Surveying as a Career
The basic principles of surveying have changed little over the ages, but the tools used by surveyors have evolved tremendously. Engineering, especially civil engineering, depends heavily on surveyors.
Whenever there are roads, railways, reservoir, dams, retaining walls, bridges or residential areas to be built, surveyors are involved. They establish the boundaries of legal descriptions and the boundaries of various lines of political divisions. They also provide advice and data for geographical information systems (GIS), computer databases that contain data on land features and boundaries.
Surveyors must have a thorough knowledge of algebra, basic calculus, geometry, and trigonometry. They must also know the laws that deal with surveys, property, and contracts.
In addition, they must be able to use delicate instruments with accuracy and precision. In the United States, surveyors and civil engineers use units of feet wherein a survey foot is broken down into 10ths and 100ths. Many deed descriptions requiring distance calls are often expressed using these units (125.25 ft). On the subject of accuracy, surveyors are often held to a standard of one one-hundredth of a foot; about 1/8th inch. Calculation and mapping tolerances are much smaller wherein achieving near-perfect closures are desired. Though tolerances such as this will vary from project to project, in the field and day to day usage beyond a 100th of a foot is often impractical.
In most of the United States, surveying is recognized as a distinct profession apart from engineering. Licensing requirements vary by state, but they generally have components of education, experience and examinations. In the past, experience gained through an apprenticeship, together with passing a series of state-administered examinations, was required to attain licensure. Now, most states insist upon basic qualification of a degree in surveying, plus experience and examination requirements.
The licensing process typically follows two phases. First, upon graduation, the candidate may be eligible to take the Fundamentals of Land Surveying exam, to be certified upon passing and meeting all other requirements as a surveyor in training (SIT). Upon being certified as an SIT, the candidate then needs to gain additional experience to become eligible for the second phase. That typically consists of the Principles and Practice of Land Surveying exam along with a state-specific examination.
An all-female surveying crew in Idaho, 1918 Licensed surveyors usually denote themselves with the letters P.S. (professional surveyor), L.S. (land surveyor), P.L.S. (professional land surveyor), R.L.S. (registered land surveyor), R.P.L.S. (Registered Professional Land Surveyor), or P.S.M. (professional surveyor and mapper) following their names, depending upon the dictates of their particular state of registration.
In Canada, land Surveyors are registered to work in their respective province. The designation for a land surveyor breaks down by province, but follows the rule whereby the first letter indicates the province, followed by L.S. There is also a designation as a C.L.S. or Canada lands surveyor, who has the authority to work on Canada Lands, which include Indian Reserves, National Parks, the three territories and offshore lands.
In many Commonwealth countries, the term Chartered Land Surveyor is used for someone holding a professional license to conduct surveys.
A licensed land surveyor is typically required to sign and seal all plans, the format of which is dictated by their state jurisdiction, which shows their name and registration number. In many states, when setting boundary corners land surveyors are also required to place survey monuments bearing their registration numbers, typically in the form of capped iron rods, concrete monuments, or nails with washers.