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What is more important: education or experience?

August 31, 2000
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What is more important: education or experience?

A topic often discussed in the surveying and mapping industry is that of experience vs. education. In July, we asked visitors to POB Online if education or experience was most important. Not surprisingly, 31 of 33 respondents said, "Both are necessary." The other two (2) said experience was most important. Here's what else our 33 respondents told us:
  • The majority, 16, said they possess four-year degrees; six (6) hold high school diplomas; seven (7) hold two-year degrees and four (4) more obtained certificates.
  • Eighteen (18) respondents have over 15 years experience in the industry; six (6) have 9-15 years; three (3) have 1-3 years; and six (6) have 4-8 years.
  • Nineteen (19) respondents said a four-year degree requirement is not mandatory in their states; thirteen (13) said it is; one (1) didn¿t know.
  • Fourteen (14) people said they favored a four-year degree requirement over a two-year degree requirement; 11 favor a two-year degree; and eight (8) favor neither.

Here are some of their comments:

"A four-year degree in surveying is probably not necessary. A two-year degree in surveying and a four-year degree in something (business, human resources, etc.) would be of more use. I believe this combination coupled with field experience would make a better-rounded surveyor."--LS, Okla., N.M. (favors four-year degree)

"There is too much technology for the average person to pick up through everyday use. For instance, I have a party chief that can run our RTK unit very well; however, he doesn't know why it works or how to handle the data as far as its accuracies. He cannot compute stakeout in the field from site plans. But, he can take a worksheet and a list of coordinates and survey faster and as precise as an educated party chief. There just can't be any unknown to solve in the field."--LS, Va. (favors four-year degree)

"A four-year degree will give a young surveyor a wide spectrum of different approaches to surveying work. Being exposed to the theories behind traverse adjustment and computing state plane coordinates does not get taught on the job. Much of the basics, and history and evolution of surveying does not happen on the time clock. It does happen in the classroom."--EIT and LSIT, Ill. (favors four-year degree)

"I believe that some education is important, however, when it comes to land surveying, there is nothing that can replace field experience."--RLS, Ariz. (favors two-year degree)

"I am in favor of mandatory education. Experience does not teach you all the different aspects of the trace. If only taught by experience, the "student" is limited by the jobs available. I also feel that a mandatory four-year degree would be asking too much. The pay is not there. If someone is going to all that expense and effort, they will go for a different degree in a field that pays better."--LSIT, Ariz. (favors two-year degree)

"A four-year degree would be wonderful IF it were a surveying curriculum actually taught by surveyors. Most four-year programs are engineering programs with a small specialization in surveying. Unfortunately, most programs are requiring doctorate level instructors who are products of the engineering program. I think a program that actually uses professional surveyors as instructors would be very well received."--PLS, Ariz. (favors two-year degree)

"Two years of a good program is enough to teach the principles. Most of what we do requires experience in the field, as no two survey projects are ever alike. It takes that experience to make a good surveyor able to adapt to all types of projects, situations, and make the important judgment calls in this industry."--PS, Ohio (favors two-year degree)

"Surveying has a history as a mentorship profession. Although I am not opposed to education, I favor keeping tradition. If you can pass the LS exam, then you should be qualified regardless of your level of education."--LSIT, Calif. (doesn't favor either program)

"I believe an intensive two-year course with few, if any, elective subjects, would be adequate. I don't believe that many will choose a four-year degree in surveying when a degree in engineering would offer more options for employment."--Surveyor, Tenn. (favors two-year degree)

"The field of surveying and mapping is becoming more complex and requires the foundational tools that only a rigorous four-year program can bring. However, it should never replace the practical experience gained by at least an equal amount of time in the field. Both are necessary to producing competent practitioners in our unique profession."--LS, Md. (favors four-year degree)

"The amount of people who are surveying and/or are looking into surveying is small. Most major colleges will not put enough effort, time and money for such a small number of people willing to spend the time and money for a four-year degree. I also do not agree that a four-year degree makes you a good surveyor. I know too many four-year degree engineers who are bad engineers who think too much over design and really do a poor job. There are so many good surveyors out there that I look up to and strive to reach their level of experience. If they had been required to have a four-year degree to become party chiefs, chiefs of survey or company owners, our industry would have suffered a great loss."--LS, Kan. (doesn't favor either program)

"Technology has left many field crews with wonderful ways to perform a survey; however, they now need to go to school to understand where the data they get is coming from. Many companies train someone on a data collector and don't show how stakeout is computed long hand."--LS, Md. (favors four-year degree)

"No matter what the discipline, a four-year degree will improve a person's communications skills, attitude toward other professionals and one's self-confidence. And for those that believe a four-year degree is not necessary for surveying, I disagree. They are the ones that will continue to charge too little for services and wonder why they are over stressed and underpaid. Why do civil engineers make more money? Because they have a four-year degree. It surely is not because what they do is rocket science. Surveyors should wake up. Civil engineers can't live without us."--LS, Md. (favors four-year degree)

Congratulations to Mike Miller, Phoenix, Ariz., and Scott Bloomenrader, Billings, Mont.--our final monthly POB gear winners!

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