What does a Surveying Technician do and how to become one

Surveying Technician

We’ve all seen that person standing on the side of the road with a white pole and somebody else next to a tripod looking through a scope. Very likely this is a surveyor and a surveying technician taking measurements for an upcoming construction project or property transfer. 

In this article, we will be covering the job of a surveying technician,  What they do, the tools and techniques they use, and how to become one.  To learn more about a Surveyor please (Click Here)

What it takes to be a Surveying Technician.

There are many career fields out there for those who would rather not work at a factory or behind the desk. If you are someone who has an interest in geography, the ability to think through problems logically, an understanding of math & geometry, and enjoys being outdoors, the job of a surveying technician would be a good choice. With a growing need for land surveying technicians, technicians can earn a good salary with some training and experience in the field. 

What does a Surveying technician do?

A surveying technician job description outlines not only the skills and education needed but also the salary and growth in the field. A surveying technician assists a surveyor by mapping and calculating geographical points that surveyors and cartographers can use in creating site plans or legally binding property maps for use by municipalities and in real estate Transfers.

Various entities rely on these maps because they show property boundaries, significant landmarks, buildings, and structures. A surveying technician becomes the point of contact, managing the instruments that provide a surveyor a direct measuring point that they can later use. 

What is the Difference Between a Surveyor and a Survey Technician?

To become a surveyor, you need at least a bachelor’s degree, become certified, meet field experience requirements, and be licensed in the state you are working in. Surveyors are the ones that create the maps and documents and certify their accuracy. Surveying Technician

Surveying technicians under the supervision of a licensed surveyor can, along with collecting data in the field, assist with research and using Surveying and CAD software to enter that data. 

Many tools are used interchangeably between a surveyor and a survey technician. Most of the more advanced equipment will be utilized by the surveyor because they will have formal training on operating and translating the information into a usable form. 

However, a technician will gain experience with these instruments, the longer they are on the field. A surveying technician’s tools help the surveyor operate their equipment by providing them a clear line of sight to perform their calculations. 

The Tools of their trade

Distance measuring devices

The distance between two points is one of the most common measurements taken during surveying. For this, there are a variety of distance meters that a surveying technician can utilize. First, they will need to be able to operate and read the standard and metric measuring tapes, use measuring chains, and understand how laser measurements and GPS works.

Usually, the surveyor will stand at one point and aim their controls at the point marked by the technician to get an accurate read. Survey technicians need to estimate certain distances so that they can come close in their initial measurements until the right point is determined. 


Surveying TechnicianTechnicians use a theodolite to calculate angles. Angle calculation is very important when it comes to determining geographical points relative to a specific location. This instrument is also useful when calculating topography and different angles associated with structures that are too tall to reach the top. They are a type of telescope that can measure vertical and horizontal angles using both optical and digital instruments.

Laser Measuring and scanning Systems

Depending on the kind of technology that a surveyor uses in the field, it will depend on the level of expertise needed by a surveying technician. Some surveyors will use laser technology to create a 3D mapping. Therefore, the technicians must understand what needs to be mapped and how markers need to be placed so that an accurate read can occur.

Laser technology is used for reading the distance between two points and for coordinate mapping. Knowing how laser technology works and avoiding some common issues that can alter the read is a useful skill used by technicians who have some experience in the field. 

Magnetic Locators and Markers

Survey Pins are metal markers used by surveyors to mark land boundaries and depending on when or how they replaced they made have become buried or even located in trees and overgrowth that have grown since the last survey was taken.Surveying Technician

A metal detector is a standard tool used by technicians because it helps them find the Survey pins that cannot be seen by the naked eye. Technicians also assist in planting temporary site markers (easily spotted because it has a colored flag) visible for new homeowners, real estate agents, and construction companies.

Technicians need to be able to insert these markers using various tools that will allow them to penetrate any material (i.e., concrete, sand, dirt, ice, etc.). 


Drones are a new form of technology that is being used by surveyors and their assistants. They help to navigate the area, to examine adjacent properties, and to get a bird’s-eye view of any obstructions in the way of visible property lines. Drones also help surveyors and technicians identify structures on the property that need to be mapped and save a lot of initial walking to examine potential hazards. 

Levels, Rods and Poles

Technicians need to understand how to use a level and rods and how to set plum points. This allows the surveyor to take an accurate measurement because even if they are slightly off, it can completely change a boundary line’s overall scope.

Therefore, keen attention to detail is always a plus. This is not a job for those who want to be lazy and hold a pole. Being aware of your surroundings and what instruments tell you is what the surveyor depends on to do the job well. 

Surveying Technician Technology and Software

The process of surveying has utilized the same tools and techniques for over 500 years but here in the digital age, a whole new level of technology has become available for use by surveyors and technicians. Understanding basic computer skills, and how to operate a tablet and GPS device, can be of importance as surveying technology continues to advance. 

Global Positioning Software

GPS systems are standard software that surveyors use when finding coordinates. This is especially helpful when surveys cover a vast amount of land with few visible landmarks (being away from a road, for example).

