Bureau of Labor Statistics

Surveying and Mapping Technicians

surveying and mapping technicians image
Surveying and mapping technicians collect data and make maps of the Earth’s surface.
Quick Facts: Surveying and Mapping Technicians
2020 Median Pay $46,200 per year
$22.21 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Moderate-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2020 54,800
Job Outlook, 2020-30 4% (Slower than average)
Employment Change, 2020-30 2,000

Summary

What Surveying and Mapping Technicians Do

Surveying and mapping technicians collect data and make maps of the Earth's surface.

Work Environment

Surveying technicians work outside extensively and can be exposed to all types of weather. Mapping technicians work primarily indoors on computers. Most surveying and mapping technicians work for firms that provide engineering, surveying, and mapping services on a contract basis. Local governments also employ these workers in highway and planning departments.

How to Become a Surveying 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).

Pay

The median annual wage for surveying and mapping technicians was $46,200 in May 2020.

Job Outlook

Employment of surveying and mapping technicians is projected to grow 4 percent from 2020 to 2030, slower than the average for all occupations.

Despite limited employment growth, about 7,000 openings for surveying and mapping technicians are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Most of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for surveying and mapping technicians.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of surveying and mapping technicians with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about surveying and mapping technicians by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Surveying and Mapping Technicians Do

Surveying and mapping technicians
Surveying technicians operate surveying instruments, such as electronic distance-measuring equipment.

Surveying and mapping technicians collect data and make maps of the Earth’s surface. 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.

Duties

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.

Work Environment

Surveying and mapping technicians
Surveying technicians visit sites to take measurements of the land.

Surveying and mapping technicians held about 54,800 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of surveying and mapping technicians were as follows:

Architectural, engineering, and related services 63%
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 12
Utilities 5
Self-employed workers 2
Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction 1

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.

Work Schedules

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.

Mapping technicians who develop and maintain Geographic Information System (GIS) databases generally work normal business hours.

How to Become a Surveying or Mapping Technician

Surveying and mapping technicians
Learning to master the equipment is a big part of the training for surveying and mapping technicians.

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).

Education

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’s 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.

Training

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.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

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.

Advancement

Depending on state licensing requirements, surveying technicians with many years of experience and formal training in surveying may be able to become licensed surveyors.

Important Qualities

Decisionmaking skills. Surveying technicians must be able to exercise some independent judgment in the field because they may not always be able to communicate with team members.

Detail oriented. Surveying and mapping technicians must be precise and accurate in their work. Their results are often entered into legal records.

Listening skills. Surveying technicians work outdoors and must communicate with party chiefs and other team members across distances. Following spoken instructions from the party chief is crucial for saving time and preventing errors.

Physical stamina. Surveying technicians usually work outdoors, often in rugged terrain. Physical fitness is necessary to carry equipment and to stand most of the day.

Problem-solving skills. Surveying and mapping technicians must be able to identify and fix problems with their equipment. They must also note potential problems with the day’s work plan.

Pay

Surveying and Mapping Technicians

Median annual wages, May 2020

Drafters, engineering technicians, and mapping technicians

$58,900

Surveying and mapping technicians

$46,200

Total, all occupations

$41,950

 

The median annual wage for surveying and mapping technicians was $46,200 in May 2020. 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 $29,110, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $77,480.

In May 2020, the median annual wages for surveying and mapping technicians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Utilities $62,740
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 52,750
Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction 50,620
Architectural, engineering, and related services 43,510

Surveying and mapping technicians typically work regular schedules but may work additional hours during the summer, when weather and light are most suitable for fieldwork. Construction-related work may be limited during times of harsh weather.

Mapping technicians who develop and maintain Geographic Information System (GIS) databases generally work normal business hours.

Job Outlook

Surveying and Mapping Technicians

Percent change in employment, projected 2020-30

Total, all occupations

8%

Surveying and mapping technicians

4%

Drafters, engineering technicians, and mapping technicians

2%

 

Employment of surveying and mapping technicians is projected to grow 4 percent from 2020 to 2030, slower than the average for all occupations.

Despite limited employment growth, about 7,000 openings for surveying and mapping technicians are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Most of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

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.

Employment projections data for surveying and mapping technicians, 2020-30

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Occupational Title

Surveying and mapping technicians

SOC Code17-3031
Employment, 202054,800
Projected Employment, 203056,900
Percent Change, 2020-304
Numeric Change, 2020-302,000
Employment by IndustryGet data

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of surveying and mapping technicians.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2020 MEDIAN PAY
Architects Architects

Architects plan and design houses, factories, office buildings, and other structures.

Bachelor's degree $82,320
Cartographers and photogrammetrists Cartographers and Photogrammetrists

Cartographers and photogrammetrists collect, measure, and interpret geographic information in order to create and update maps and charts for regional planning, education, and other purposes.

Bachelor's degree $68,380
Drafters Drafters

Drafters use software to convert the designs of engineers and architects into technical drawings.

Associate's degree $57,960
Landscape architects Landscape Architects

Landscape architects design parks and other outdoor spaces.

Bachelor's degree $70,630
Surveyors Surveyors

Surveyors make precise measurements to determine property boundaries.

Bachelor's degree $65,590
Civil engineering technicians Civil Engineering Technologists and Technicians

Civil engineering technologists and technicians help civil engineers plan, design, and build infrastructure and development projects.

Associate's degree $54,080
Construction and building inspectors Construction and Building Inspectors

Construction and building inspectors ensure that construction meets building codes and ordinances, zoning regulations, and contract specifications.

High school diploma or equivalent $62,860
Geological and petroleum technicians Geological and Hydrologic Technicians

Geological and hydrologic technicians support scientists and engineers in exploring, extracting, and monitoring natural resources.

Associate's degree $50,630
Geographers Geographers

Geographers study the Earth and the distribution of its land, features, and inhabitants.

Bachelor's degree $85,430

Contacts for More Info

Last Modified Date: Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Surveying and Mapping Technicians,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/surveying-and-mapping-technicians.htm (visited October 11, 2021).

Telephone: 1-202-691-5700 www.bls.gov/ooh Contact OOH

View this page on regular www.bls.gov

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