Surveying and mapping technicians collect data and make maps of the Earth's surface.
What they do
Surveying technicians visit sites to take measurements of the land. Mapping technicians use geographic data to create maps. They both assist surveyors, and cartographers and photogrammetrists.
Surveying technicians typically do the following:
- Visit sites to record survey measurements and other descriptive data
- Operate surveying instruments, such as electronic distance-measuring equipment (robotic total stations), to collect data on a location
- Set out stakes and marks to conduct a survey
- Search for previous survey points, such as old stone markers
- Enter the data from surveying instruments into computers, either in the field or in an office
Surveying technicians help surveyors in the field on teams known as survey parties. A typical survey party has a party chief and one or more surveying technicians. The party chief, either a surveyor or a senior surveying technician, leads day-to-day work activities. After data is collected by the survey party, surveying technicians help process the data by entering the data into computers.
Mapping technicians typically do the following:
- Select needed information from databases to create maps
- Edit and process images that have been collected in the field
- Produce maps showing boundaries, water locations, elevation, and other features of the terrain
- Update maps to ensure accuracy
- Assist photogrammetrists by laying out aerial photographs in sequence to identify areas not captured by aerial photography
Mapping technicians help cartographers and photogrammetrists produce and update maps. They do this work on computers, combining data from different sources. Mapping technicians may use drones to take photos and collect other information required to complete maps or surveys.
Geographic Information System (GIS) technicians use GIS technology to assemble, integrate, and display data about a particular location in a digital format. GIS technicians also maintain and update databases for GIS devices.
Most surveying and mapping technicians work for firms that provide engineering, surveying, and mapping services on a contractual basis. Local governments also employ these workers in highway and planning departments.
Surveying technicians work outside extensively and can be exposed to all types of weather. They often stand for long periods, walk considerable distances, and may have to climb hills with heavy packs of surveying instruments. Traveling is sometimes part of the job, and surveying technicians may commute long distances, stay away from home overnight, or temporarily relocate near a survey site.
Mapping technicians work primarily on computers in office environments. However, mapping technicians must sometimes conduct research by using resources such as survey maps and legal documents to verify property lines and to obtain information needed for mapping. This task may require traveling to storage sites, such as county courthouses or lawyers’ offices, that house these legal documents.
Surveying and mapping technicians typically work full time but may work additional hours during the summer, when weather and light conditions are most suitable for fieldwork. Construction-related work may be limited during times of harsh weather.
How to become a Surveying and/or Mapping Technician
Surveying technicians usually need a high school diploma. However, mapping technicians often need formal education after high school to study technology applications, such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS).
Surveying technicians generally need a high school diploma, but some have postsecondary training in survey technology. Postsecondary training is more common among mapping technicians where an associate degree or bachelor’s degree in a relevant field, such as geomatics, is beneficial.
High school students interested in working as a surveying or mapping technician should take courses in algebra, geometry, trigonometry, drafting, mechanical drawing, and computer science. Knowledge of these subjects may help in finding a job and in advancing.
Surveying technicians learn their job duties under the supervision of a surveyor or a surveying party chief. Initially, surveying technicians handle simple tasks, such as placing markers on land and entering data into computers. With experience, they help decide where and how to measure the land.
Mapping technicians receive on-the-job training under the supervision of a lead mapper. During training, technicians learn how maps are created and stored in databases.
The growing need to make sure that data are useful to other professionals has caused certification to become more common. The American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) offers certification for photogrammetry, remote-sensing, and Geographic Information/Land Information Systems (GIS/LIS). The National Society of Professional Surveyors offers the Certified Survey Technician credential, and the GIS Certification Institute offers a GIS Professional certification.
The median annual wage for surveying and mapping technicians was $45,010 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $28,410, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $75,190.
Employment of surveying and mapping technicians is projected to grow 1 percent from 2019 to 2029, slower than the average for all occupations.
Increased demand for mapping technology is expected to require technicians to gather and prepare the data, even as drones and other advancements make workers more efficient and limit projected employment growth.
Similar Job Titles
Aerotriangulation Specialist, Engineering Technician, Geospatial Analyst, Mapping Editor, Mapping Technician, Photogrammetric Compilation Specialist, Photogrammetric Technician, Stereoplotter Operator, Survey Technician, Tax Map Technician
Cartographer and Photogrammetrist, Architectural and Civil Drafter, Environmental Engineering Technologist and Technician, Mechanical Engineering Technologist and Technician, Forest and Conservation Technician
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- American Association for Geodetic Surveying
- American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing
- National Association of County Surveyors
- National Society of Professional Surveyors
- S. Army Corps of Engineers
Magazines and Publications
Calculating the curve for a new road… locating a mine… or finding the boundaries on a piece of property… all rely on the efforts of surveying and mapping technicians, who collect data and make maps of the Earth’s surface. Surveying technicians help surveyors and engineers take—and document— measurements of the land. They place stakes and search for previous survey points such as stone markers. Surveying technicians typically work full time, outdoors, in all types of weather. They stand for long periods, and may walk and climb hills carrying heavy instruments. They may need to commute long distances, or even relocate to a worksite temporarily. Mapping technicians help cartographers and photogrammetrists create maps from information databases, as well as edit and process images collected from the field. Mapping technicians typically work full time. They generally use computers in office environments, and may travel to courthouses or lawyers’ offices for research resources. Some specialize in Geographic Information Systems —or GIS— to convert data about a location into a digital format for wider use. Most surveying and mapping technicians work for engineering, surveying and mapping firms or for local government in the highway or planning department. Most surveying technicians have a high school diploma or equivalent, and learn on the job from a surveyor. Mapping technicians need experience with GIS, and often have a related associate or bachelor’s degree.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org