What Surveyors Do
Surveyors update boundary lines and prepare sites for construction so that legal disputes are prevented.
Surveyors make precise measurements to determine property boundaries. They provide data relevant to the shape and contour of the Earth’s surface for engineering, mapmaking, and construction projects.
Surveyors typically do the following:
- Measure distances and angles between points on, above, and below the Earth’s surface
- Travel to locations and select known reference points to determine the exact location of important features
- Establish stake sites and official land and water boundaries
- Research land records, survey records, and land titles
- Look for evidence of previous boundaries to determine where boundary lines are located
- Record the results of surveying and verify the accuracy of data
- Prepare plots, maps, and reports
- Present findings to clients, government agencies, and others
- Take notes of land for deeds, leases, and other legal documents
- Provide expert testimony in court regarding survey work
Surveyors provide documentation of legal property lines and help determine the exact locations of real estate and construction projects. For example, when property, such as a house or commercial building, is bought or sold, it may need to be surveyed to prevent boundary disputes. During construction, surveyors determine the precise location of roads or buildings and proper depths for building foundations. The survey also shows changes to the property line and indicates potential restrictions on the property as far as what can be built on it.
In their work, surveyors use Global Positioning System (GPS), a system of satellites that locates reference points with a high degree of precision. Surveyors interpret and verify GPS results.
Surveyors also use Geographic Information System (GIS)—a technology that allows surveyors to present data visually as maps, reports, and charts. For example, a surveyor can overlay aerial or satellite images with GIS data, such as tree density in a given region, and create computerized maps. They then use the results to advise governments and businesses on where to plan homes, roads, and landfills.
Surveyors take measurements in the field with a crew, a group that typically consists of a licensed surveyor and trained survey technicians. The person in charge of the crew (called the party chief) may be either a surveyor or a senior surveying technician. The party chief leads day-to-day work activities.
Surveyors may be involved in settling boundary disputes. When property is sold or new construction takes place, such as the building of a fence, issues may arise due to lack of up-to-date records or the misinterpretation of available records. A surveyor would be called in to settle the dispute, and may even have to provide testimony in court if the involved parties do not come to an agreement.
Surveyors also work with civil engineers, landscape architects, and urban and regional planners to develop comprehensive design documents.
Some surveyors work in specialty fields to survey particular characteristics of the Earth.
The following are examples of types of surveyors:
Geodetic surveyors use high-accuracy technology, including aerial and satellite observations, to measure large areas of the Earth’s surface.
Geophysical prospecting surveyors mark sites for subsurface exploration, usually to look for petroleum or natural gas fields.
Marine or hydrographic surveyors survey harbors, rivers, and other bodies of water to determine shorelines, the topography of the bottom, water depth, and other features.