Any proffessional Surveyors out there?

Hunthigh1

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 23, 2015
Messages
310
I am considering pursuing a career as a surveyor. I would love to talk with someone with experience and learn more about it. Questions like how much real math is involved with your day to day work? Do you like the job? etc. Thank you for any help!
 

Beendare

Senior Member
Joined
May 6, 2014
Messages
6,254
Location
In Traffic
My take; go for it.

I use surveyors.....and I can tell you they are buried with work out here in SF Bay area. A couple surveyors I know are hunters and one takes the whole season off as he makes plenty the rest of the year.
 

Yellowknife

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 9, 2012
Messages
1,708
Location
Fairbanks, Alaska
I work with surveyors and survey data pretty extensively. The primary requirement for a good land surveyor IMO is a meticulous attention to detail. Sloppy screw ups can and will have real world consequences that can go on for years. If you can't go to work with the full intention of doing a perfect job, it may not be the career for you. It also requires the technical skill to run fairly complex equipment and computer programs. Moving beyond entry level work is going to require skill at those things.

If you can do all that, it's a great job. At least here in Alaska it's one of the highest paying "outdoor" professions. You also typically work with a relatively high degree of autonomy and have a range of different kinds of companies you can work for, from civil construction to engineering consulting plus more traditional survey outfits.
 
OP
H

Hunthigh1

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 23, 2015
Messages
310
Thanks for the quick response gent's.

To be honest, one of my biggest concerns and possible reason for not pursuing this is the fact that I am unclear as to how much actual math is involved in the profession. I am far from a math whiz.
Do your computer programs run most of the math for you? Could anyone give me an idea of the actual math used in daily work? Thank you for any details. This is why I love rokslide. Wonderful helpful folks!
 

WV Mountaineer

Senior Member
Joined
Oct 2, 2016
Messages
1,910
Location
West Virginia
I work with surveyors weekly. The invent of the total station has taken a lot of the math out of it. You need the foundation of math for the understanding. But, none of the one's I work with hand plot maps and boundaries anymore. They do the courthouse work, the leg work on the ground, put the info together and, let the total station tell them where the boundaries are. And, with attention to detail, it is indisputable and correct.



It's a good living. Plenty of work. Most are backlogged for MONTHS. Pays very well. You get a mixture of work environments. The only downside is having to deal with the public. Just remember, for every client you will be hired to do work for, you'll have an adjoining landowner to deal with. God Bless
 

Ty619

Member
Joined
Dec 2, 2016
Messages
82
Location
Lakeside
I'm in the local 12 operating engineers. I work as a foreman and occasionally an acting superintendent for one of the largest grading contractors in ca. I deal with surveyors on a daily basis in situations ranging from 2 million yard housing spreads, below ground structures, highway improvement to public works and a vary vast array in between those projects.

The math is either standard units ie tenths, which is similar to counting the dollar/change and the metric system. All of our math is primarily adding and subtracting with multiple calc formulas i.e. LxWxH= cubic feet and to convert to yardage you would divide by 27 for cubic yards. You really would not use these formulas, just trying to introduce a standard conversion ..... not rocket science.

Now the reality. You have two options. Union vs non union. Pay difference is SIGNIFICANT! Non union surveyors make about 28-35... if your GOOD. To go union our rate is 46.73... BUT, you will not start off with any surveying outfit as a journeyman surveyor. You will start off as the the "shaker"/ chairman/rodman. It's their laborer. And depending on your ability to learn, motivation and a good foreman, plan on being a chairman for 4-6 years. Non union chairman starts at about 13-14 per hour. Union, you will A, have to first get accepted into your local operating engineers apprenticeship B, hope they have a demand to even run the apprentice ship. Again, call your local OPERATING ENGINEER union hall, ask to speak with a "BA" / Business Agent.

