Charles Harkness, PS, longtime member of the Professional Land Surveyors of Ohio (PLSO) and owner of CR Harkness Surveying and Mapping Inc., has done a variety of projects during his career — including his most recent work on 42,000 acres of land, which is being transferred from American Electric Power to the state of Ohio for a state park. However, there’s one work week, unlike one he’s had since, that stands out to the longtime land surveyor.
“Personally, I had one particular calendar week where I did work on a cemetery, a subdivision, a lawsuit over a boundary and a murder case,” Harkness says.
While it may not be the norm to have that much variety in one week, this goes to show just how many different options land surveying professionals have in the state of Ohio — from location surveys to subdivision development to manufacturing, mining and more.
“Every day is different. Every project is different. Every client is different,” Harkness says.
The range of opportunities keeps the profession exciting and could be one reason why, Harkness notes, many land surveyors aren’t in a rush to retire. Their impact on day-to-day life just might be another reason land surveyors are in it for the long haul.
“Surveying is the foundation of anything that is constructed on this earth,” says Richard Fredrickson, PE, PS, PLSO’s president and owner of Rafter A. LTD. “When you walk out of your house or apartment every day, you are entering into the survey world. Nothing gets built without first having a survey performed.”
But there’s one big problem when it comes to this rewarding and impactful profession.
“There are more surveyors retiring than coming in to the profession,” says Paul Couch, president elect of the PLSO and survey supervisor for the city of Akron. With the amount of consistent work in the state, the need for land surveying professionals is great.
That’s where the PLSO comes in.
The organization, which was founded in 1972 and currently has 892 members, is working hard to raise awareness about the profession and recruit the next generation of land surveying professionals.
“PLSO is committed to encouraging youth to explore surveying as a career path as we realize that surveying is frequently overlooked by those looking for science and math based career paths,” Fredrickson says. “Our organization encourages Trig Star participation and many of us offer our time in career day functions at local high schools across the state.”
Here, Terrence Wright, PE, PS, chief deputy engineer for the Wyandot County Engineer’s Office and the immediate past president for PLSO, discusses the organization’s efforts and the options available to aspiring land surveyors in Ohio.
What would you say is the majority type of work available to land surveyors in Ohio? City or Rural?
Ohio has several large cities, has a lot of agriculture, and everything in between. You can work on ALTA surveys for manufacturing facilities, topographic surveys for residential and commercial development, boundary surveys on a multitude of properties in several different types of surveying systems. You can just do construction staking on many types of construction projects. Some surveyors do Floodplain certificates. All this work can be seen in any area of the state you are in.
What would you say is the most popular (or favorite to conduct) type of work among PLSO members? City or Rural?
That is a hard question to answer because Ohio is so diverse. I think it depends on the individual and what type of environment they are used to working in.
About how large is the PLSO membership? Compared to previous years, is membership growing, holding steady or declining?
PLSO currently has 892 members. Membership is remaining steady.
Do you measure the ethnic diversity of your membership? Why or why not? If you had to guess, what is the current makeup?
We do not measure the ethnic diversity of our members. It is not something that we ask on our membership application. If I had to guess I would say that our membership is proportionate to the amount of different ethnic groups there are in the profession.
How do you feel PLSO has developed the most over the years? Have there been any new initiatives or projects that reflect the association’s growth?
PLSO was formed out of the Ohio Society of Professional Engineer’s in the 1970’s. PLSO was formed to promote the advancement of the profession, protect those engaged in the profession, promote educational programs for those engaged in the profession, promote cooperation among groups of other professional societies representing related professional fields. PLSO provides a forum to express personal, professional, and community opinions on local and state levels, and educate the public about services and activities of the professional surveyor. PLSO has continually held educational seminars even before continuing education was a requirement. PLSO has 18 chapters throughout the state and each chapter has a delegate that can participate in our executive committee meetings and represent their area of the state. Each chapter is encouraged to participate in educational opportunities like the NSPS Trig Star competition each year, the Surveying Merit Badge, and various STEM-related events.
What do you think is affecting the growth of the land surveying profession in Ohio the most? Lack of awareness? Training? Lack of Education? Technology? Licensure?
Recently a task force made up of professional surveyors, educators, state board members was formed to try and answer those very questions and come up with ways to allow more people to have the opportunity to become a professional surveyor in Ohio. Working through that process, Ohio’s registration board has made some administrative rule changes to be more inclusive by providing more paths to licensure. Ohio has many learning institutions with great surveying programs, and some vary from 4-year bachelor’s in surveying to minors in surveying and surveying certificates. I believe there is a lack of understanding by the public as to what professional surveyors do. It is something I believe should be taught more about in grade schools and high schools.
What would you say is the marquee survey project(s) in Ohio, the most famous project happening or that has happened in Ohio?
I would have to say that the marquee survey projects in Ohio deal with boundary retracement of the original surveys and the most famous survey project that has happened are the (20) different types of original surveys we have in Ohio. Ohio is the home of the “Point of Beginning” for surveying the public lands of the United States. The point of beginning is located on the east state line of Ohio just north of the Ohio river. The point of beginning was set on Sept. 30, 1785.
Do survey professionals need their license to be involved with the PLSO?
No, you do not need your license to be involved with PLSO. PLSO has membership classifications that include anyone involved with the surveying profession.
What rules or laws are on the books or up for approval that you would say threaten the survey profession in Ohio? Or will have a great impact?
There is some legislation people are trying to get passed that would give certified professionals from other states automatic reciprocity because they are licensed in another state. PLSO does not support this legislation simply because Ohio has a standard in the profession that we want to hold to. For example, we require that anyone that wants to become a registered Surveyor in Ohio must pass a 2-hour state specific test and that test is required by anyone seeking a state license in addition to the NCEES required test.
Career-wise, what kind of life can you expect as a surveyor in Ohio? Is there a ton of work available? Consistent work?
Yes, currently there is a ton of work and its very consistent work. Surveying can be sort of tied into the economy whether that is local or statewide. Right now, there seems to be more work than there are Surveyors to get the work completed.
What is the best way for someone to get involved in the PLSO?
Visit the PLSO website, where you can get information regarding PLSO membership, what it takes to become a registered surveyor in Ohio and find what educational programs are available to people. Individuals can also contact our executive director through the PLSO website if they have specific questions regarding membership or our education seminars.
Why is Ohio a good place for a land surveying career?
Ohio is a great place for a Land Surveying career because of the diverse types of surveying projects. Whether you like field work over office work or boundary surveying over construction staking, there are many opportunities to thrive. We have it all!