Surveying and mapping technicians collect data and make maps of the Earth’s surface. Surveying technicians visit sites to take measurements of the land. Mapping technicians use geographic data to create maps. They both assist surveyors, and cartographers and photogrammetrists.

Duties

Surveying technicians typically do the following:

  • Visit sites to record survey measurements and other descriptive data
  • Operate surveying instruments, such as electronic distance-measuring equipment (robotic total stations), to collect data on a location
  • Set out stakes and marks to conduct a survey
  • Search for previous survey points, such as old stone markers
  • Enter the data from surveying instruments into computers, either in the field or in an office

Surveying technicians help surveyors in the field on teams known as survey parties. A typical survey party has a party chief and one or more surveying technicians. The party chief, either a surveyor or a senior surveying technician, leads day-to-day work activities. After data is collected by the survey party, surveying technicians help process the data by entering the data into computers.

Mapping technicians typically do the following:

  • Select needed information from databases to create maps
  • Edit and process images that have been collected in the field
  • Produce maps showing boundaries, water locations, elevation, and other features of the terrain
  • Update maps to ensure accuracy
  • Assist photogrammetrists by laying out aerial photographs in sequence to identify areas not captured by aerial photography

Mapping technicians help cartographers and photogrammetrists produce and update maps. They do this work on computers, combining data from different sources. Mapping technicians may use drones to take photos and collect other information required to complete maps or surveys.

Geographic Information System (GIS) technicians use GIS technology to assemble, integrate, and display data about a particular location in a digital format. GIS technicians also maintain and update databases for GIS devices.

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Work Environment

Surveying and mapping technicians held about 56,800 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of surveying and mapping technicians were as follows:

Architectural, engineering, and related services 61%
Local government, excluding education and hospitals                                      11
Self-employed workers 5
Utilities 4
Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction 1

Most surveying and mapping technicians work for firms that provide engineering, surveying, and mapping services on a contractual basis. Local governments also employ these workers in highway and planning departments.

Surveying technicians work outside extensively and can be exposed to all types of weather. They often stand for long periods, walk considerable distances, and may have to climb hills with heavy packs of surveying instruments. Traveling is sometimes part of the job, and surveying technicians may commute long distances, stay away from home overnight, or temporarily relocate near a survey site.

Mapping technicians work primarily on computers in office environments. However, mapping technicians must sometimes conduct research by using resources such as survey maps and legal documents to verify property lines and to obtain information needed for mapping. This task may require traveling to storage sites, such as county courthouses or lawyers’ offices, that house these legal documents.

Work Schedules

Surveying and mapping technicians typically work full time but may work additional hours during the summer, when weather and light conditions are most suitable for fieldwork. Construction-related work may be limited during times of harsh weather.

Mapping technicians who develop and maintain Geographic Information System (GIS) databases generally work normal business hours.

Education and Training

Surveying technicians usually need a high school diploma. However, mapping technicians often need formal education after high school to study technology applications, such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

Education

Surveying technicians generally need a high school diploma, but some have postsecondary training in survey technology. Postsecondary training is more common among mapping technicians where an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree in a relevant field, such as geomatics, is beneficial.

High school students interested in working as a surveying or mapping technician should take courses in algebra, geometry, trigonometry, drafting, mechanical drawing, and computer science. Knowledge of these subjects may help in finding a job and in advancing.

Training

Surveying technicians learn their job duties under the supervision of a surveyor or a surveying party chief. Initially, surveying technicians handle simple tasks, such as placing markers on land and entering data into computers. With experience, they help decide where and how to measure the land.

Mapping technicians receive on-the-job training under the supervision of a lead mapper. During training, technicians learn how maps are created and stored in databases.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

The growing need to make sure that data are useful to other professionals has caused certification to become more common. The American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) offers certification for photogrammetry, remote-sensing, and Geographic Information/Land Information Systems (GIS/LIS). The National Society of Professional Surveyors offers the Certified Survey Technician credential, and the GIS Certification Institute offers a GIS Professional certification.

Advancement

Depending on state licensing requirements, surveying technicians with many years of experience and formal training in surveying may be able to become licensed surveyors.

Personality and Interests

Surveying technicians typically have an interest in the Building and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.

If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a surveying technician, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Surveying technicians should also possess the following specific qualities:

Concentration. Surveying and mapping technicians need to operate specialized equipment. They must be precise and accurate in their work.

Decision-making skills. As assistants to surveyors and cartographers, surveying technicians must be able to exercise some independent judgment in the field because they may be working away from team members and need to meet tight deadlines.

Listening skills. Surveying technicians work outdoors and must communicate with party chiefs and other team members across distances. Following spoken instructions from the party chief is crucial for saving time and preventing errors.

Physical stamina. Surveying technicians usually work outdoors, often in rugged terrain. Physical fitness is necessary to carry equipment and to stand most of the day.

Problem-solving skills. Surveying and mapping technicians must be able to identify and fix problems with their equipment. Also, because party chiefs rely on them, they must note potential problems with the day’s work plan.

Pay

The median annual wage for surveying and mapping technicians was $45,010 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $28,410, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $75,190.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for surveying and mapping technicians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Utilities $62,490
Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction 57,900
Local government, excluding education and hospitals                                                   51,550
Architectural, engineering, and related services 42,130

Surveying and mapping technicians typically work regular schedules but may work additional hours during the summer, when weather and light are most suitable for fieldwork. Construction-related work may be limited during times of harsh weather.

Mapping technicians who develop and maintain Geographic Information System (GIS) databases generally work normal business hours.

Job Outlook

Employment of surveying and mapping technicians is projected to grow 5 percent from 2018 to 2028, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Increased demand for mapping technology is expected to require additional technicians to gather and prepare the data.

Job Prospects

Demand for surveying services is closely tied to construction activity, and job opportunities will vary by geographic region, often depending on local economic conditions. When real estate sales and construction activity slow down, surveying technicians may face greater competition for jobs. However, because surveying technicians can work on many different types of projects, they may have steadier work than others when construction slows.

For More Information

For more information on certification in GIS, visit

GIS Certification Institute

For more information about career opportunities and the surveying technician certification program, visit

National Society of Professional Surveyors

For more information about photogrammetric technicians and Geographic Information System specialists, visit

 

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