Land Surveyor

The Job and What's Involved

Land surveyors, more commonly known today as geomatic surveyors, work on construction and civil engineering projects, collecting measurements and data to identify specific features of the landscape. This information might include contours in the land, the positioning of objects and even materials that are below the earth's surface. Land surveyors might also be known as engineering or site surveyors.

The data collected by land surveyors is used within the planning and construction process, to create site plans and produce reports. The results of the survey may inform the positioning of structures in road, tunnel and bridge building projects, land redevelopment, mining and quarrying or the installation of power and water supply networks.

A land surveyor will usually conduct:

Feasibility surveys, examining the environmental impact on potential sites to assess whether plans are workable.

Geospatial measurements, using surveying instruments, global positioning system (GPS) and satellite imagery to chart exact co-ordinates of site features.

Geomatic surveys, gathering data and using geographic information systems (GIS) to analyse and interpret site features.

Geomechanic surveys, charting shifts in land movement and subsidence since previous surveys, occurring during the construction project or by natural processes.

As well as using state of the art technological equipment, including theodolites, GPS equipment and laser levels, land surveyors may also use traditional tools, such as angle finders, height poles, tape measures and wheel measurers.

The data generated by land surveyors is often used to construct two-dimensional and three-dimensional models and maps, using computer-aided design (CAD) drafting programs and other cartographic (map making) techniques.

Some land surveyors specialise in mapping inshore and offshore features. This is known as hydrographic surveying and covers:

- Natural waterways and canals for environmental projects
- Dredging operations
- Navigational charts
- Oil and gas exploration
- Undersea mining
- Locating and salvaging sunken ships

Land surveyors usually work between 35 and 40 hours a week. Early starts, late finishes and weekend work may be required to meet deadlines.

Though the job is often office based, much of the measuring and surveying work takes place outside, in all weather conditions. Some projects may involve overnight stays away from home.

This job requires good mobility and may involve of standing. Safety equipment, such as hard hats and high-visibility jackets, is required on site.

Graduate trainee land surveyors may start on around £20,000 a year. An experienced surveyor is likely to earn between £30,000 and £40,000 annually.

Chartered land surveyors can earn around £45,000 a year.
For senior positions, salaries can reach £70,000 or more.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Job opportunities exist across the UK. Typical employers include central and local government, such as the Ministry of Defence, construction, engineering and property development firms, specialist surveying firms, utility, oil and gas companies, transport companies and Ordnance Survey of Great Britain.

Vacancies are widely advertised through the Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors (ICES) and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) websites, and in industry publications such as Civil Engineering Surveyor, RICS Business, Geomatics World and New Civil Engineer, as well as through specialist construction recruitment agencies.

Education and Training

Although there are no set minimum qualifications, it is usual for entrants to have at least two A levels or equivalent. In practice, most land surveyors are chartered. This means they must follow one of the routes that RICS, ICES or the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) Faculty for Architecture and Surveying approves. For RICS chartered status, the routes include:

A RICS-accredited degree in subjects such as geomatics, geographic information systems or surveying and mapping science followed by supervised training (Assessment of Professional Competence). Accredited qualifications are listed on the RICS website.

Graduates whose degree is not RICS-accredited can do a conversion course. Those with over 10 years surveying-related experience may still be able qualify for membership.

Direct entry into the job as a surveying technician with GCSE's and A Levels, followed by part-time study for a Higher National Certificate/Diploma (HNC/D) or foundation degree in surveying and a period of supervised structured training (Assessment of Technical Competence). Successful completion leads to Associate member of RICS (AssocRICS). English, geography, maths, physics, geology, economics, law, ICT, business studies and design and technology are preferred A level subjects.

Entry to an accredited degree course is generally with three A levels and five GCSE's (A*-C). Alternative qualifications may be considered. Applicants should check with individual institutions. Those without the usual entry requirements may take a relevant Access course.

The Diploma in construction and the built environment may be relevant for this area of work.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

To achieve RICS Chartered status, supervised structured training on the job continues, with part-time study, for at least two years, until completion of the RICS Assessment of Professional Competence (APC). This involves passing a panel assessment interview. Successful completion of the APC entitles the holder to use the letters MRICS after their name and receive full RICS Geomatics membership benefits.

For CIOB chartered status, an accredited honours degree and two years' relevant work experience is needed.

The ICES offers various membership grades, from student member to Fellow. Members can specialise in land and engineering surveying.

RICS, CIOB and ICES also offer a range of training programmes, which count towards continuing professional development (CPD).

It is also possible to work towards the Level 4 NVQ in spatial data management.

All staff on construction sites are now required to hold a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card or equivalent, to prove their understanding of site health and safety. As a construction-related occupation, land surveyors may be expected to hold the CSCS white card. This will involve passing a health and safety test. The CSCS website has details.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Land surveyors should have:

  • Accuracy and attention to detail.
  • Awareness of surveying technology and CAD programs.
  • Good analytical, interpretation and observation skills.
  • Strong negotiation and influencing skills.
  • Creative problem-solving ability.
  • Knowledge of planning, environmental and health and safety regulations.
  • Excellent verbal and written communication and presentation skills.
  • A scientific and mathematical mind.
  • High level of computer literacy, especially using databases.
  • The ability to work with others.
  • The ability to plan and manage time effectively.
  • Knowledge of surveying and construction practices.

Your Long Term Prospects

Most large organisations have a formal progression structure leading to more senior positions. In smaller firms, it may be necessary to relocate or move employers to progress.

With experience, some land surveyors move into project management, contract management or specialise in a particular aspect of surveying.

Geomatics is global in scope and RICS chartered status is recognised internationally. There are good opportunities to become self-employed and to work overseas.

Get Further Information

Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB),
Englemere, Kings Ride, Ascot, Berkshire SL5 7TB
Tel: 01344 630700

Tel: 0844 844 0046
Websites: and

Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS)
Tel: 0844 576 8777

Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE),
1 Great George Street, Westminster,
London SW1P 3AA
Tel: 020 7222 7722

Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS),
12 Great George Street, Parliament Square, London SW1P 3AD
Tel: 0870 333 1600

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