Surveying Engineer

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Surveying Engineer


Surveying engineers gather, process and manage information about the size and shape of the Earth. They often conduct legal surveys to determine and interpret boundaries and help out on sites doing inspections. When working out in the field, they usually do surveying, site investigation, or construction supervision. They may also sample and test soil or construction materials in the laboratory or the field. Their survey results are used to establish official boundaries, research deeds, write descriptions of tracts of land that satisfy legal requirements, assist in setting land values, measure construction sites and collect information for maps and charts. If it were not for their necessary work, our world would have no infrastructure.

Most surveying engineers specialize in a particular area once they become established. Nevertheless, all specialized surveying engineers perform similar duties. They must meet with technicians, scientists and lawyers in order to make sure that design plans and materials are safe and will withstand a number of conditional variables. Safety is one of the most important issues that surveying engineers must contend with. They create engineering plans on computers which test and predict possible problems with a structure and in this, they generate solutions. Although a lot of work takes place on the computer or in the lab, most surveying engineers travel to sites to see their work in progress and inspect the work going on.

Surveying engineers use traditional and high-tech tools like Geographic Information Systems and Intelligent Transportation Systems to solve problems and meet challenges. They research and evaluate each project to find the most cost-effective solutions to problems while still maintaining recognized standards.
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  Interests and Skills  
Surveying engineers must be safety conscious and practical in decision-making. They possess good communication skills because they work closely with so many different people. Surveying engineers can analyze spatial problems and measurements, review calculations and prepare cost estimates and have the ability to visualize three-dimensional objects from two-dimensional drawings. They must be dedicated to their studies, be creative in their designs and be as knowledgeable as possible in the engineering field. Finally, they should enjoy being innovative, doing work that requires precision and making solid decisions.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Determine legal boundaries at sites
  • Conduct engineering surveys and scientific studies
  • Inspect buildings, structures and sites
  • Consult with clients, other professionals and government officials
  • Study, evaluate and investigate construction and land development sites
  • Work within the guidelines of the local government authority
  • Develop and implement Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
  • Work with professionals from other fields such as geology, science, engineering, sales, marketing and management
  • Ensure construction standards are met
  • Use measurement-related technologies such as aerial photography, multispectral data collection and analysis, computer hardware, software and firmware and related data acquisition systems
  • Working environments for surveying engineers are as varied as their projects. Most spend the majority of their time in offices on the computer, doing mathematical calculations or in laboratories. They also get to travel to project work sites or fields and supervise survey technicians who perform experiments. They sometimes must testify in front of a public hearing. They usually work anywhere between eight and 10 hours each day and longer hours may be required if there are any emergencies. They often work with a team that may include professionals from other engineering and scientific disciplines, contractors, project owners, architects, bankers, lawyers or government officials.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Surveying engineers are employed in both the public and private sectors. They work for land survey firms, engineering and other high-tech companies, building contractors, petroleum and mining companies, remote sensing companies, geographic information companies, computer graphics companies, public utilities and government departments of transportation, surveying and mapping. Some surveying engineers are self-employed and own their own engineering consulting firm.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Surveying engineers can work as field surveyors, supervise projects with different government departments and work as a chief party surveyor on a construction site. With experience, surveying engineers can become project managers or supervisors and eventually advance to the management of very large projects. Having solid computer skills also helps out for advancement. Some experienced civil engineers may decide to branch off on their own and establish their own construction or consulting companies. Those with PhDs might teach at a university or conduct research.

  Educational Paths  
Due to the nature of the job, surveying engineers require a four-year bachelor's degree in geomatics engineering or civil engineering. They must also become registered as a professional engineer (PEng) within an association of professional engineers to secure employment and practice in their field. Some surveying engineers also get master's degrees in geomatics engineering.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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