As any professional land surveyor knows, we are a part of a great profession. It offers tremendous variety, the chance to work outdoors, the opportunity to apply math and geography skills in the real world, and the satisfaction of contributing something of lasting value and importance.
For me, it has always been about doing something different every day, exploring new technology and making a difference by helping landowners solve problems. So why aren’t young people lining up to become surveyors? Because they don’t know about it.
I did a quick online review of what careers are being recommended to high school and middle school students, and surveying didn’t make any of the lists. That is unfortunate. According to the Princeton Review, “. . . surveying job opportunities are expected to increase by more than 20 percent in the next ten years.” Furthermore, surveying offers stable hours, decent pay. Plus, job satisfaction increases as experience increases.
That last point is essential. Experience and satisfaction do not correlate in many careers — I’ve learned this from friends who are not lucky enough to be surveyors.
The National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS) has been active in working with high school counselors and doing outreach through its public relations and workforce development committees. This outreach includes offering real money in the form of scholarships to high school and college students pursuing a degree in mapping/land surveying.
One specific program is the Trig-Star Competition. This competition recognizes and rewards high school students who excel in mathematics. Students have the opportunity to win a $2,000 scholarship, and their teachers also receive a cash award. Also, just for participating in the contest in high school, students are eligible to apply for the $5,000 and $2,500 Trig-Star Scholarships to support their college classes in surveying/engineering.
And while I must say, many times the Trig-Star winners are ones that pursue other avenues in life, the point of the whole program is it gives us a great opportunity to talk to a classroom full of students, wide-eyed and willing to hear all about what makes our profession so fun and rewarding.
Additionally, NSPS has become the source of the “Get Kids Into Survey” campaign here in the US. This program is unique, as it is designed to engage kids at the grade school level, or even younger, as well as their parents, on the different activities and types of surveying we can be involved in. They use posters (like the one above) with hidden objects, coloring sheets, and some pretty cool cartoon characters to help kids and parents understand surveying and its limitless boundaries (pun intended).
Many businesses also support surveying with scholarships. For example, Berntsen has been underwriting NSPS scholarships for decades. Most scholarships are also available to people who are changing careers, not just high school students.
Associating data with location is a big part of what we, as land surveyors, do. Simply put, we either take information from the world we live in and make a digital representation of that data, or just the opposite; we take a digital or picture representation and portray that information on the ground. We regularly use both traditional tools, along with sophisticated technology like drones, laser scanning and LiDAR to create an experience that can be compared to gaming or augmented reality. It is a lot of fun, with the added benefit of providing an essential service to the public as well as our clients.
Today, more than ever, people need a fulfilling and reliable career — a profession they can count on in good times and bad. The pandemic, which has nearly erased whole business sectors, has had minimal impact on land surveying. We have been able to continue working in the field, socially distant, of course, making sure surveys are completed, construction continues, and infrastructure projects move forward.
Strangely, the pandemic may have even helped raise the visibility of mapping, which is aligned with surveying. Along with being an essential service, surveyors are using technology to enhance and expand the depth and breadth of spatial understanding of the world.
The Johns-Hopkins map of Covid-19 was the leading graphic in the media for months on end. This Esri storymap illustrates power of associating data with location — it is an instantly understandable way of displaying complex data. And, with the pandemic putting many people out of work, a career in surveying can provide not only good pay, but a fulfilling and reliable career. The CARES Act appropriated financial aid for students and for those who need to re-train due to COVID-19.
In short, we’ve got a great story to tell! I encourage all of us to use our own networks, including presentations at your children’s schools, reaching out to your local guidance counselors, sharing your profession with parents in your community, sharing stories on social media and more.
Here are a few resources to get you started:
- NSPS Career Info Page
- Information about NSPS Scholarships
- CARES Grant funding for career and technical education programs. (Students can research how to access this funding through the school they attend or want to attend. They will also have to fill out a FAFSA application.)
It will benefit all of us to connect with people whose aspirations will be captivated by all that surveying offers. It just takes a bit of effort on all our parts. You have a responsibility to your profession to continue to grow it and make it stronger for future generations.
Now is a great time. What can you do to make a difference?