What is a Land Surveyor?

Richard Furlong - City Surveys Group

Home » What is a Land Surveyor?

Published: 21st September 2016

This Article was Written by: Richard Furlong - City Surveys Group


If you like being outside and using logical mathematical solutions to solve large scale problems then a career in land surveying could be for you.

Land surveyors work with a vast range of organisations across sectors including infrastructure, mining, construction, civil engineering and railway engineering, providing them with highly-detailed analyses of physical and and geographical areas. Whether it’s plotting out a route for a new road or aerial mapping the site of an ancient monument, land surveyors enjoy a varied and interesting career.


Land surveyors have a vast skill-set at their disposal and are usually methodical, somewhat investigative characters with a thirst for knowledge. A good, proactive surveyor will be hands-on and good at working in restrictive, closely-regulated situations and environments. Whilst a somewhat cliche term found in countless CVs and job specifications, any land surveyor worth his/her salt will be adept at working both individually and as part of a team.

People in this profession usually have a reasonably high level of education and are numerate, IT literate and good communicators. An underlying interest of and proven achievements in the subjects of science and engineering is also a plus point but is not essential. A good grasp of their chosen country’s language, both spoken and written, is almost essential; reports and drawings obviously cannot be sent to clients with major spelling or grammatical errors.

Over and above technical capabilities, the following characteristics will prove extremely advantageous to career progression…

  • Positive mental attitude – As a team player it can be important to hold your head high and act as an example to your co-workers. Your frame of mind will, inevitably, ‘rub off’ on those around you. A positive outlook (or at least a constructive one) can help a team to gel and work better together.
  • A good work ethic – Those content to do what’s asked of them will be valued… those proactive enough to go above and beyond to add value to the company, client or project will, most likely, be singled out for recognition.
  • Good time keeping – Both your employer and their clients will expect you to be on site and working by a certain time. Depending upon where you’re working, you will have to take traffic patterns, accidents, fuel and rest breaks into account. You will also have to plan your work around other site activities in order to be as productive as possible.
  • Well spoken and approachable – You will have to deal with members of your own team as well as clients.
  • Good organisational skills – You will need to organise your time, your equipment and more.
  • High standards of appearance and personal hygiene – Remember, during working hours you represent your employer and, as such, have a duty to portray yourself and the company as best as possible.

Salary expectations

As you would expect with a career that requires a high level of knowledge, professionalism and expertise, the salary for a land surveyor is competitive starting from around £20,000 per annum rising to around £45,000 for a highly-experienced, senior manager. Directors and extremely senior managers of larger land surveying businesses could expect to earn more than this depending upon company policy.

An average salary for a surveyor with experience ranges from around £25,000 to £35,000 per annum for a highly experienced, ambitious, professional and capable individual.

Professionals are expected to work up to (and frequently beyond) 40 hours a week but, as a career in land surveying flourishes, night shifts, weekend-working and business trips away from home are to be routinely expected.

A truly responsible and honourable firm will pay overtime, should provide a fuel card for the use of a company vehicle (if provided) and will pay any ‘living away’ or other expenses in a timely manner. Whilst this might seem to be a given, you should check this with a prospective employer either during or after an interview. A few smaller companies, still run by the ‘old guard’, continue (as of 2016) to expect employees to pay for their own accommodation, fuel and expenses, only being reimbursed at the end of the month. Whilst this is obviously a decision for each company to take, it is not best practice, can place employees under financial duress and is by no means the norm.

Entry requirements

Despite many careers websites disingenuously suggesting otherwise, an undergraduate bachelor’s degree (BSc) is not essential for a career in land surveying. In fact, the vast majority of UK-based land surveyors either start as apprentices or have a degree in another related or unrelated field. That said and done, an applicant with a surveying-specific degree, a civil engineering degree or a degree from an area closely related to geography or a branch of science and mathematics will always be of interest to interviewers.

Once in a role, surveyors can always undertake a course of professional development or further education, keeping up to date with technological advances and changes to industry regulations. As such, many professional surveyors obtain ‘chartered’ status either through either the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) or the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB). Again, many websites and careers services put undue emphasis on the topic of chartership. Yes, at director level and in large companies, it may be seen as essential or at least highly advisable, but, for the majority of firms, a lack of chartership is generally not a barrier to entry or advancement.

That said, as with any competitive industry, a degree and/or chartered status will maximise an individual’s prospects of working with the top employers and could see potential earnings maximised.

Career opportunities

Whilst estimates of the total number of UK land surveyors vary hugely, the one thing we do know is that there is currently a critical 24% gap in the market due to a nationwide skills shortage. It goes without saying, therefore, that there are significant opportunities available for those willing to work hard and apply themselves.

Needless to say, surveying is a desirable career. Whilst not a vocational occupation, for many people it certainly can come close.

Because they are so highly-skilled and, by necessity, knowledgeable about the latest advances and rules pertaining to the industries they work with, employment prospects for a land surveyor can be significant and wide ranging.

Whilst the vast majority end up working for dedicated surveying firms, candidates could also find themselves working for any of the following…

  • Government departments
  • Local authorities
  • Civil engineering firms
  • Railway engineering firms
  • House builders
  • Utility firms and more…

Opportunities could well be available in any of the following, more niche sectors…

  • Infrastructure
  • Heritage
  • Archaeology
  • Cartography (map making)
  • Mining
  • Renewable energies and so on…


From setting-out to downloading data from survey instruments, owing to the highly-structured, technical nature of the job, routines form a large part of a surveyor’s day-to-day activities. Your place of work will also vary from day-to-day and you can expect to work both in the office and on site as and when required.

A surveyor may be required, one day, to carry out an arduous, precision survey over tough terrain with heavy equipment; the very next day they may find themselves in court providing expert testimonies; yet another day they may be processing data and producing reports for clients.

There are a plethora of opportunities for a qualified surveyor and, as with the majority of professional roles, training and self-development should never stop. A fast moving industry, it’s absolutely essential that any ambitious surveyor keeps on top of the very latest developments in technology, software and working practices.

Further information

If you think a career in surveying could be for you, we recommend these websites for further reading:

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