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Surveyors, Cartographers, Photogrammetrists, and Surveying and Mapping Technicians - What They Do


How to Advance (Advancement)
High school graduates with no formal training in surveying usually start as apprentices. Beginners with postsecondary school training in surveying usually can start as technicians or assistants. With on-the-job experience and formal training in surveying—either in an institutional program or from a correspondence school—workers may advance to senior survey technician, then to party chief. Depending on State licensing requirements, they may advance to licensed surveyor in some cases.

The National Society of Professional Surveyors, a member organization of the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping, has a voluntary certification program for surveying technicians. Technicians are certified at four levels requiring progressive amounts of experience and the passing of written examinations. Although not required for State licensure, many employers require certification for promotion to positions with greater responsibilities.

The American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) has voluntary certification programs for technicians and professionals in photogrammetry, remote sensing, and GIS. To qualify for these professional distinctions, individuals must meet work experience and training standards and pass a written examination. The professional recognition these certifications bestow can help workers gain promotions.

Employment
Surveyors, cartographers, photogrammetrists, and surveying technicians held about 147,000 jobs in 2008. The architectural, engineering, and related services industry—including firms that provided surveying and mapping services to other industries on a contract basis—provided 7 out of 10 jobs for these workers. Federal, State, and local governmental agencies provided about 15 percent of these jobs. Major Federal Government employers are the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Army Corps of Engineers. Most surveyors in State and local government work for highway departments or urban planning and redevelopment agencies. Utility companies also employ surveyors, cartographers, photogrammetrists, and surveying technicians.

Job Outlook
These occupations should experience faster than average employment growth. Surveyors, cartographers, and photogrammetrists who have a bachelor's degree and strong technical skills should have favorable job prospects.

Job Growth
Employment of surveyors, cartographers, photogrammetrists, and surveying and mapping technicians is expected to grow 19 percent from 2008 to 2018, which is faster than the average for all occupations. Increasing demand for fast, accurate, and complete geographic information will be the main source of job growth.

An increasing number of firms are interested in geographic information and its applications. For example, GIS can be used to create maps and information used in emergency planning, security, marketing, urban planning, natural resource exploration, construction, and other applications. Also, the increased popularity of online interactive mapping systems and GPS devices have created a higher demand for and awareness of current and accurate digital geographic information among consumers.

Growth in construction stemming from increases in the population and the related need to upgrade the Nation’s infrastructure will cause growth for surveyors and surveying technicians who ensure that projects are completed with precision and in line with original plans. These workers are usually the first on the job for any major construction project, and they provide information and recommendations to engineers, architects, contractors, and other professionals during all phases of a construction project.

In addition to openings from growth, job openings will continue to arise from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or who leave the labor force altogether. Many cartographers and surveyors are approaching retirement age. Surveyors, cartographers, and photogrammetrists who have a bachelor's degree and strong technical skills should have favorable job prospects.

Opportunities for surveyors, cartographers, photogrammetrists, and technicians should remain concentrated in engineering, surveying, mapping, building inspection, and drafting services firms. Increasing demand for geographic data, as opposed to traditional surveying services, will mean better opportunities for mapping technicians and professionals who are involved in the development and use of GIS and digital mapmaking.

The demand for traditional surveying services is strongly tied to construction activity and opportunities will vary by year and geographic region, depending on local economic conditions. During a recession, when real estate sales and construction slow down, surveyors and surveying technicians may face greater competition for jobs and sometimes layoffs. However, because these workers can work on many different types of projects, they may have steadier work than other workers when construction slows.

Earnings
Median annual wages of cartographers and photogrammetrists were $51,180 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $39,510 and $69,220. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,440 and the highest 10 percent earned more than $87,620.

Median annual wages of surveyors were $52,980 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $38,800 and $70,010. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $29,600 and the highest 10 percent earned more than $85,620. Median annual wages of surveyors employed in architectural, engineering, and related services were $51,870 in May 2008.

Median annual wages of surveying and mapping technicians were $35,120 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $27,370 and $45,860. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $21,680, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $58,030. Median annual wages of surveying and mapping technicians employed in architectural, engineering, and related services were $33,220 in May 2008, while those employed by local governments had median annual wages of $40,510.

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Academic Programs of Interest

Surveying
Surveying is the technique and science of accurately determining the terrestrial or three-dimensional space position of points and the distances and angles between them. These points are usually, but not exclusively, associated with positions on the surface of the Earth, and are often used to establish ...more