Editor's Points: Hidden Opportunities

When you look at an annual market study like POB’s Salary & Benefits Study, it’s easy to take the numbers at face value. Year to year, there doesn’t appear to be much fluctuation. Trends are gradual and can be difficult to spot at first glance.

But analyze the numbers over several years, review the comments submitted in the open-ended section, and talk to a few dozen people at conferences and in interviews, and you’ll soon notice major shifts occurring in the market.

As a case in point, it wasn’t at all surprising to see that boundary, cadastral and topographic surveys are the most commonly performed types of work, with 85 percent of respondents indicating this category. Likewise, the low numbers in categories such as laser scanning/imaging (9 percent), building information modeling (BIM) (5 percent) and data management consulting (4 percent) were anticipated.

A gradual decline in the average gross salary over the last several years was noteworthy, but it wasn’t significant enough to puzzle over. After all, many surveying and mapping professionals are still trying to recover from the recession, and housing and land development continue to lag. It was even encouraging to see that the situation has at least stabilized, with the majority of respondents reporting that their salaries were the same as or slightly higher than the previous year.

But when I saw a supplemental analysis of the mean salary by types of work performed, I had to do a double take. The chart was almost a complete reverse of the types of work performed--the smallest reporting sectors were the ones showing the highest salaries, while the more traditional areas of work were on the lower end. (See the graphic on page 14 for a comparison.)

I was reviewing these charts on the way back from the Autodesk Media Summit, where the software giant was launching new design suites along with expanded cloud services and improved collaboration and data management tools. (See New & Notable on page 53 for more details.). A number of professionals at the event shared how they successfully integrated data management and BIM on projects ranging from hospital design and construction to civil infrastructure, railroads and municipal water systems. Clearly, BIM isn’t limited to buildings. It’s also just at the tip of the iceberg. And while laser scanning was discussed as a data capture tool, next-generation photogrammetry and UAVs were mentioned, too.

Despite the numbers in POB’s Salary & Benefits study, professionals recognize the trends. In the open-ended section, the top three keys to success indicated by respondents were education, diversification and technology application.

To me, the low numbers in the types of work performed indicate hidden opportunity. Embrace the changes, look for new ways to add value, and you’ll soon find yourself at the top of the salary list.

You can find more highlights from the study on pages 13-16 in this issue. Drop me a line to let me know if the trends you see are accurately reflected in the study. I’d love to hear from you.

To contact the editor, send an e-mail to

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