Land Survey Technician

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Land Survey Technician


It would be impossible to just build a house from scratch, without doing any land surveying research or design work based on natural features. Land survey technicians conduct and participate in field surveys for future building projects in order to determine exact locations and positions of natural features and other land structures. For example, if a developing company is about to build a shopping center near a large dolomite rock foundation, the land survey technicians and engineers must consider how to build around, with or on top of the rock.

In the course of their work and research, land survey technicians, sometimes called geomatics technicians, use a wide variety of surveying and computer equipment, including electronic distance measuring instruments and global positioning systems, geographic positioning systems and digital mapping systems to define and discover natural formations around a particular site.

Land survey technicians attempt to determine the exact locations and relative positions of natural features and fabricated structures, such as bridges, on the Earth's surface, underground and underwater. They also must determine the points of elevation in the land, contours and other important surveying features. Some more advanced technicians may use GPS, which is a satellite system that locates specific points on earth using radio signals. These surveys and information studies are conducted for many reasons, one being that they can monitor volcanic activity and check for earthquake probabilities. Land survey technicians often specialize in one of the following types of surveys: geodetic, topographic, legal or engineering.

When they have completed their surveys and collected all appropriate data, land survey technicians return to the office to analyze the data and prepare drafts and drawings from these findings. Land survey technicians work alone or in teams with land surveyors, engineers and other technologists. Many technicians use computer-aided design (CAD) systems to create these drawings.

Many land survey technicians are drawn to the job because of the amount of outdoor work and travel involved. They literally trudge through all terrain, in all weather conditions carrying their heavy equipment with them to make measurements and conduct proper surveys. Traditionally, technicians had to write down measurements and findings in a logbook, but equipment and instruments these days all do it automatically for you. Also, there is a great deal of diversity in the career which offers new challenges with every project.
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  Interests and Skills  
Land survey technicians have an aptitude for mathematics, including the ability to think visually about geometric forms. They should love working outdoors with specific geomatic instruments and be in fairly good shape in order to work in the field. They should have good problem solving skills and enjoy analyzing information and finding innovative solutions to land surveying problems.

Technicians should have keen observation skills, be able to work and communicate with a number of different workers and finally, possess the ability to perceive pertinent detail in objects and drawings. Land survey technicians also need to know about surveying methods, the laws relating to land use and survey regulations.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Work under the direction of a land surveyor or surveying engineer
  • Participate in field surveys and operate survey instruments and devices
  • Stake out fabricated buildings and structures such as bridges, dams, tunnels and refineries along with all natural features
  • Conduct field surveys and operate survey instruments to measure distance, angles, elevations and contours
  • Perform calculations and field layouts of horizontal, vertical and spiral curves when conducting detailed surveys on projects such as highways, urban streets and railways
  • Keep records, measurements and other survey information in systematic order
  • Analyze latitude, longitude and angles and compute trigonometrical and other calculations to plot features, contours and areas to a specific scale
  • Assist in the calculation, analysis and computation of measurements obtained during field surveys
  • Assist in the preparation of detailed drawings, charts and plans
  • May supervise the work of survey assistants
  • May also work independently of land surveyors.
  • Land survey technicians generally split up their time between indoor and outdoor work. Outdoors, and in all weather conditions, they conduct land surveys and other related tests and gather as much information as possible. Land survey technicians may have to build their own site camps in more remote circumstances, such as mining or petroleum work. Indoors, they often use computers to compile and analyze data, and outdoors in all weather conditions, conducting surveys. In some jobs, extensive travelling may be required, sometimes to remote areas. Some lifting of heavy items is required. When in the office, they usually work standard days, but on the field, days may be much longer.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Land survey technicians are employed by all levels of government and by private sector surveying establishments, architectural and construction companies, design, surveying and mapping computer software firms, legal firms, aerial photography companies and oil and coal companies.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Land survey technicians may advance to supervisory or management positions thereby gaining responsibility for other technicians. Other career advancements may include a move into data processing, drafting or cartography positions. It is quite possible to become a land surveyor or geomatics engineer with additional education and proper training.

Some experts say that land survey technicians could shift career focus and move into the legal or law world. Civil engineering and real estate are also closely related fields a survey technician may consider.

  Educational Paths  
Completion of a one- or two-year college program in geomatics or land surveying engineering technology is usually required for land survey technicians. A certification in geomatics engineering technology or a related field is available through associations of engineering or applied science technologists and technicians and may be required for some positions.

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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