What is a Project Surveyor?

Kevin P. Hanson

A project surveyor, sometimes also referred to as a survey party chief, directs the daily work activities of an engineering field survey crew. Personnel in this highly-trained journey-level classification are primarily responsible for training other project survey crewmembers to ensure successful performance and safety. Work assignments and general directions are apt to come to project surveyors from deputy county surveyors at most work sites.

A project surveyor, sometimes also referred to as a survey party chief, directs the daily work activities of an engineering field survey crew.
A project surveyor, sometimes also referred to as a survey party chief, directs the daily work activities of an engineering field survey crew.

In addition to their administrative duties, project surveyors normally perform many of the more technically complex surveying tasks involved in a project, such as plane and geodetic surveys for control, right-of-way, topographic and construction projects. At some jobsites, project surveyors coordinate various engineering duties. Often this includes directing the layout of the project’s construction work, compiling field survey data and contributing to planning and scheduling meetings with contractor representatives, project managers and on-site engineers.

Civil engineering projects often require the consultation of a surveyor.
Civil engineering projects often require the consultation of a surveyor.

The construction and improvement of roadways, bridges and flood control areas are some of the common jobs that fall under a project surveyor’s purview. The work can be done both indoors and outdoors. Indoor work tends to be in an office-type setting and involve performing tasks like determining boundaries, researching legal descriptions and studying topographic survey data. Much of the outdoor work for a project surveyor is carried out at construction sites and landfills. Requirements for the job usually include the ability to lift and move equipment and other objects weighing up to 75 pounds (34 kgs), knowledge of laws and regulations governing the subdivision of land and the capability to write technical reports.

When it comes to supervising a crew of workers in the field, a project surveyor or party chief has the capability to assign, prioritize and schedule work. Project surveyors are usually involved in evaluating staff performance, enforcing safety regulations and procedures and directly training crewmembers. The ability to establish and maintain amiable working relationships with the public, co-workers and government officials with diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds is also necessary.

Project surveyors and survey party chiefs are expected to be skilled at using engineering calculators, Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and computer-aided design (CAD) programs. They use these tools to perform several different tasks, including measuring angles, calculating distances and recording elevations. This data is subsequently compiled in detailed field notes and drawings. In order to learn all of these skills, most project surveyors obtain a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering or similar academic discipline. Upon graduation, those pursuing a project surveyor career traditionally seek jobs as an engineering technician, cartographer or surveying and mapping technician to gain the work experience necessary to apply for certification as a Land Surveyor-In-Training (LSIT).

A project surveyor may be responsible for directing the layout of a project's construction work.
A project surveyor may be responsible for directing the layout of a project's construction work.

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