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What are Land Surveyors?

By Ken Black
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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Land surveyors are people who study and determine boundaries and other features of land or real estate in order to completely and accurately convey what is owned on paper. In some ways, they are like translators, translating what is in the paper world to the real world situation. Land surveyors are most commonly seen with measuring instruments, especially around road construction, but that is not the only aspect of their job.

Often, land surveyors must do a considerable amount of research before even getting to the point where they are out in the field and do surveys. They first must find out what the nature of the job is. In some cases, such surveyors may be contracted privately by a group or may work for a company or organization full time. For example, state governments, who often build roads, may have need of full time land surveyors. A land surveyor may also be employed by companies that engage in a lot of construction activity.

Of course, one of the most important things a surveyor does is determine property boundaries. Without the precise measuring of boundaries, projects can quickly become a major problem. While this may or may not be a big deal as far as buildings, if the project is something such as a road, it can significantly alter the desired route.

Land surveyors will often note elevation changes and other physical features that could be important as a project progresses. This can add a considerable amount of time to the work involved, but also be invaluable information to those who need to depend on those measurements when making their designs. Therefore, this is an aspect of the job that should not be overlooked. Those professionals depend on an accurate picture of what they are dealing with before the job even begins.

As technology has improved, the tools that land surveyors use have also become more sophisticated. While chains, chalk lines and compasses may still be used in some situations, these have likely been replaced in many situations by GPS devices, three-dimensional scanning tools and other high tech instruments. These help provide a very accurate picture of what is be surveyed. However, surveyors should always double check their work. Some may feel more comfortable having the work verified by more than one instrument.

Once the surveying is complete, a report is made detailing the findings and sent to the interested parties. In some cases, land surveyors may be asked to explain their findings. In particularly contentious situations, such as a legal dispute involving land, they may even be called on to testify in court. However, such situations are extremely rare.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon274537 — On Jun 12, 2012

I have been in the surveying profession for 30 years and to my amazement I read that it is classified under D.O.T. (The dictionary of occupational titles) as "light duty". As enjoyable as working in the field can be I found very little of it to be "easy".

Large boundary surveys where you pack your equipment, supplies and clear line every day for months, large construction layout projects, large lot staking projects and even topos and as builts can be extremely difficult (detailing manholes, ditch cross sections etc.). I hope someday soon this classification can be updated. Surveyors work very hard to gather the information they need and everyone needs to know this. --Ed in Texas

By anon206331 — On Aug 16, 2011

Well good job. I found everything I was looking for. Continue the good job.

By anon199657 — On Jul 24, 2011

Nice overview. If you're interested in learning more about the different aspects of land surveying, you might consider visiting Land Surveyors United network, where land surveyors connect and discuss surveying.

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