Surveying technicians work in surveying parties, adjusting and operating surveying equipment and instruments. They are responsible for the theodolite, which measures angles, as well as the electronic distance-measuring equipment. They position vertical rods, known as targets, which are sighted on by the theodolite operator in order to determine angles, distances, or elevations. They sometimes hold measuring tapes as well. After the party returns from field work, surveying technicians are responsible for compiling notes, creating sketches, and entering data into the computerized system.
The work of surveying technicians is changing rapidly due to the increased use of new technology such as the Global Positioning System (GPS). GPS uses satellite information and radio signals to locate points on the earth’s surface to incredibly accurate degrees. The cost of GPS receivers has dropped substantially in the last few years and, consequently, much of the surveying technician’s work can now be done using these systems. Surveying technicians also cross-reference the data from GPS with their own sample field data to ensure its accuracy.
Surveying technicians should have good visual abilities. Excellent eyesight, coordination, and hearing to communicate if they work in the field. They should also be in good physical shape. Teamwork is essential in this profession, and surveying technicians must be very good at working cooperatively with other people. They should also have good clerical, organizational, and research skills.
In 2002, surveying technicians earned a median annual salary of $29,230. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $18,490, to the highest 10%, who earned more than $48,970. The median annual salary of those employed in architectural, engineering, and related services was $27,130.
Training and Education
Most surveying technicians have a high school diploma and postsecondary school training in surveying. Programs ranging in length from 1 to 3 years can be found at junior and community colleges, technical institutes, and vocational schools. Aspiring surveying technicians should take high school courses in algebra, geometry, trigonometry, drafting, mechanical drawing, and computer science. Surveying technicians can become voluntarily certified by the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping. There are four different levels of certification, each requiring a higher amount of experience and written examinations. Licensure is not required by State law, but is usually seen by employers as a prerequisite to promotion. With experience and licensure, surveying technicians can advance to senior survey technician, party chief, or licensed surveyor. Visit this page about surveying schools for more information on related careers.
In 2002, surveying technicians and closely related workers held about 124,000 jobs. Two-thirds worked in architectural, engineering, and related services. About 1 in 6 worked for Federal, State, and local government agencies.
Between 2002 and 2012, employment of surveying technicians is expected to increase faster than the average. This is due to the short period of time it takes to receive training in equipment operation. Because there are no formal tests or licenses, the occupation is more accessible to those interested in the field. Demand for workers with GIS-related skills is growing. However, because the basic skills required for the job are common, many qualified applicants are drawn to job openings, resulting in stiff competition.