Surveyors measure land to establish boundaries for such projects as maps, property lines and construction and development plans. These workers are recognizable on the sides of roads and parcels of land, using tripod-mounted levels and other equipment to determine the distances between specific points on the surface of the ground. A professional surveyor needs to be licensed in order to work in a supervisory or independent role, and usually has a bachelor's degree in surveying technology or a related field such as civil engineering. The amount a professional land surveyor makes can depend upon his industry and where he works.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 40,190 surveyors working nationwide as of May 2012. These workers earned an average annual wage of $59,180, equal to $28.45 an hour. The top 25 percent earned $73,800 or more, or $35.48 an hour, with the best-paid 10 percent earning $90,920 or more, or $43.71 an hour. The lowest-paid 25 percent earned $41,780 or less, or $20.09, with the bottom 10 percent making $32,190 or less, or $15.48.
Most Common Industries
Architectural and engineering services firms were the largest employers of surveyors, according to the BLS survey, with 28,680 – 71 percent of the total number – employed in the industry. These workers earned an average annual wage of $57,600, or $27.69 an hour. The Nos. 2 and 3 employers were local and state governments, respectively. Local governments employed 2,640 surveyors at an average of $63,100 a year, or $30.33 an hour, while state governments employed 1,790 surveyors at an average of $70,760 a year, or $34.02 an hour.
The federal government also employed surveyors, and was the best-paying industry for those professionals. Although there were only 460 jobs working for Uncle Sam, they paid an average of $82,680 a year, or $39.75 an hour. The second-largest employer was water transportation support, which paid 30 surveyors $80,450 a year, or $38.68 an hour, on average. Business and professional organizations ranked third, paying 80 surveyors an average of $74,700 a year, or $35.91 an hour.
The BLS reported that job growth for surveyors was expected to reach 25 percent through 2020, faster than the overall average for all occupations. Improving nationwide infrastructure, with the attendant need for construction services, should benefit the profession. Growing demand for geographic data is another factor cited by the BLS, as mapping information requires accurate professional measurements and reporting.
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