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How can I become a professional land surveyor?

The push for young people stepping into Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths (STEM) roles isn't slowing. The surveying industry is reliant on analytically minded, socially conscious, and practical individuals, so it's no surprise that land surveying is growing in popularity as a career path.

Are you interested in becoming a land surveyor in the UK? In this blog, we explain how to get there.

What do land surveyors do?
There are a few different types of surveyor, so it’s important to make the distinction early. A general practice chartered surveyor will likely deal with property valuation and development and may have a legal background.

A chartered land surveyor will deal with measuring the shape of the land, as well as the gathering of data for civil engineering and construction projects.

They’ll specialise in geomatics – this involves the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data relating to the surface of the Earth. In fact, you’ll often see ‘land surveyors’ referred to as ‘geomatic surveyors’. The two terms are used somewhat interchangeably.

The day-to-day responsibilities of a land surveyor vary, but to succeed in your role you’d most likely be expected to:

  • Use geographical information systems (GIS) to analyse features of a site, then interpret the data
  • Learn to use computer-aided-design (CAD) and building-information-modelling (BIM) software
  • Produce extremely detailed data sets, plans, blueprints, etc.
  • Use varied surveying equipment, from traditional total stations to modern drone-mounted GPS mapping
  • Use data from a varied range of external sources, e.g. aerial photographs, laser scanners, satellite surveys
  • Measure the land, recording aspects like angles, elevations, and relative distance
  • Perform surveys to collect data on man-made and natural features
  • Use digital mapping technologies
  • Become chartered so you can manage and monitor projects from beginning to end

Depending on your level of experience, who you choose to work for, and the services your employer provides, your daily role might not include everything mentioned above. You may find your company works predominantly with drone surveying the local coastline, whilst another specialises in utility mapping.

How much can I earn as a land surveyor?
As with all jobs, your salary will depend on your level of experience, any relevant qualifications, and of course – who you work for.

According to the National Careers Service, the starting salary for a land surveyor sits at around £20,000. This is bang-on average, pitted against most entry-level jobs, and can increase to upwards of £40,000-£50,000 over the course of your career.

In fact, the National Careers Service reports maximum earnings for ‘Experienced’ chartered land surveyors at £70,000 a year. So, the scope is there.

Working hours depend on the company but this is a very ‘on-site’ kind of role, so you can expect to work 38-40 hours a week on average, and you may work evenings or weekends away from home, especially for civil engineering projects planned to take place when the general public are tucked away in bed!

What can I expect as a land surveyor?
As we mentioned above, long working hours are the norm… but you may also find yourself working away from home. Travel is often paid. Work tends to be both office and field-based, but you’ll need to get used to spending a lot of time in the beautiful British outdoors (and equally beautiful weather…)

There are more men than women working in this field at present, but the face of STEM is changing. Don’t feel pushed out by a male-dominated industry if this is the career path you want to follow. Advice for women interested in a career in Land Surveying can be found here.

What qualifications do I need to become a land surveyor?
You can enter a career in land surveying a number of ways. Many jobs will require you to complete a university course, but there is also a push for equal weighting to be given to apprenticeships. Here at Landform Surveys we started 4 apprentices in the last couple of years and found that it’s a fantastic way to train staff, as it involves attending college to learn the theory and principles of surveying, then applying this knowledge to actual surveying.

You can also apply for a graduate training scheme.

If you’re going to university, you’ll usually need a relevant degree or postgraduate qualification accredited by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

Examples of undergraduate degree subjects relevant to surveying include:

  • Civil engineering
  • Surveying
  • Geographical Information Sciences
  • Geomatics

Usually, you’ll need to have completed a surveying-related degree to be able to continue into postgraduate surveying-related education.

Alternatively, you could do a geospatial and mapping science degree apprenticeship with a surveying company who you will typically then go on to work for. They may offer opportunities for career progression, and you might be able to complete on-the-job training or professional qualifications to further enhance your CV.

To become a chartered land surveyor you need to complete training with either RICS or the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB).

What skills will I need to become a land surveyor?
There are many ways into the surveying industry, and you don’t always need experience – this can be acquired on the job. However, you will need to be adaptable, and able to come equipped with (or learn) the following skills:

  • Solid mathematical skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Knowledge/interest in Geography
  • Analytical and critical thinking skills
  • Good customer service skills
  • A sound understanding of engineering science and technology
  • Working knowledge of computer operating systems, as well as hardware and software
  • Legal understanding of court procedures and government regulations

Who will I work for as a land surveyor?
Your skills as a land surveyor are sought after by a range of different companies. You can find land surveyors working in both the public and private domain, and roles are varied. Looking to apply? Don’t just look for surveying companies. Look at jobs from:

  • Geophysics consultancies
  • Government agencies
  • Central government
  • Local authorities
  • Construction firms
  • Engineering consultancies
  • Mapping companies
  • Mining companies, especially those overseas
  • Rail companies
  • Utilities companies
  • The Ordnance Survey (OS)
  • Specialist surveying companies
  • Heritage management consultancies

Think you could bring something to the Landform Surveys team? Get in touch with us today.