What Is Surveyor Engineering? Definition and Job Details

Civil engineering refers to the building of structures or systems in the natural environment. Typical civil engineering projects include:

Before starting construction, professional engineers use land surveying to determine the exact parameters of the natural environment. Surveying in civil engineering is taking and using measurements of the earth’s surface to be used in:

Surveying Engineers or Surveyors collect, analyze, and manage the global spatial infrastructure. They design, develop, and operate systems for collecting and analyzing spatial information about the land, the oceans, natural resources, and man-made features.

What is Surveying in Civil Engineering

What does a surveying engineer do?

A surveying engineer, or surveyor engineer, is an engineering professional who helps develop maps and visual depictions of land or water sources. This helps with developing GPS technologies, planning out construction projects and establishing property lines. Here are some examples of a surveying engineers job duties:

What is surveying engineering?

Surveying engineering is a specialty area within civil engineering which focuses on using spatial infrastructure tools to determine the visual layout of a piece of land or body of water. Surveying engineers typically work for government agencies, construction companies or surveying services.

Types of surveying

Review these types of surveying that surveying engineers complete:

Topographic survey

Topographic surveys create 3D visuals of a particular piece of land, including different elevations, buildings, roads and other man-made items and natural resources like trees, rocks, lakes or streams.

Boundary survey

Boundary surveys focus specifically on identifying property lines. This includes identifying specific landmarks and using stakes or poles to highlight those boundaries.

Right-of-way survey

A right-of-way survey determines how the layout of land or a piece of property qualifies members of the public to cross or interact with a section of private property. For example, members of the public can use a gravel road on the property line of a private property to access a boat ramp for a nearby lake.

Location survey

Location surveys focus on analyzing a propertys current boundaries, natural resources and man-made components in comparison with past records. Homebuyers typically ask for a location survey to make sure their current property lines match previous blueprints. For example, a neighboring property put up a fence that cuts into their property. Therefore, they have the right to see the fence moved to the neighbors actual property line.

Construction survey

Construction crews implement construction surveys prior to the start of construction to make sure they have the proper information to begin work. Construction surveys typically include reviewing property records, confirming property boundaries, analyzing the types of natural resources that could affect the progress of construction activities and analyzing the slopes of elevation.

Marine survey

Marine surveys focus on analyzing the contour or layout of bodies of water like lakes, oceans, streams, rivers or ponds. Construction crews use marine surveys before beginning construction on bridges, docks, water treatment plants or piping systems.

Tools for surveying

These are some examples of tools that surveying engineers use to conduct surveying activities:

How to become a surveying engineer

Review these steps to determine how to become a surveying engineer:

1. Earn a bachelors degree

To become a surveying engineer, individuals first need to attend a four-year bachelors degree program. There are a variety of different areas students can specialize in including civil engineering, survey engineering or geology.

2. Complete an internship

As students complete an undergraduate degree program, they can enhance their professional experience in survey engineering by completing an internship as a land surveyor intern. To find internship opportunities, students can complete an online search using job list websites.

3. Take and pass the Fundamentals of Surveying (FS) exam

Students should take the FS exam during their junior or senior year of college. The NCEES offers this exam to prospective surveyor professionals and it prepares candidates to achieve further licensure.

4. Complete two years of work in an entry-level role

A land surveyor assistant role can help candidates prepare for a job as a surveying engineer as they complete some of the same job duties. Land surveyors typically work for construction companies or real estate agencies to take pictures of properties, record measurements and establish boundary lines.

5. Take and pass the Principles and Practice of Surveying (PS)

The NCEES also offers this exam to candidates once candidates pass the FS exam and complete two years of work experience. This exam qualifies candidates to obtain state licensure to work as a surveying engineer in their state.


Is a surveyor the same as an engineer?

Civil engineers design construction projects and and oversee the construction of roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges and water systems. They use a surveyor’s report to help determine costs and time lines for a project and identify potential hazards or hurdles.

What’s the difference between surveyors and civil engineers?

Civil surveying is an engineering operation that involves assessing and recording details about an area of land. These observations can then be used to help plan construction projects. The main purpose of surveying in civil engineering is to determine the three-dimensional relationships between different locations.

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