What Does a Survey Technician Do? And a Mapping Technician?
The work of these technicians can help establish the exact route of a new road or the borders of a plot of land.
Survey technicians — also called surveying technicians, land survey technicians or survey techs — primarily take measurements of the land and note key features.
Mapping technicians, also called map techs, primarily use data collected in the field to help create or update maps.
Some technicians perform surveying and mapping duties while others specialize. The job duties often depend on the size of the company.
They use traditional and modern surveying and mapping instruments to assist licensed surveyors, cartographers and photogrammetrists. (Cartographers make maps, and photogrammetrists conduct aerial and satellite surveys.)
Technicians take measurements, perform calculations and create drawings using the global positioning system (GPS), geographic information systems (GIS) and computer-aided design (CAD) software.
The modern world requires precise maps and measurements, which is why these lesser-known careers are so important. Their skills are needed for construction, mapmaking, boundary location, mining and more.
Want to know more? Keep reading to learn what kind of training is required and much more.
- Measure, record and calculate data about the earth's surface
- Set up, adjust and operate surveying equipment, such as electronic distance-measuring equipment
- Confirm the accuracy of existing records
- Search for previous survey points, such as stone markers, on site or through records
- Edit and process images and data from surveying equipment
- Help produce or update maps showing boundaries and the location of water, elevation and other terrain details
How To Become a Survey Technician or Mapping Technician
What steps do I need to take?
If you’re still in high school, focus on geometry, algebra, drafting and computer science. Earn your high school diploma or equivalent.
Next, dive into your postsecondary education, which can take several forms. To become a survey technician, you’ll need to earn a certificate or an associate degree in survey technology or geomatics, the science of data relating to the earth’s surface. To become a mapping technician, you’ll need an associate degree. A bachelor’s degree is not required for either role, but it isn’t uncommon and may provide more opportunities for advancement.
Program courses will include geographic information systems (GIS), survey technology and plenty of math.
Then, you’ll do on-the-job training either as part of a survey team or learning from a lead mapper how maps are created and stored in a database. Many trainees do both. Supervised training can last up to six months.
Next, you can earn professional certification. This isn’t required by all employers but it’s becoming more common. For example, the National Society of Professional Surveyors offers the Certified Survey Technician credential for field or office work. The American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) offers certification for Geographic Information/Land Information Systems (GIS/LIS).
After gaining several years of experience, you can become a licensed surveyor. Requirements for licensing vary by state. Some require a bachelor’s degree to earn the license, while other require a certain number of hours working under the supervision of a licensed surveyor and passing two exams, Fundamentals of Surveying and Professional Surveyor.
Related jobs, such as architectural drafter, can provide new opportunities for advancement.
Are there any other qualifications?
You’ll need a driver’s license for driving to and from survey sites.
Is there a demand for survey technicians and mapping technicians?
There’s a steady demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this demand is driven by the increased need for accurate maps.
What skills and qualities would make someone a good fit for this job?
Successful survey technicians and mapping technicians tend to share these traits:
- Strong problem-solving skills
- Attention to detail
- Excellent listening skills
- Critical thinking skills
- Physical stamina to do outdoor surveying in rugged terrain
- Good decision-making skills
- Computer savvy
- Good at data organization
The surveying and mapping professions provide satisfying careers that don’t require years of education. If you like working with your hands and being outdoors, consider becoming a survey technician. If working with maps is more your speed, become a map technician. And if you like both, search for opportunities with a a smaller company where a technician is more likely to take on both duties.
If this career sounds like a great fit for you, check out SkillPointe’s training partners for programs in your area.