Land Surveyor

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Land Surveyor


What happens if a sycamore tree that you want to cut down is bordering your property with your neighbors? How do you determine what the legal land boundaries are? When building a house, how do you know if there was once a garbage dump on the very site or if the house is sitting on a fault line? These are important factors to consider before erecting or fixing any structure. Land surveyors plan, direct and conduct legal surveys to establish and interpret real property boundaries. Using special air and land surveying equipment and computer programs, they analyze both natural and built features of a site in order to create official plans, records and documents pertaining to these surveys.

Land surveyors determine boundaries by searching for previous boundaries in existing survey records, land titles and deeds. However if none exist, they will conduct fieldwork, with a team of technicians and prepare new plans to determine the accurate boundaries of a specific project area. Their job involves technologically advanced methods of land study including land mapping, navigation and communications. They begin a survey by conducting extensive historical and legal research and performing mathematical calculations.

In surveying tests, land surveyors use instruments that automatically record land depth, slope, distance, contours and other important data that will determine boundaries and building regulations. Also, if a builder proposes to blast rocks or cut down trees, the land surveyor might protest to such actions for the sole purpose of erecting a structure. The information that land surveyors gather is used to determine rights-of-way for utilities, road and highway alignments, marking limits and boundaries, well-site locations, mining claims for resource development, subdivisions of land, and the location of houses and buildings for construction or sale.

Land surveyors are often consulted when there is a civil or commercial dispute over property lines and may be called upon to testify in a court hearing. When dealing with such property and boundary disputes, land surveyors have to remain calm and rational with often hysterical people. Since one disputing party will end up hearing results they do not want to hear, land surveyors must be prepared to deal with hostile people. The side that loses the property debate might blame the land surveyor and think he or she is favoring the opposite party.

When land surveyors have completed their research and land survey studies, they usually prepare a detailed written report, which may include contour maps and plot maps. Land surveyors work in teams with survey and drafting technicians and technologists. They are required to keep up to date with rapid technological changes with computers and surveying tools.
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  Interests and Skills  
Land surveyors must be able to visualize objects, distances, sizes and other abstract forms and work outdoors with instruments and sophisticated tools. They are analytical, with organizational and interpersonal skills, and usually have an interest in law, history and business administration.

Successful land surveyors generally enjoy taking an innovative approach to problem solving, making important decisions and co-ordinating the work of others.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Develop survey plans, methods and procedures for conducting legal surveys
  • Plan, direct and supervise or conduct surveys to establish legal boundaries of properties, parcels of lands, subdivision of lands for rural and urban development, utility rights-of-way, roadways and highways
  • Record all measurements and other information obtained during survey activities
  • Prepare or supervise the preparation and compilation of all data, plans, charts, records and documents related to surveys of real property boundaries
  • Certify and assume liability for surveys made to establish real property boundaries
  • Advise and provide consultation on matters related to legal surveys
  • Land surveyors work both indoors in office environments and outdoors in urban and rural environments. Some might experience some light lifting when on site at surveying locations. Land surveyors who have management responsibilities spend most of their time office environments, working on the computer. Hours in the office are standard nine-to-five, whereas outdoor work may require longer hours.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Land surveyors work in both the public and private sectors. They are typically employed by governments and teach at the postsecondary level. In the private sector, they work for land surveying establishments, architectural firms, engineering and landscaping consulting firms, private corporations and geomatics firms. They may also be self-employed, owning their own company or becoming shareholders in existing ones.

  Long Term Career Potential  
What does the future hold for land surveyors? Land surveyors have the option of becoming land planners and they can focus their work on specific issues, such as the environment. Any work involving land planning, engineering, mapping and related research are areas that surveyors could move into. With more education, they could also move into law related jobs, since they are already dealing with legal boundary issues.

Land surveyors with strong computer skills might become experts in land information systems and teach computers at the postsecondary level. Also, when the real estate economy is good, more houses and structures are being built, thus increasing the need for land surveyors. With experience, they could start up their own businesses or become managers or supervisors within their workplace.

  Educational Paths  
Most land surveyors have a bachelor's degree in surveying engineering or survey science or the successful completion of equivalent examinations set by a regional board of examiners for land surveyors. Once they gain their degree a one- to three-year articling period is required, where surveyors gain their practical and technical experience. Along with the articling, successful completion of professional land surveyor examinations is mandatory to obtain a licence.

Land surveyors need a good understanding of mathematics, physics, earth sciences, computer programming and cartography; therefore they are advised to take courses like these for the proper educational background.

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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