All surveyors now operate 95% on GPS units. Some equipment doesn't even require a chain man. 5% of their work requires a transit which is only typically used inside a structure for wall layout. Point being, if you have basic computer skills, can operate your handheld GPS without a glitch you will have a slightly easier transition. Being a surveyor is easy and a nightmare all in one. If you **** up your layout, your taking huge money at stake. I just encountered a "bust" on a 12 million dollar contract I'm running right now..... total cost to correct said "bust".... $169,000.00.. and only two "stakes" were wrong.... 100% on the surveyor.

PM me if you need, I've been in the trades a long time and have very notable contacts in the industry and local 12 OE. I'm in San Diego and for the time being, people are DYING for hard working, smart men... especially if they ****ing speak English. Ty
 
OP
H

Hunthigh1

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 23, 2015
Messages
310
I work with surveyors weekly. The invent of the total station has taken a lot of the math out of it. You need the foundation of math for the understanding. But, none of the one's I work with hand plot maps and boundaries anymore. They do the courthouse work, the leg work on the ground, put the info together and, let the total station tell them where the boundaries are. And, with attention to detail, it is indisputable and correct.



It's a good living. Plenty of work. Most are backlogged for MONTHS. Pays very well. You get a mixture of work environments. The only downside is having to deal with the public. Just remember, for every client you will be hired to do work for, you'll have an adjoining landowner to deal with. God Bless

Thank you for this. When you say "the foundation of math for understanding", could you be a bit more detailed. What math do you specifically consider that to be?
 
OP
H

Hunthigh1

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 23, 2015
Messages
310
My take; go for it.

I use surveyors.....and I can tell you they are buried with work out here in SF Bay area. A couple surveyors I know are hunters and one takes the whole season off as he makes plenty the rest of the year.

That sounds like my kind of schedule!! Does he do his own contract work and just refuse work during hunting season? Or does he work for a company that just allows that type of time off?
 

Ty619

Member
Joined
Dec 2, 2016
Messages
82
Location
Lakeside
Are you trying or should I say end goal is to own/start your own company? Your talking licensing, clientele and equipment fees. Computer programs start at $15k and instruments in that same figure. You've got some dues to pay bro. And I don't know one surveyor taking off the whole season. Feast or famine. This is construction. It's a great trade but, be fore warned, your not going anywhere and just jumping on an instrument. Look at your local comm college. Some have actual survey classes. A huge problem our trade has been facing all these kids with a lot of education and zero experience.
 

Bubblehide

Senior Member
Joined
May 13, 2015
Messages
2,045
Like Ty169, I worked for a very large General Engineering Contractor for years and eventually chose a different career path. I have a friend that is a surveyor for BLM. He got the job right out of college, as he was a math major, in addition to being one hell of a hunter. From my limited understanding, there are program-formulas that will do the vast majority of the math for you. However, you need to be intimate with those formulas, and be able to chose-plug in the correct one. You also need to have an uncanny feel for numbers, and be proficient at recognizing when something is not correct.

During my educational career, I tutored statistics, led the university department statistics tutor program, and subsequently taught statistics. From my experience, being excellent in math in today´s day and age, does not require you to be good at math. What is required is the skill, knowledge and ability to know which numbers to plug into what formula, and fully understand why. With today´s portable electronics, and their abilities, I can not imagine needing to excel at basic math functions, but rather excel at the underlying theories to obtain the answer you seek.

With that said, from my limited understanding, I´d expect that your major will be in math. I don´t know your education level, nor where you would starting at, or picking up from, but I´m sure you will be immersed in math, math theory, and formulas.
 

Yellowknife

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 9, 2012
Messages
1,708
Location
Fairbanks, Alaska
Feast or famine. This is construction.

Ty619,

You are correct, but only in your field. Surveys work in many other areas besides construction. Some guys do nothing but land boundary surveys and subdivisions and have never even seen a grade stake.

Our PLS does primarily engineering support and boundary surveys. He sets control for future projects, does plats, ties in LiDAR control, topo surveys, etc, etc. In a previous career he worked as a marine surveyor and lived on a boat doing hydrographic surveys. A huge variety of tasks, primarily with a GPS, but he almost never does construction other than perhaps QC volume checks at the end. It can be very seasonal, but it's not the same feast or famine as heavy civil. I don't recall ever even meeting a union PLS surveyor either, so that's certainly not a universal thing. PLS guys here are making about what you are saying the union guys make done there. Different places, different fields...

