Surveying and Mapping Technicians

Quick Facts: Surveying and Mapping Technicians
2017 Median Pay $43,340 per year 
$20.84 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Moderate-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2016 60,200
Job Outlook, 2016-26 11% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 6,400

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Surveying and Mapping Technicians Career, Salary, and Education Information

What Surveying and Mapping Technicians Do

Surveying and mapping technicians collect data and make maps of the Earth’s surface. Surveying technicians visit sites to take measurements of the land. Mapping technicians use geographic data to create maps. They both assist surveyors, and cartographers and photogrammetrists.


Surveying and Mapping Technicians

Duties of surveying and mapping technicians

Surveying technicians typically do the following:

  • Visit sites to record survey measurements and other descriptive data

  • Operate surveying instruments, such as electronic distance-measuring equipment (robotic total stations), to collect data on a location

  • Set out stakes and marks to conduct a survey

  • Search for previous survey points, such as old stone markers

  • Enter the data from surveying instruments into computers, either in the field or in an office

Surveying technicians help surveyors in the field on teams known as survey parties. A typical survey party has a party chief and one or more surveying technicians. The party chief, either a surveyor or a senior surveying technician, leads day-to-day work activities. After data is collected by the survey party, surveying technicians help process the data by entering the data into computers.

Mapping technicians typically do the following:

  • Select needed information from databases to create maps

  • Edit and process images that have been collected in the field

  • Produce maps showing boundaries, water locations, elevation, and other features of the terrain

  • Update maps to ensure accuracy

  • Assist photogrammetrists by laying out aerial photographs in sequence to identify areas not captured by aerial photography

Mapping technicians help cartographers and photogrammetrists produce and update maps. They do this work on computers, combining data from different sources. Mapping technicians may use drones to take photos and collect other information required to complete maps or surveys.

Work Environment for Surveying and Mapping Technicians

Surveying and mapping technicians held about 60,200 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of surveying and mapping technicians were as follows:

Architectural, engineering, and related services: 56%

Local government, excluding education and hospitals: 11%

Self-employed workers: 9%

Utilities: 4%

Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction: 3%

Most surveying and mapping technicians work for firms that provide engineering, surveying, and mapping services on a contractual basis. Local governments also employ these workers in highway and planning departments.

Work Schedules

Surveying and mapping technicians typically work full time but may work additional hours during the summer, when weather and light conditions are most suitable for fieldwork. Construction-related work may be limited during times of harsh weather. Mapping technicians who develop and maintain Geographic Information System (GIS) databases generally work normal business hours.

How to Become an Surveying and Mapping Technicians

Surveying technicians usually need a high school diploma. However, mapping technicians often need formal education after high school to study technology applications, such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS).


Surveying technicians generally need a high school diploma, but some have postsecondary training in survey technology. Postsecondary training is more common among mapping technicians where an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree in a relevant field, such as geomatics, is beneficial.

High school students interested in working as a surveying or mapping technician should take courses in algebra, geometry, trigonometry, drafting, mechanical drawing, and computer science. Knowledge of these subjects may help in finding a job and in advancing.


Surveying technicians learn their job duties under the supervision of a surveyor or a surveying party chief. Initially, surveying technicians handle simple tasks, such as placing markers on land and entering data into computers. With experience, they help decide where and how to measure the land.

Mapping technicians receive on-the-job training under the supervision of a lead mapper. During training, technicians learn how maps are created and stored in databases.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

The growing need to make sure that data are useful to other professionals has caused certification to become more common. The American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) offers certification for photogrammetry, remote-sensing, and Geographic Information/Land Information Systems (GIS/LIS). The National Society of Professional Surveyors offers the Certified Survey Technician credential, and the GIS Certification Institute offers a GIS Professional certification.


Depending on state licensing requirements, surveying technicians with many years of experience and formal training in surveying may be able to become licensed surveyors.

Important Qualities

Decisionmaking skills. Surveying technicians must be able to exercise some independent judgment in the field because they may not always be able to communicate with team members.

Detail oriented. Surveying and mapping technicians must be precise and accurate in their work. Their results are often entered into legal records.

Listening skills. Surveying technicians work outdoors and must communicate with party chiefs and other team members across distances. Following spoken instructions from the party chief is crucial for saving time and preventing errors.

Physical stamina. Surveying technicians usually work outdoors, often in rugged terrain. Physical fitness is necessary to carry equipment and to stand most of the day.

Problem-solving skills. Surveying and mapping technicians must be able to identify and fix problems with their equipment. They must also note potential problems with the day’s work plan.

salries for Surveying and Mapping Technicians

The median annual wage for surveying and mapping technicians was $43,340 in May 2017. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $26,670, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $71,440.

In May 2017, the median annual wages for surveying and mapping technicians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Utilities: $59,640

Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction: $51,520

Local government, excluding education and hospitals: $49,870

Architectural, engineering, and related services: $39,820

Job Outlook for surveying and mapping technicians

Employment of surveying and mapping technicians is projected to grow 11 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. Increased demand for mapping technology is expected to require additional technicians to gather and prepare the data.

Job Prospects

Overall prospects for surveying and mapping technicians should be very good due to job growth. Some additional job openings will result from the need to replace workers who leave the occupation.

Demand for surveying services is closely tied to construction activity, and job opportunities will vary by geographic region, often depending on local economic conditions. When real estate sales and construction activity slow down, surveying technicians may face greater competition for jobs. However, because surveying technicians can work on many different types of projects, they may have steadier work than others when construction slows.

Employment projections data for Surveying and Mapping Technicians, 2016-26

Employment, 2016: 60,200

Projected Employment, 2026: 66,600

Change, 2016-2026: +11%, +6,400


Careers related to surveying and mapping technicians


Architects plan and design houses, factories, office buildings, and other structures.

Cartographers and Photogrammetrists

Cartographers and photogrammetrists collect, measure, and interpret geographic information in order to create and update maps and charts for regional planning, education, emergency response, and other purposes.

Civil Engineering Technicians

Civil engineering technicians help civil engineers to plan, design, and build highways, bridges, utilities, and other infrastructure projects. They also help to plan, design, and build commercial, industrial, residential, and land development projects.

Construction and Building Inspectors

Construction and building inspectors ensure that construction meets local and national building codes and ordinances, zoning regulations, and contract specifications.


Drafters use software to convert the designs of engineers and architects into technical drawings. Most workers specialize in architectural, civil, electrical, or mechanical drafting and use technical drawings to help design everything from microchips to skyscrapers.


Geographers study the Earth and the distribution of its land, features, and inhabitants. They also examine political or cultural structures and study the physical and human geographic characteristics of regions ranging in scale from local to global.

Geological and Petroleum Technicians

Geological and petroleum technicians provide support to scientists and engineers in exploring and extracting natural resources, such as minerals, oil, and natural gas.

Landscape Architects

Landscape architects design parks and the outdoor spaces of campuses, recreational facilities, businesses, private homes, and other open areas.


Surveyors make precise measurements to determine property boundaries. They provide data relevant to the shape and contour of the Earth’s surface for engineering, mapmaking, and construction projects.

ArchitectsBachelor's degree$78,470
Cartographers and PhotogrammetristsBachelor's degree$63,990
DraftersAssociate's degree$54,170
Landscape ArchitectsBachelor's degree$65,760
SurveyorsBachelor's degree$61,140
Civil Engineering TechniciansAssociate's degree$51,620
Construction and Building InspectorsHigh school diploma or equivalent$59,090
Geological and Petroleum TechniciansAssociate's degree$54,190
GeographersBachelor's degree$76,860


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Surveying and Mapping Technicians,
on the Internet at