Career Education - Learn about all careers, career pay salary, job outlook

What Surveyors Do

Surveyors establish land, airspace, and water boundaries. They measure the Earth’s surface to collect data that are used to draw maps, determine the shape and contour of parcels of land, and set property lines and boundaries. They also define airspace for airports and measure construction and mining sites. Surveyors work with civil engineers, landscape architects, and urban and regional planners to develop comprehensive design documents.


Surveyors typically do the following:

Surveyors guide construction and development projects and provide information needed for the buying and selling of property. In construction, surveyors determine the precise location of roads or buildings and proper depths for foundations and roads. Whenever property is bought or sold, it needs to be surveyed for legal purposes.

In their work, surveyors use the Global Positioning System (GPS), a system of satellites that locates reference points with a high degree of precision. Surveyors interpret and verify the GPS results. They gather the data that is fed into a Geographic Information System (GIS), which is then used to create detailed maps.

Surveyors take measurements in the field with a crew, a group that typically consists of a licensed surveyor and trained survey technicians. The person in charge of the crew (called the party chief) may be either a surveyor or a senior surveying technician. The party chief leads day-to-day work activities. For more information, see the profile on surveying and mapping technicians.

Some surveyors work in specialty fields to survey particular characteristics of the Earth. Examples include the following:

Geodetic surveyors use high-accuracy techniques, including satellite observations, to measure large areas of the Earth's surface.

Geophysical prospecting surveyors mark sites for subsurface exploration, usually to look for petroleum.

Marine or hydrographic surveyors survey harbors, rivers, and other bodies of water to determine shorelines, the topography of the bottom, water depth, and other features.

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