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Land Surveyor

Source of Information: Next Step / DirectGov / Careers Advice Service

Land Surveyor

The Work

As a land (or geomatics) surveyor you would collect data to map the shape of land for civil engineering and construction projects. You would then use this data as the basis for site plans.

You might work on road, tunnel and bridge building projects, land redevelopment, mining and quarrying, and the installation of power and water supply networks. Your duties would include:

  • feasibility studies carrying out initial surveys and environmental impact assessments on potential sites to assess whether plans are workable
  • geospatial measurement using surveying instruments and GPS to chart exact coordinates of site features; producing digital images of sites (photogrammetry); and mapping land use with satellite photography (remote sensing)
  • geomatics gathering data and using geographic information systems (GIS) to analyse and interpret site features
  • geomechanics monitoring land movement and subsidence caused during the construction project or by natural processes
  • computer-aided design draughting 2-D and 3-D charts and maps of an area using CAD programs and other cartographic techniques.

You could also specialise in mapping inshore and offshore features (known as hydrographic surveying), which covers:

  • natural waterways and canals for environmental projects
  • dredging operations
  • navigational charts
  • oil and gas exploration
  • undersea mining
  • locating and salvaging sunken ships.

Hours and Environment

You would normally work 35 to 40 hours a week. Early starts, late finishes and weekend work may be needed to meet deadlines.

Your job would combine office and site work, and some projects may involve overnight stays away from home.

Skills and Interests

  • awareness of surveying technology and CAD programs
  • excellent maths, science and IT skills, particularly databases
  • strong analytical skills and a creative approach to problem solving
  • the ability to work to a high degree of accuracy
  • the ability to analyse and interpret graphical data
  • knowledge of planning and environmental regulations, and health and safety
  • strong communication, negotiating and presentation skills
  • the ability to prioritise and plan effectively
  • the ability to work as part of a team.

For hydrographic work, you may need some knowledge of navigation and experience of handling small marine craft.


You would usually need a degree or professional qualification accredited by the Royal Institution for Chartered Surveyors (RICS) to become a land or geomatics surveyor.

Relevant subjects include:

  • surveying
  • civil engineering
  • geomatics
  • geographical information science.

You can search for accredited qualifications on the dedicated RICS Courses website.

If you have a non-accredited degree, you will need to take a postgraduate course in surveying. You can do this through a graduate traineeship with a company or by studying full-time at an accredited university. If you already work in engineering or construction, you could take a distance learning postgraduate conversion course with the College of Estate Management (CEM). Contact CEM for more details.

If you have a BTEC HNC/HND or foundation degree in surveying, you could look for work as a surveying technician, and take further study to fully qualify as a land surveyor.

You are likely to need a driving licence to travel to sites.

See the RICS, the Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors (ICES) and the Chartered Institute of Building's (CIOB) Faculty for Architecture and Surveying websites for more details about surveying careers and accredited degree programmes.


It is important that you continue to update your knowledge and skills throughout your career. You could do this by working towards chartered status with the RICS or the CIOB Faculty for Architecture and Surveying.

To qualify for chartered status through the RICS, you must complete the RICS Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) while you are working. You will need at least two years' experience and will have to pass an interview with a panel of assessors.

If you want to apply for CIOB chartered status, you will need an accredited honours degree and two years' relevant work experience.

The ICES offers various membership grades, from student to fellowship level. They also offer a range of training programmes, which count towards professional development.

You could also consider the work-based NVQ Level 4 in Spatial Data Management.

For more details about qualifying routes, accredited courses and professional development, contact RICS, the CIOB, ICES and Asset Skills.


Typical employers include central and local government, construction, engineering and property development companies, specialist surveying firms, financial institutions and Ordnance Survey of Great Britain.

With experience, you could progress to overall project management, contract management, specialise in a particular aspect of surveying, or work as a self-employed consultant.

You may find the following useful for job vacancies and general reading: (links open in a new window)

RICS Recruit
Hays Recruitment

We do not accept responsibility for the content of external sites.

Annual Income

  • Newly qualified surveyors can earn between 20,000 and 23,000 a year.
  • Chartered land surveyors can earn around 30,000 to 40,000.
  • Those at senior management level or partner, may earn up to around 70,000.

Figures are intended as a guideline only.

Further information

If you would like to discuss your career options with a learning advisor at the Careers Advice Service advice line, call 0800 100 900 or use our online enquiry form.


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