Job Universe: Surveyors and Cartographers

Surveyors establish official land, airspace, and water boundaries.

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  • The job: Surveyors establish official land, airspace, and water boundaries. They write descriptions of land for deeds, leases, and other legal documents; define airspace for airports; and take measurements of construction and mineral sites. Other surveyors provide data about the shape, contour, location, elevation, or dimension of land or land features. Cartographers and photogrammetrists collect, analyze, interpret, and map geographic information from surveys and from data and photographs collected by airplanes and satellites.
  • Outlook: Overall employment of surveyors, cartographers, photogrammetrists, and surveying and mapping technicians is expected to increase by 21 percent from 2006 to 2016, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. Increasing demand for fast, accurate, and complete geographic information will be the main source of growth.
  • Experience: Most surveyors and cartographers have a bachelor's degree in surveying or a related field. Every state requires that surveyors be licensed. Specific requirements for training and education vary among the states. An increasing number of states require a bachelor's degree in surveying or in a closely related field, such as civil engineering or forestry, regardless of the number of years of experience. Some states require the degree to be from a school accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Many states also have a continuing education requirement.
  • The not-so-good: Surveyors and technicians engage in active, sometimes strenuous, work. They often stand for long periods, walk considerable distances, and climb hills with heavy packs of instruments and other equipment. They also can be exposed to all types of weather.
  • Pay: Median annual earnings of cartographers and photogrammetrists were $48,240 in May 2006. Median annual earnings of surveyors were $48,290 in May 2006.

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This information is from the Occupational Outlook Handbook, published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.