Editor's Note: We have received almost 30 letters in response to the student editorial "Professionalism (or the lack thereof in surveying)" published in our March issue. We will continue to publish these responses in upcoming issues to continue the discussion on education, experience and professionalism in surveying. We thank you for your letters.
Future PerspectivesWhen it comes to pricing from surveyors, it seems "Whatever I can get away with" is the mindset of most surveyors [and that] the quality of the work and the amount of time are secondary. I have seen this practice from just about every surveyor I have worked for. We are the most underpaid trade or profession on the jobsite.
After allowing Matthew Mitchell's article to simmer a few days, I believe he may be partially correct regarding the requirement of formal education for surveyors. This at least would turn out surveyors who refuse to settle for the type of wages typically paid by the mom-and-pop shops. Of course, finding anyone willing to spend four years and all that money on a surveying degree when they could just as well obtain an engineering degree or an IT degree is going to be hard to do. I would not be a licensed surveyor now if that was the case because I am one of those who would not spend the time or money on a surveying degree. I have no doubt anyone with an entrepreneurial bent could walk out [his or her] door [on] any given morning, start a lawn care business, and earn as much money in an eight-month year as most surveyors do in 12 months (granted, one would still work as many hours).
Mitchell's comparison of surveying to medicine is not even close. Even a comparison [of] engineering and architecture to surveying is almost without merit. Consider [that] engineers and architects do not dig in the ground [or] cut line. These ladies and gentlemen are perceived as more professional because they do not get their hands dirty. So, unless Mitchell proposes [that] surveyors no longer dig or cut, and only go to the field to oversee in their clean boots and new chinos and finely embroidered company logo shirts, we can have no progress in the public's perception of us.
Mitchell admits he is possibly biased because of his education. That is why he states we should get rid of the lesser-qualified surveyors, at least the ones against formal education. The problem is not so much with non-degreed surveyors (how many licensed surveyors today even had a degree program available to them when they got into this field?) but with those surveyors who have questionable ethics. I speak of those willing to cut any corner (read as non-compliance with regulatory board rules) to get the job at the lowest price. Ridding the profession of everyone who does not believe that a formal education is necessary is somewhat akin to requiring that only people with GOOD eyesight be allowed to drive.
And, while we are on the subject of degrees and public perception, what about realtors? No doubt they are perceived as professionals, more so than surveyors. Most realtors, though, do not have degrees-unless one course at the local community college counts.
Supply and demand will decide what makes up a professional surveyor, I suppose. There will be fewer surveyors, for a while at least, due to degree requirements. I imagine a lot of surveying tasks will be taken over by engineers. In my area, contractors are already hiring their own crews to perform stakeout instead of hiring survey companies. We hear more and more from potential clients that they are being told their current surveyors have six-, nine-, 12-month backlogs due no doubt to lack of personnel and underpricing. Whether or not a formal education will fix this remains to be seen. But, our numbers (licensed surveyors) are dropping already. They can only get smaller with degree requirements. I think we'll see two things happen with these smaller numbers: 1) The good surveyors will charge more money for their services and drop the deadbeat clients, and 2) The lowballers will do less and less professional quality work to keep up with the demand.
M. Reid Church, LS