Hunthigh1,

Per your math question. I rather have a surveyor answer, but generally I would say WV is correct. Very few hand calcs done anymore. However, if you don't have the basis of understanding for how math works on that the computer screw ups come easy. Engineering is similar. The computer will do all the work, but if I don't input the right data and ask it the right questions.... things can go bad in a hurry. And if I don't have a good idea what the answer should look like, I might not catch it.

That said, my sister graduated with a Geomatics (essentially surveying) degree a couple years ago, and she was never a math fan at all. Her grades were just fine though, and she does a good job.

Another somewhat similar field to consider would be GIS. It's almost 100% desk work, but the demand is sky high everywhere.
 
Joined
Jul 3, 2012
Messages
880
Location
Central Cal
When Beendare and Ty speak of surveyors, I'm fairly sure they are talking about field crews. I don't believe many PLS are local 3/12 union members. I'm sure there are a few, but they are the outlier. Generally the office personnel aren't union.

You definitely can be in the survey trade without strong math skills as your data collector or CAD program will do the heavy lifting for you. But if you want to make decent money outside of being on a union field crew(CA) you'll need to get licensed. In which case you'll need to know the when and the how as Bubblehide describes.

I think we'll need to know your location and if you are planning to go school or not to give you anything more precise. There's a big difference between going to a local firm and getting on as a chainman -field crew mule- and working your way up vs getting a Geomatics degree and heading towards licensure. A Geomatics degree is going to require 3-4 semesters of Calculus and 2-3 semesters of calculus based physics.

Edit: you don't need a degree to get your license. But it sure helps and without it you're looking at 6 years of experience before they'll even let you sit for the exam. I don't remember the exact time frame, and all states may not have the same requirements but this is close.
 
Last edited:

seldomseensmith

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Messages
494
Location
New Mexico
I have a degree in survey and mapping and worked as a surveyor in the field for a bit. What state will you work in? That is important IMO. I worked on a crew in Weatern Washington and spent a lot of time hacking through "jungle" Don't let the math scare you. Even if you suck at math you can remediate well enough to calc angles and what not. It's not rocket science. It's a great career to start in if you like being outside. After a while you end up at a desk too much for me.
 
Joined
Oct 3, 2013
Messages
1,717
Location
OR Hunter lost in Florida (WTF was I thinking?)
My kid is a math wiz, and works for the same company i do. He is now only 22. He started a week after high school running a total station. Now he runs a total station and a FARO. He is making about $30/hr and works about 50hrs/week on average. Sometimes in a climate controlled room. Don't just think of survey as outside. He has had training at the companies expense in details like GDT to do survey on high tolerance machined items. Dab in both types of systems and see what you like. I would think between the 2, a guy could stay pretty busy.

I think a surveyor needs to have the ability to be very visual in 3D space. It isn't for everyone. He also still does some trig by hand to validate what he sees. If you don't have the ability to do that, I think a guy is taking a risk of letting bad info get out. Being able to show long hand data helps with the "street cred" among field and shop crews.

I detail shop drawings from survey data. It is really obvious when a guy knows what he is doing and pays attention to detail. Be one of those guys, and I think you can work anywhere.
 
Joined
Jan 22, 2015
Messages
1,583
Location
Eau Claire, Wi.
I was a survey or from 1973 to 2003. I started out in construction surveying and then went to being a licensed land surveyor. What kind of surveying do you want to do land surveying is very different from construction surveying. Even though computers and machines do most of the math for you it's still important to have an understanding of math. Land surveying is good if you like to be in the outdoors. You also have to put up with a lot of bugs and heat and very cold in the winter, depending on where you're located. You make a decent living but it's not a real high paying job.
 

