Basic Surveying Principles
The basic principles of surveying have changed little over the ages, but the tools used by surveyors have evolved tremendously.
Engineering, especially civil engineering, depends heavily on surveyors. Whenever there are roads, dams, retaining walls, bridges or residential areas to be built, surveyors are involved. They determine the boundaries of private property and the boundaries of various lines of political divisions. They also provide advice and data for geographical information systems (GIS), computer databases that contain information on land features and boundaries.
Surveyors must have a thorough knowledge of algebra, basic calculus, geometry, and trigonometry. They must also know the laws that deal with surveys, property, and contracts. In addition, they must be able to use delicate instruments with accuracy and precision.
In most states of the U.S., surveying is recognized as a distinct profession apart from engineering. Licensing requirements vary by state, however all these requirements generally have a component of education, experience and examinations.
In the past, experience gained through an apprenticeship, together with passing a series of state-administered examinations, was required to attain licensure. Nowadays, many states require a Bachelor of Science in Surveying, or a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering with additional coursework in surveying, in addition to experience and examination requirements.
Typically the process for registration follows two phases. First, upon graduation, the candidate may be eligible to sit for the Fundamentals of Land Surveying exam, to be certified upon passing and meeting all other requirements as a Surveyor In Training (SIT). Upon being certified as an SIT, the candidate then needs to gain additional experience until he or she becomes eligible for the second phase, which typically consists of the Principles and Practice of Land Surveying exam along with a state-specific examination.
Registered surveyors usually denote themselves with the letters P.L.S. (professional land surveyor), or R.L.S. (registered land surveyor), or P.S.M. (professional surveyor and mapper) following their names, depending upon the dictates of their particular state of registration.
In Canada, Land Surveyors are registered to work in their respective province. The designation for a Land Surveyor breaks down by province but follows the rule whereby the first letter indicates the province followed by L.S. There is also a designation as a C.L.S. or Canada Lands Surveyor who has the authority to work on Indian Reserves and National Parks.
Typically a licensed land surveyor is required to seal all plans, the format of which is dictated by their state jurisdiction, which shows their name and registration number. In many states, land surveyors are also required to place caps bearing their registration number on property corners that they have set.