Point of Beginning

Who is out in the fields and offices of surveying firms and how do they think their companies are doing?

July 5, 2000
Point of View, July 2000. A major concern in the surveying industry is the recruitment of employees.

A major concern in the surveying industry is the recruitment of employees. To get an idea of who is out in the fields and offices of surveying firms and how they think their companies are doing, we asked visitors to POB Online (www.pobonline.com) to answer a few questions…and provide some suggestions.

Of the 42 responses, 14 said there are 1 to 5 employees in their office; eight others said 6 to 10; another eight said 21 to 30; two said 11 to 20 and 10 said there were more than 30 employees in their office.

The length of employment of these employees were as follows: under six months, 1; 1-2 years, 5; 3-5 years, 6; 5-10 years, 21; 11-15 years, 5; over 15 years, 4.

The industry isn’t exactly “graying” either. Twenty-eight of the respondents said the average age range of their employees is between 26 and 40; another 14 respondents gave the range of 41 to 60. As far as turnover among companies, 33 said it was low; eight said medium and only one said turnover was high. Reasons for medium to high turnover included retirement, competing salaries and the common drive for diversity. Positive responses to low turnover included being treated well, paid well, having good benefits, a good work environment and working with good people. Thirty-five respondents said their companies offer benefits, and all said they were decent. When asked what the best part of working for their companies is, we got a plethora of answers, including good benefits and salary, a good work environment and good people.

Here are some other answers:

“Our company works as a team and everyone strives for the same goals. We get the job done and do it to the best of our ability.”—LS, Ind.

“The high-quality reputation of our firm and its informal work environment.”—LS and CE, Tenn.

“Flexibility and the opportunity to perform a wide variety of tasks.”—LS, Calif.

“The ability to work on large projects and learn different aspects of the business.”—LS, Md.

“There is a variety of challenges and problems to be solved. I never get bored. There is the opportunity for public service.”—Cadastral specialist, Calif.

“Independence of working on our own, and the variety of projects we work on.”—LS, Mont.

“The people I work with and for are the best part of working here. I also have a fair amount of autonomy in my day-to-day work which is a big plus.”—Surveyor, Colo.

“The opportunity to retrace original government surveys, the opportunity and encouragement to become registered, my willingness to train people to be professional surveyors regardless of their level.”—LS, Wis.

We also asked POB Online visitors what they think would entice more people to the industry. Here are some of their suggestions:

“It is a fun and always evolving industry. No two projects are the same so that makes your work more interesting.”—LS, Ind.

“Surveyors used to be highly respected people in society. We lost that somewhere. When we regain that respect, more people will come. I think that means as much as better pay.”—LS, Ga.

“The recognition that land surveying is important, necessary and as valuable to a project as architecture, engineering and contracting would greatly help. Too often, surveying “staking” is placed at the bottom of the budget. The irony is that if plans don’t work or a contractor makes an error, the surveyor is blamed.”—LS, Calif.

“We need to reach out and interest more women and minorities to work within surveying. We need to show people the practical use of mathematics and let them see the practices we all enjoy.”—Surveyor, Ariz.

“Additional four-year college degree programs offered at more colleges and universities.”—Field Engineer, Md.

“More exposure at the high school level. Most kids know what an engineer is, but they do not know what a surveyor is.”—LSIT, Ariz.

“It’s not just a money thing, but if you look at a job list when you are thinking about an occupation and see the pay scales, you will most likely not look at surveying.”—LS, Kan.

“More ‘career day’ appearances by NSPS and other ACSM affiliates in high schools and community colleges. More community support for improving math instruction in schools.”—Cadastral specialist, Calif.

“I believe more people would enter the profession of surveying if ALL of the current members of the profession: a) adopted the standard business practice of working for a reasonable profit; b) helped to uphold the profession whenever possible, and truly act as consultants to clients; c) behave as professionals…get an office (get out of the garage); keep equipment and vehicles clean, in good repair and updated; stay current with hardware, firmware and software; continually be trained with new equipment, techniques and methodologies; dress, groom and act as a professional…especially in the field. Remember, some clients only meet the field crew and base their impression of the entire company upon two people; and d) educate the public about surveying, its importance, its history and its future. All of these issues affect how the profession is perceived…if these issues are addressed properly, the profession will gain membership.”—Project surveyor/GPS manager, Colo.

“Many people do not realize what surveying involves. When they learn how much technical training is involved, many are too impatient or too lazy to take the time to learn.”—LS, Tenn.

The most frequent suggestion to enticing more people to the industry was greater pay.

“Too many other occupations offer better pay unless you are at the top of the chain. Surveyors start out at $7 to $8 an hour for no or little experience. Fast food is locally offering $8 to $9 to cook fries. Something is really wrong with the pay scales in this occupation. The pay surveyors get will not attract new employees and now many are saying you will need a $20,000 degree. Do the math!—LS, Kan.