How would you like to be a scientist, or an adventurer, or a historian? Would you like to learn about ancient tools and techniques, or do you prefer to work with some of the most modern technologies available? Would you like to work in the heart of major cities around the world, or in remote rural areas far away from any roads? Would you like to work in an office using a variety of sophisticated softwares, or would you like to work outside exploring different places? Better yet, how would you like to do any or all these things in a career for which there is enormous demand? If that sounds appealing, please keep reading. That career exists, and we call it Surveying.
Surveying is a licensed profession under the jurisdiction of the State Office of Professional Licensure and Certification, which is the same office that licenses architects, engineers, and several other professions. This is important, as the surveyor’s duty is to meet the standard of care dictated by laws, rules, standards and ethics that are in place so that design professionals and landowners can rely on the survey professional’s measurements and expert opinions.
When you think of a surveyor, you quite likely think of a person standing beside a tripod peering through a transit. We certainly do that frequently, but that is just one small part of a vast scope of work that our profession is deeply involved in.
Surveyors are experts at measuring things and representing & communicating our measurements in ways that other people can understand. As an example, we use 3D laser scanners to survey entire buildings inside and out, and then use sophisticated software to create 3D models of the structural & architectural features of the buildings as well as the pipes, valves, ducting, conduit, and other features related to the utilities in the building. This creates the foundation for our architectural and engineering clients to create a Building Information Model (BIM) of the facility, which is an enormously valuable tool for the building owners and stake-holders.
In an industrial or school building, for example, a BIM could allow the facilities team to know the exact model number of every motor and compressor used in the HVAC system, what the recommended preventative maintenance schedule is for each, and when that PM work was last performed and/or is coming due for each of those components. It is interesting to consider that for as valuable as a given piece of land is, the building that rests upon that land often costs many times more than the actual plot of land is worth. A thorough BIM “map” of that building should be an excellent investment.
Surveyors also use Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs, sometimes called drones) to perform detailed measurements on features that are difficult to reach with ground-based measuring systems. One of the members of our survey team, for example, has an extensive background in photography and also earned a “Remote Pilot Certificate” through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). He uses a tablet to guide our quad-copter over an area to be surveyed and takes very high-resolution photos that we use to create a variety of valuable deliverables for our clients.
With the ever-increasing demand for detailed geo-spatial data about our environment, manufacturers are constantly innovating to create and combine technological advancements that give surveyors amazing new tool sets. We, in turn, create increasingly detailed measurements and representations of the built environment around us that, among other things, provide the foundation for increasing use of augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR). The days of large paper rolls of 2D plan sets on construction sites are drawing to a close. The Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) industries are transitioning to the use of 3D documentation in electronic format, so builders are starting to AR headsets that provide virtual 3D displays of what needs to be built — exactly where it needs to be built — as the modern builder walks/drives around a project site. Surveyors play a crucial role in making that possible.
And as all of these technological advancements are happening, we still get to work in beautiful outdoor settings that often involve hiking in the forest, walking through small rivers in chest waders as we survey the river-bottom topography, or working from a kayak or other small boat to survey slightly deeper waters. My company has also collaborated with other teams of surveyors whose job involves working from larger boats as they survey and map the ocean floor along our nation’s coasts and harbors.
Before surveyors arrive at a site to set up their tripods for a boundary survey, you can be sure that someone on that survey team spent a great deal of time doing research in a variety of places including town or city records, at the Registry of Deeds, and quite possibly in the State Archives in Concord and/or other sites. In the eastern part of the US, the documents involved in that research are often old hand-written script pages dating back to the early days of our nation or even into the colonial periods. A surveyor must also understand how the courts decide boundary dispute issues, as there are typically ambiguities in property descriptions, corner monuments called for may be very difficult to find (or may have been obliterated), and in most instances old measurements do not match with those made by modern instruments. It is essential that these issues be evaluated by a licensed professional because these issues concern the boundary of land that is precious to people economically and emotionally.
This is a career that for whatever reason has been “off the radar screen” of many guidance and career counselors for a long time. Meanwhile, the demand for surveying has been growing tremendously and is forecasted to continue doing so. People with skills (even entry-level skills) in surveying profession are therefore in very high demand today.
In conclusion, if you are a young man or woman looking to enter an exciting, high paying and rewarding career, or if you’re considering leaving your existing career to enter a more enjoyable one, surveying is a very good place to look. Our work is interesting, challenging, and every-changing as new technologies emerge, but as we move forward with these technologies we also walk carefully and deliberately in the footsteps of those who preceded us centuries ago, including several of our nation’s founding fathers. If you’re interested, please reach out to a surveyor to find out more. Our company has welcomed young people to come with us and spend “a day in the life of a surveyor” to begin to get a feel for the profession. As the summer approaches, there may be opportunities to intern with a survey firm. Please don’t hesitate to call and ask!