Beendare

Senior Member
Joined
May 6, 2014
Messages
6,254
Location
In Traffic
That sounds like my kind of schedule!! Does he do his own contract work and just refuse work during hunting season? Or does he work for a company that just allows that type of time off?
The surveyor i mentioned owns his own business and has many years of experience. He has buuilt a clientele that trusts him and is willing to wait. He only takes 3 weeks for hunting the rest of the time he works long hours and i guarantee he makes a lot more than $45/ hr.

You can't be a dumbass surveyor.... The comments above are right on. You have to be an analytical type with meticulous detail, you won't last long if you aren't.

Right about now your thinking you should've paid more attention in seventh and eighth grade math classes eh? Grin if a 12 yr old Vietnamese kid can do it, you can learn this stuff
 

Ndbowhunter

Senior Member
Joined
May 24, 2016
Messages
1,774
The best and worse part about being a surveyor is the slow winter times.

The only person I bother to call up to do hunts anymore is my best friend who is a surveyor.

He usually makes about 80k a year and takes about 60 days a year to hunt with me all over th globe.

Careers are lame, but surveyor if you do it right probably sucks the least (or forester)

Our other best friend is a BLM surveyor in Alaska. Only job I know that requires a proficiency with a shotgun and you commute to work in a chopper.

Oh and you can transition into the office as you get older.

Btw the math isn't too bad. If you need to get a tutor or whatever it can be done, my cousin isn't the sharpest tool in the shed (he ain't dumb tho either) and he applied himself and got help where needed and it's been awesome for him.
 

WV Mountaineer

Senior Member
Joined
Oct 2, 2016
Messages
1,910
Location
West Virginia
Thank you for this. When you say "the foundation of math for understanding", could you be a bit more detailed. What math do you specifically consider that to be?



Basic Algebra, addition, and subtraction type stuff. It's not hard. You can do it well enough to develop an understanding why you are doing what you are doing in the woods. You are not statistically representing anything. You have distances, bearings or Azimuth's, etc... I've run many a boundary pulling chains and such with an old compass type thing set up on a tripod. Those days are over because a compass and hip chain can achieve just as accurate closure. However, The Total station in land surveying is the berry's and, has made that obsolete for their work.



I read where it was said to not be lucrative. It might not be where he is at but, a 40-50 acre piece of ground here will cost roughly $5,000 to $6,000 if it's a straight forward job. That's three days of work if you mark the corners. If it requires a lot of research, that can get up to $15,000 real quick. That might be 5 full days of work. That rivals Doctor's pay.



It wears me out. I'm a forester and will often have the boundary run, flagged and established for harvest before a surveyor ever gets the corners marked. We only use them for court protection on suspect lines or descriptions. They establish corners and boundaries on very lacking deed descriptions. And, if they can find a couple known corners on the ground and in the courthouse, they can triangulate the coordinates to establish a corner of the property in which they are surveying very Quickly with that total station. Then it's all about the gps those stations posses. They can walk exactly to where it is on the ground, pound a stake in the ground and move on to the next. The machine does the figuring. No math needed.



That's a simplified version but, it outlines how they work. You will work hard, be in great shape, and subject to the woes of working in the woods. However, that is a lot better to me than a office. And, with the work load they handle here, a bad day outside can be offset by doing courthouse work. It's lie anything else. It has irs pluses and it's minuses. But, its good money and, a good living.



Part of the forestry accreditation program at WVU's forestry school, was land surveying courses. We had to use the old tripod and pulling chain methods to make topo maps. It was cool. then, we did the sae thig with a total station. No geometry, algebra, nothing. Take elevation points and distances, plot them on the computer with soSe program that did all the work, and print it out. Simplest courses I had in School. I failed my 400 level calculus class my senior year before graduating. I had to take a summer course and hire a tutor before graduating. Had I not been that close to being a forester, I would have switched then. Lord knows they work a fraction as much and still mae better money than any forester. God Bless
 
Last edited:
OP
H

Hunthigh1

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 23, 2015
Messages
310
Right about now your thinking you should've paid more attention in seventh and eighth grade math classes eh? Grin if a 12 yr old Vietnamese kid can do it, you can learn this stuff[/QUOTE]

haha. Yep!
 
Top