What Surveyors Do

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Surveyors do much more than look through instruments on tripods

by Gary Johnston 

March 15-22 is National Surveyors Week. Members of The Professional Land Surveyors of Oregon are pleased to see federal recognition of our profession through this proclamation.

Surveyors have been an integral part of the development of western civilization. They have measured and mapped lands and marked boundaries throughout recorded history.

Advancements in technology have changed the nature of surveying and cartography. Today, geomatics (surveying) professionals use an integrated approach to measuring, analyzing and managing spatial data. They employ high-tech equipment such as Geographic Information Systems , Global Positioning Systems, digital photogrammetry, digital total stations, satellite and terrestrial remote sensing to create a detailed but understandable picture of the earth’s natural and manmade features.

As a profession, surveying is so diverse that it attracts people of many different talents and interests. Surveyors work in private practice in small businesses and in corporations large and small. These people commonly establish property boundaries and design and lay out land developments. Surveyors also work for public agencies, establishing control for street and highway projects plus a variety of other public works and mapping projects.

Another facet of surveying is dedicated to measuring the earth’s surface to more accurately define the earth’s surface and monitor even minute movements in the Earth’s surface. While the common image of a surveyor looking through a telescope on a tripod is somewhat accurate, it falls far short of showing the large variety of jobs performed by the modern surveyor.

Surveying can be largely an outdoor occupation, or can involve a large amount of work at a computer and any combination in between. The experience of working on a survey crew can be an excellent starting point, and many have progressed “through the ranks” with this work experience. Formal training can be obtained through a number of two-year programs in Oregon, including a program at Chemeketa Community College.

A nationally acclaimed four-year program is offered at the Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls. The institution offers a bachelor of science degree in geomatics with a surveying option, combining land surveying techniques with computer technology.

If you have some specific questions you would like answered about the surveying profession, please contact the PLSO’s office in Salem at (503) 585-4551. They can assist you with many questions about the organization and the profession in general. PLSO can connect you with a licensed surveyor if you have a specific question about educational programs in Oregon or career opportunities in the profession.

Gary Johnston of Dallas is the state chairman of Professional Land Surveyors of Oregon.

Published March 22, 2009 in the Statesman Journal, Salem, Oregon

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