GPS systems are relatively advanced, surveyors may need to avoid situations where low signals are typically an issue. Being able to read GPS coordinates is useful for a technician because they can walk certain distances and directions to help find locations relative to the control point. 

Portable Input Terminals

A technician can enter some input on a piece of land while the surveyor is operating other technology systems. Some technicians utilize software programs on portable devices that help gather data that can later be used in a map. This allows the surveyor to save time because they can focus on taking the measurements, not necessarily entering them for later calculation processing. 

Hand Tools and Cutting Tools

Technicians are typically more hands-on than surveyors. They are the ones who are in the field, cutting branches, small trees, and brush that are in the line of sight, for optical and laser measuring equipment.  Another typical tool is a shovel and a  sledgehammer, these are frequently used in locating and setting survey pins. 

Outdoor and Safety Gear

If you enjoy the outdoors this may be the perfect job for you but you will need to protect yourself from the elements and the environment. Sturdy Footwear will be a must to help prevent strain and sprains. dressing appropriately for the terrain and environment also be important,  

The proper clothing will help protect you from cuts, scrapes, sunburn, and even frostbite. High Visibility Vest, shirts, are required on most job sites and anytime you working near traffic. Hard hats will be needed when working in construction zones. and a sturdy pair of work gloves will help protect your hands. 

What Other Skills Does a Surveying Technician Need

Many other skills will assist a surveying technician in their duties. An understanding of basic geography and mathematics is a plus. Being detail-oriented and willing to brave the elements is also a plus. Many technicians need to work with the public, whether it be a nosy neighbor or a construction firm, and need to have relatively good people skills. 

Surveyors appreciate technicians who can listen well and take direction. Some surveyors also like to have technicians who have the ability to research and read a map so that they can help with the initial steps of the survey. 

How to Become a Surveying Technician

Considering becoming a survey technician?  Although a four-year degree is not necessary to become a survey technician some additional education is highly recommended. There are several courses nationwide and online training for Land Surveying and Mapping Technicians. 

Some go on to become a certified surveying technician to be able to work for different firms, independent surveyors, or local, state, and federal agencies. This is also a good first step for those who have the long-term goal of obtaining a bachelor’s degree and becoming a licensed surveyor but need a steady income while working towards that goal.

How Much Does a Surveying Technician Make

A surveying technician’s salary is usually calculated hourly, ranging from $18-22 an hour, depending on your experience and if you are certified. Different factors come into play when salaries are calculated. First, how many hours have previously been spent in the field will be a variable. 

Second, hiring the surveying technician- whether it be a firm or an independent surveyor- will impact the salary. Finally, any formal education or continuing education credits that enhances their resourcefulness in the field will either raise or decrease the hourly wage. 

Traditional Schooling for Surveying Technicians

There is a growing need for surveying technicians because there is a rise in the market for surveyors. Many schools across the nation offer a traditional setting for technicians. They can take introductory surveying courses, geography, and mathematics and classes on how to operate different instruments in the field. Traditional schooling is done in a classroom setting, where students can work face-to-face with their instructor and alongside their peers. Surveying Technician

Online Programs for Surveying Technicians

Online programs are becoming more popular for surveying technicians. First of all, they can be taken as they gain experience in the field, from the comfort of their home during off-hours. Online courses allow for a little more flexibility but not as much hands-on experience. These make a great option for anyone already working for a surveyor but needs additional education to advance their career.

It is vital to check accreditations of programs before you pay for certified survey technician online courses. However, continuing education through webinars and online videos can sometimes be useful as well. 

Some individuals have a more challenging time with online classes because they cannot get answers to questions they may have on the spot and are required to do a lot of reading, writing, and math online. However, with today’s growing dependence on technology, it is a great way to practice software and digital media skills.

National Society of Professional Surveyors

For those who are interested in continuing education and becoming certified as a surveying technician, there is an option to take a certification exam. This examination opens many doors for those who would like to continue in the field. The examination does require some study and in the field experience, and accredits a person’s knowledge in safety and instrument operation. 

The NSPS, or National Society of Professional Surveyors, is an excellent program to gain certification. You will be registered with the Department of Labor and the National Apprenticeship program. Having a certification through an accredited organization like that NSPS shows that you have passed a comprehensive exam.

This covers the use of safe practices on the field and makes you more appealing to those who are seeking to fill a surveying technician position in their company. There is a fee for the examination, and a minimum score is required. 

Becoming a Survey Technician

Becoming a surveying technician is an excellent step for those interested in potentially becoming a professional surveyor in the future. It is a great stepping stone to gain experience in the field, and it does not require extensive education to begin one’s career.

There are many possibilities for those who would like to make it a long-term career path, leading to a good salary in a growing field. A love for the outdoors, mathematics, geography, and good attention to detail are all excellent skills for a surveying technician to have, and those who possess these skills find themselves gratified in such a position. 

By Bryan Greene

Surveying Technicia


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