 $80,226
    Olympia-Tumwater Hourly $17.09 $20.04 $28.09 $35.27 $42.64
Monthly $2,962 $3,473 $4,868 $6,112 $7,390
Yearly $35,554 $41,690 $58,430 $73,378 $88,699
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $16.50 $18.36 $24.08 $29.77 $34.67
Monthly $2,859 $3,182 $4,173 $5,159 $6,008
Yearly $34,322 $38,203 $50,084 $61,919 $72,127
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $15.94 $17.49 $25.21 $28.42 $30.34
Monthly $2,762 $3,031 $4,369 $4,925 $5,258
Yearly $33,165 $36,381 $52,437 $59,115 $63,105
    Vancouver Hourly $18.34 $23.09 $27.43 $31.06 $36.77
Monthly $3,178 $4,001 $4,754 $5,383 $6,372
Yearly $38,147 $48,013 $57,043 $64,601 $76,488
    Wenatchee Hourly $13.01 $19.87 $27.95 $34.89 $41.87
Monthly $2,255 $3,443 $4,844 $6,046 $7,256
Yearly $27,066 $41,330 $58,137 $72,573 $87,087
United States Hourly $13.15 $16.49 $21.34 $28.00 $35.63
Monthly $2,279 $2,858 $3,698 $4,852 $6,175
Yearly $27,360 $34,300 $44,380 $58,250 $74,110

Wages vary by employer and area of the country. The technician's specialty and level of experience and responsibility also affect wages. Those who have supervisory duties usually earn higher wages.

Surveying and mapping technicians who work full time usually receive benefits. Typical benefits include sick leave, paid vacation, and health insurance. Some employers also provide a retirement plan. 

Employment and outlook

Washington 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.

Surveying and Mapping Technicians (SOC 17-3031)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 1,424 6.7% 16.1% 173
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 54 5.6% 13.4% 6
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 22 9.1% 8.6% 2
    Benton and Franklin Counties 37 -2.7% 15.0% 3
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 96 4.2% 11.9% 11
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 128 11.7% 15.2% 17
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 139 12.9% 14.1% 19
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 83 6.0% 14.6% 10
    King County 575 7.5% 19.6% 71
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 28 10.7% 13.8% 3
    Pierce County 64 7.8% 15.2% 8
    Snohomish County 62 6.5% 12.4% 7
    Spokane County 88 11.4% 13.9% 11
United States 56,800 5.5% 5.2% 7,200

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation will grow as fast as average. Increased demand for mapping technology is expected to require additional technicians to gather and prepare the data.

Opportunities will be best for technicians who have formal training in Global Positioning System (GPS) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). However, many people have the basic skills needed to qualify for these jobs. Thus, applicants for technician jobs may face competition.

Other resources

American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (external link)
6 Montgomery Village Avenue, Suite 403
Gaithersburg, MD 20879
Careers in Cartography and GIS (external link)
(from the Cartography and Geographic Information Society)
Engineer Girl! (external link)
National Academy of Engineering
Environmental & Engineering Geophysical Society (external link)
1391 Speer Blvd., Ste 450
Denver, CO 80204
Land Surveyors' Association of Washington (external link)
526 South E Street
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
National Society of Professional Surveyors (external link)
5119 Pegasus Court, Suite Q
Frederick, MD 21704
Technology Student Association (external link)
1904 Association Drive
Reston, VA 20191-1540
Washington State Division of Geology and Earth Resources (external link)


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupations

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Holland occupational cluster