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What does a Chief Surveyor do?

By Kim Masters Evans
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A chief surveyor, also called a party chief or crew chief, supervises a crew, or party, of surveyors. The chief manages the crew’s daily activities in the field. A chief surveyor also ensures that surveying data are collected and recorded accurately and that all company procedures are followed by crew members.

Surveying is an applied science generally used to determine and map geographical and geological features. A chief surveyor may be in charge of many different types of surveys, depending on the purpose of the survey and the medium being surveyed. Typical media include the land surface, water body beds, and underground features, such as caverns. Land surveying is the most common type of surveying conducted.

A land surveyor party chief needs to be experienced with the various techniques, methods, and instruments used in land surveying. Surveyors use instruments to determine angles and distances between points. These data are used along with trigonometric functions to calculate the positions of the surveyed points relative to particular references. Modern surveying instruments are computerized and combine electronics and optics technology to measure angles and distances and perform the necessary mathematical calculations. The data may be stored automatically in an instrument’s data recorder or written by hand in field notebooks.

The chief must have expertise in collecting and recording data and producing drawings and maps. Some land surveyor party chief jobs require proficiency with computer software. Common requirements include experience with data processing and computer-aided design and drafting (CADD).

The job of chief surveyor can be demanding. Chief surveyors, like all surveyors, work outdoors much of the time and are exposed to the elements. They also must be physically fit and able to lift and carry equipment. The job typically requires a great deal of travel as well—many employers own company trucks or vans in which party chiefs transport their crews and equipment. As a result, chief surveyors must have excellent driving records.

A chief surveyor also is responsible for ensuring that crew members follow company standards and procedures for operations and safety. The chief makes sure, for example, that crew members use any required safety equipment, such as goggles or hard hats. A chief surveyor may be expected to train new employees in surveying techniques as well.

In the United States, many surveyor party chief jobs require only a high school education. Some jobs call for an Associate of Science degree or Associate of Applied Science degree in surveying or related fields. Applicants for chief surveyor jobs must typically have three to five years of on-the-job surveying experience.

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