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Licensed Land Surveyors: An Endangered Species?
More and more, I am reading stories regarding the diminishing number of licensed land surveyors across our country. The numbers are staggering and paint a sobering picture of the state of this wonderful profession. I am doing my best not to sound pessimistic, but the numbers don’t lie. I truly believe our profession will look a whole lot different in 20 years than it does today. I hear stories of colleges closing their geomatics programs (FAU-Florida) due to not meeting the minimum number of graduates. What strikes me most about this situation is the potential for opportunities in surveying and mapping today. With all of the new and exciting technologies and the need for young professionals both in the field and in the office, you would think there would be a greater interest for people to enter the profession. The reality is that I struggle every day in finding field and office staff. I am in a position where I have to turn down work because I cannot provide adequate staff. I believe this disconnect highlights the fact that we have not done the best job in educating our youth about our profession. My question to the survey community is, is this situation a “self-inflicted” wound?
My next area of concern is with regard to some (not all) state licensing boards. To provide some perspective, I have been a practicing land surveyor for over 31 years and licensed in multiple states in the southeast and northeast portions of the country. I also maintain an NCEE record to assist with license application in other states. My experience includes all facets of surveying and mapping operations including transportation, land development, subdivision mapping, GIS, GPS, etc. The reason for my post relates to some of the state boards I’ve encountered. I understand and accept the requirements for state specific exams and feel they are critical to ensure that licensees understand and comply with local regulations. What I don’t understand is the subjective nature of getting approved to sit for state specific exams. Regardless of meeting the minimum requirements to sit for the exam, some states (especially in the New England region) are very subjective as to whom they let sit or pass. For example, the rule of thumb with New Hampshire is that you have to fail three times before they will even think of letting you pass. This applies to licensed professionals in adjoining states. If you do fail, you are not allowed any review of the areas you came up short with. In speaking with my fellow surveyors, many of whom are licensed throughout the region, it is not worth the time or effort to apply. They just accept that it is way too difficult and subjective. I’ve heard the same stories about Rhode Island. I heard a story where an applicant ended up taking the board to court because they would not make a decision on his application (they sat on it for years). He ultimately won the right to sit for an exam and passed. Please don’t judge me on where I was born, where I live, who I know or any other subjective matter. All I’m asking for is to be judged on my experience, minimum qualifications to sit for an exam, and my ability to learn the local laws and regulations, and the opportunity to sit and pass an exam. That’s all.
Trust me when I say that I am not looking to pick on any state board. What I am highlighting is the fact that these boards are mostly comprised of fellow land surveyors and yet they continue to make our situation more challenging than it needs to be. I’m not advocating making exams easier or loosening the requirements. What I’m asking for is for the survey community as a whole (including state boards) to make the process less subjective and help promote licensing for those that meet the minimum requirements. If I was a civil engineer, I would just need to complete my application and send in a check to practice in an adjoining state. Once again, I feel that our profession is shooting itself in the foot as our numbers continue to decline. Oh well. Nothing new.
Posted by John Surveyor