Editor's Note

A "Degree" of Contention.

Whether a four-year degree should be required for licensure is a divisive issue among land surveyors. Some say the four-year degree should be mandatory nationally. (It already is required in about 16 states.) Others say there should be an option to allow people to work their way through the ranks to licensure. I've hesitated to come down on one side or the other-knowing that whichever side of the fence I landed on, there would be those on the other side waiting to tell me I was wrong.

However, after attending the Land Surveyor's Forum at the annual meeting of the NCEES (the group responsible for the Land Surveying Fundamentals and Principles and Practice exams), I believe that a four-year degree requirement should be a national goal for the profession. My friends, by no means am I suggesting that those who have worked their way through the ranks to registration are less skilled or less able than those who've earned their degrees. I came to my decision based on a matter of practicality. Required or not-those entering the profession are going to need that education to pass the exam.

Read these statistics, and tell me if you disagree:

  • Only 38 percent of those who took the Fundamentals of Land Surveying exam in October 1999 passed. In April 2000, 43 percent passed.
  • Of those who had a four-year degree from an ABET-accredited college or university, 52.5 percent passed in October 1999 and 74.3 percent passed in April 2000.
  • For the Principles and Practices of Land Surveying exam, 45 percent passed in October 1999 and 54 percent passed in April 2000.
  • Of those who had a four-year degree from an ABET-accredited college or university, 70.3 percent passed in October 1999 and 82.2 percent passed in April 2000.

(The results of those with degrees from non-ABET accredited programs were not as dramatic, but they still performed better than those with no degrees.)

Both the Fundamentals of Land Surveying and Principles and Practice of Land Surveying exams were changed prior to the October 1999 test to become more curriculum-based. For a breakdown of which topics are covered in each exam and the full pass rate results of those who took the exam over the past four years, go to The documents are available in the "Reference" section (look for it on the menu bar on the left side of the homepage).

Of course, a four-year degree requirement would be impractical in those states where there are few (or no) colleges and universities offering survey degrees. At the Land Surveyor's Forum there was an interesting discussion about how to attack the lack of degree programs available. That will be the subject of my next month's diatribe. Stay tuned¿

Jackie Headapohl

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