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Surveying - An American Profession

Monday, October 2, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Perry D. Cloyd, PS
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Article by Perry D. Cloyd, PS published in the Summer issue of the Hoosier Surveyor.   

What is that old saying, “ I have seen the enemy and he is us” by Pogo the Possum [a Walt Kelly comic]. I was recently told a surveyor said, “Why would someone want to be a surveyor when all they can make is $60,000 a year?”  When I heard this I was outraged to say the least. When you are building your career Charlie Daniels says you should never look at the empty seats, but this attitude is clearly looking at the empty seats and is a “the cup is half empty” attitude if I ever heard it.


Take a look at the national average for all incomes, $48,099. Ever seen it adjusted to remove the high dollar jobs on the east and west coast, or ever seen the average for all incomes in Indiana [$46,438]? The median household income in California is $61,818 compared to Texas’ $53,207. I am here to tell you, brother, welcome to the land of milk and honey. We can start our surveyor technicians at almost that national/state average and they can quickly surpass that barrier.


Now how does your $60,000 per year look? The cost of living here is much lower than either Texas or California. An equivalent annual salary in those locations could be as much as double those amounts.


Surveying is a perfect example of the American dream; better yet, it personifies everything there is about America and being American. Now I understand it is American to complain; the Pilgrims were complaining when they came to this land and the Indians were complaining shortly after they got here.  But a “woe is me” attitude places blinders on what is really great about what we do.


Ever wonder why so many founding fathers were surveyors? Land then and land today is one of the most valuable commodities around, and no one is making more. What we see is all we have. What surveyors do with it determines its final value. No one really ever expands, builds, develops or improves without the input of a surveyor in some manner.


When all the land in the new world became available, who do you think was commissioned first to inspect and map the resources available? Exactly, the surveyor. That made theirs one of the most sought after professions of the day. Before any established cities [with their trade, industry, art, entertainment or stores] existed, surveyors determined what existed, what was available and where improvements would best be placed. Beyond that, the idea of surveying the frontier provided a new start, new rules and new adventures. Everything was built from scratch, always something from nothing. All knew it would never be easy, but they were always able to move forward. They also knew there were no boundaries or restrictions, and that they could dream as big as they wanted.


If the perceived importance of our profession is less now than it was then, it is our own fault.


Ancient surveying has been an element in the development of the human environment since the beginning of recorded history.  Basic surveyance has occurred since humans built the first large structures. The prehistoric monument at Stonehenge (c. 2500 BC) was set out by prehistoric surveyors using peg and rope geometry. The almost perfect squareness and north-south orientation of the Great Pyramid of Giza, built c. 2700 BC, affirm the Egyptians' command of surveying.  The Romans recognized land surveyors as a profession, known as Gromatici, and they established the basic measurements under which the Roman Empire was divided.


Now that you know where it has been, how does that fit where we are today? What is your passion? History, Law, Science, Research, Space, Technology? It is all here!


By definition, Surveying or land surveying [taken from Wikipedia] is the technique, profession, and science of determining the terrestrial or three-dimensional position of points and the distances and angles between them. Surveyors work with elements of geometry, trigonometry, regression analysis, physics, engineering, metrology, programming languages and the law. They use equipment like robotic total stations, GPS receivers, retroreflectors, 3D scanners, radios, handheld tablets, digital levels, subsurface locators, drones, GIS and surveying software.


Still with me? Modern surveying allows you to work at any level that meets your personality. You can stay in the field, work mapping the land, discovering/recovering property boundaries or staking/managing construction project; all in a boots and jeans if you so desire.


Or, you can start in the field and move to the office. Here you can apply your skills to drafting, accounting, database entry, research, documentation. Again you can move forward to project management. What is your desire in projects? Small, large, national or international? Again, if this is what you want, it is out there. All you have to do is go get it.


Want more? Obtain additional education for advancement. This could lead to staff management, a professional license or business ownership.


Want to be your own person and own a business? Do you want to own a small business, a large business, a national business or a worldwide business? Do you want to be a full service provider? A subject matter expert? Contract or consultant specializing in certain parts of projects [boundary, ALTA, FEMA/Flood/drainage]?


Like technology? We have it in spades and at all levels. Do you get a charge out of working with a hammer, tape, lath and machete? You probably did not think of these as technological advancements! What about computers, software implementation or software development? Want to do personal customization for your own use or programming for company use? Lasers, scanners, satellite measurements, drones, robots, GIS, GPR, LIDAR and reference networks are also available.


More book oriented? What about the law, the history and the investigation? You can apply yourself like Sherlock Holmes, investigating clues left behind, following the footsteps of early travelers. Thru this effort you would be providing the intent and interpretation of previous works and determining legal precedent applied by courts.


Need more? What about contracts, both business and conveyance. Not only can you create them, you can actually become an expert on these subjects and provide valuable assistance to other professionals as well as the general public.


There is no dream that cannot be achieved within the profession of surveying. If it can be seen, thought or imagined, it is available. I defy you to think of one thing that motivates you or excites you that cannot be found within the ranks of the surveying profession.


Never tell me we have limits; that dog won’t hunt. In an industry where the Baby Boomers are retiring and replacements are limited, there is no reason a surveyor cannot advance.


We each must realize, every time we set in a seminar or attend a conference, the only difference between the person at the front of the class and those in the seats is the desire to share gained experience.


The only thing that ever holds back a surveyor is a surveyor.

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