Survey technicians gather information and perform calculations for mapping the Earth’s surface. Working in collaboration with surveyors, they may establish boundaries for parks and industries, draft land descriptions for legal documents and measure elevation or land features for maps. The field of geospatial information is highly technological, depending on Global Positioning Systems and Geographic Information Systems to map exact points of reference and transform data into digital representations.
Many survey technicians work closely with experts in fields such as engineering, architecture, geology, environmental studies and other related disciplines.
Survey technicians must have prior surveying experience and training from a postsecondary institution, such as a technical or vocational school. Many of these schools offer one- or two-year programs in surveying. While a bachelor’s degree is not required for technicians, formal education is becoming more important as the field is relying more heavily on available technology.
Survey technicians with hopes of advancement should complete the National Society of Professional Surveyors certification for technicians, which requires participants to pass four exams of increasing difficulty.
Survey technicians help surveyors in taking precise measurements between various points of reference to determine exact locations of certain land and water features. In doing so, they may consult legal documents and analyze existing data for relevant information. Technicians use computer drafting programs to chart their findings, which they use for preparing written reports or testifying in court.
They may specialize in certain areas, such as geodetic science, which uses satellite images to measure the Earth’s surface, or marine science, which focuses on analyzing topography and determining boundaries in bodies of water.
Survey technicians may be required to assist in the following specialized tasks:
Survey technicians work regular hours and spend most of their time in fieldwork outdoors. In addition, surveying can involve strenuous work at times and may require considerable standing and walking, often while carrying heavy equipment. Projects can also require substantial travel or short-term relocation.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of surveying is expected to grow by 19 percent through the year 2018.
A May 2008 government report cites the average salary for a survey technician as $35,000 with the median salary ranging from $27,000 to $46,000.