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How to Become a Surveying or Mapping Technician

Surveying technicians usually need only a high school diploma. However, mapping technicians often need formal education after high school to study advances in technology such as GIS.  


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

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 will help in finding a job and in advancing.

Important Qualities

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.

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

Teamwork. Survey and mapmaking technicians work as part of a team, so they must be able to work well with other people.

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

Troubleshooting 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.


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 to decide where and how to measure the land. Eventually, technicians can get an apprenticeship or an associate’s degree so that they can develop skills based on math, drafting, and technical drawing.


Certification is becoming more common because of the growing need to make sure that data are of sufficient quality to be useful to other professionals. The American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) offers certification for photogrammetric technologists, remote-sensing technologists, and geographic information system/land information system (GIS/LIS) technologists. The National Society of Professional Surveyors offers the Certified Survey Technician credential.


With experience and formal training in surveying, surveying technicians may advance to senior survey technician, then to party chief. Depending on state licensing requirements, they can become licensed surveyors.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition