what is a land surveyor?

As a land surveyor, you chart and measure sites. You compile information about natural and man-made features, buildings and boundaries, and map the shape of the land to make accurate plans. Your site plans are be used by architects and civil engineers to plan construction projects or in many other applications. Land surveyors, also known as Geomatics specialists, can find careers in property, planning, cartography, oil and gas exploration, and a variety of other fields. You might assess land due for redevelopment or work on a variety of sites, including airports, pipelines, landfill sites, mines and quarries.

The scope of work of a land surveyor includes both office and outdoor work on sites. You analyse Geographic Information System (GIS) data, aerial and satellite photography, and archive maps and charts. You measure angles, distances and elevations of the site ground and features using optical instruments and Global Positioning System (GPS). You use computer-aided design (CAD) and other software to interpret data and present your findings.

what does a land surveyor do?

As a land surveyor, you work with other specialists on projects, including architects, engineers, and planners. You use your analytical skills and creative thinking to help resolve practical planning and development problems.

Would working as a land surveyor suit your analytical skills? Then read on to find out what competencies and qualifications you need to thrive in a land surveyor role.

  • Unsure about surveying and want to know more about the different types of surveyors? See 'what do surveyors do?' for a breakdown of the different types.
land surveyor jobs

average salary of a land surveyor

According to GoConstruct, the average salary of a land surveyor is £20,000 to £70,000 depending on seniority and qualifications.

As a land surveyor, your starting salary will be £20,000 - £25,000. You can then gain experience and study for your chartered status. Chartered surveyors earn £25,000 - £40,000 depending on location, level of responsibility and employer. As a senior surveyor, however, you can earn up to £70,000. At this point, you will be managing projects and contracts or specialising in a field such as construction surveying or offshore work.

Many surveyors work in large general engineering and construction companies, while others work in specialist surveying firms. With experience and specialist skills, you might expect to have a senior position in such a company, or you might become self-employed as a contractor. 

Close up - Smiling male looking away.
Close up - Smiling male looking away.

types of land surveyor

  • quantity surveyor: As a quantity surveyor, you control the costs, risks and legal standards of a construction project. You produce estimates of materials and costs of the work. While the project is in progress, you track changes to the contract and produce reports to show how they affect profitability. For more information see 'what does a quantity surveyor do?'
  • building surveyor: A building surveyor produces detailed reports on the condition of buildings, identifying defects and options for repair, maintenance, and restoration. In this role, you might assess existing buildings, buildings under construction, or buildings of architectural or historic significance. For more information see 'what does a building surveyor do?'
  • hydrographic surveyor: In this role, you use instruments to map the sea bed, harbours or waterways. You produce plans for use in offshore installations such as wind farms. 

working as a land surveyor

Want to know what it's like to work as a land surveyor? Read on to find out exactly what to expect from this role.


education and skills

Many people become land surveyors by completing a university degree accredited by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors. These include:

  • land or estate surveying
  • civil or structural engineering
  • geology or physical geography
  • geographical information science
  • earth science
  • environmental science

Other degrees might be accepted if you have included surveying modules in your course. For example, with an initial degree in geomatics, geography, engineering, physics or maths, you could take a postgraduate degree or conversion course. With an HNC or foundational degree, you can find a job as a surveying technician, assistant surveyor or mapping assistant and study while working. Or you could find a modern apprenticeship and train while working as an assistant surveyor.

skills and competencies

In surveying jobs, a very specific set of skills is required. For a land surveyor those skills include:

  • attention to detail: You prepare the plans and surveys to be used by major construction and engineering works. Precision is paramount for success. 
  • analytical thinking: As you compile your reports, you point out the implications for the project of your findings. You collaborate with your colleagues to solve problems and make sure this information is relayed team-wide.
  • excellent communication skills: As you will always be working on a project team, and your job entails communicating your findings to that team, your ability to effectively relay information to various stakeholders will be well-practised.
  • computer skills and other technologies: As well as demonstrating core skills in engineering science, technology, maths and geography, you will be experienced in using CAD and GIS software to compile site reports. Your instrument usage will be highly advanced and include positioning systems and data logging. You will also use office and project management software.
two colleagues walking and having conversation outdoor
two colleagues walking and having conversation outdoor


FAQs about working as a land surveyor

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