A reader responds to Mickie Warwick's July column on education versus experience.

July 2004
The Academic Angle

The article by Mickie Warwick ("Formal education versus experience") presents some interesting material. One of the controversial statements she made was that a four-year degree should be a minimum requirement for licensure as a professional surveyor. Such a requirement implies that no amount of surveying experience and knowledge (other than acquired through college) could adequately prepare a person to be a surveyor. It implies that attendance at a university or college is the only way you can acquire all of the needed knowledge.

The amount of knowledge that a person needs to be qualified as a surveyor is one of the difficult decisions that the licensing boards have to make. Once they have established what amount of surveying related knowledge a person needs to be qualified as a surveyor, then the boards have to decide what questions to ask to determine if that knowledge has been acquired. The final decision should not be based on whether the applicant has a two- or four-year degree, but should be based on the amount of surveying expertise the applicant has acquired. To say that a four-year degree should be mandatory is unjust and makes it appear that the only way an applicant can learn is by attending a college or university. It should be kept in mind that the whole profession of surveying is a learning process itself and to argue that the college or university has a corner on the learning process is untenable. The two- or four-year curriculum simply speeds up the learning process. There is nothing taught in college that cannot be learned elsewhere.

Another problem the licensing boards have is to assure that there are enough surveyors throughout the state to meet the needs of the public. If a four-year degree were required it would probably decrease by more than half the number of applicants now approved each year. Such a requirement along with the increasing knowledge required to pass board examinations would undoubtedly result in more and more work for fewer and fewer surveyors. Perhaps that's what the elite group who have to go to college would like.

Ms. Warwick states, "Can apprenticeship alone produce a qualified professional surveyor? Absolutely not!" But then in the last paragraph of her article she seems to refute herself by saying, "If they worked under a competent surveyor and have had a wide variety of experiences, they may be qualified professional surveyors." What constitutes being qualified? I thought being qualified meant that you had met the state's requirements and had been licensed. Am I right or am I wrong?

Ms. Warwick makes a few other arguable points but, in general, her article was thought-provoking and enhanced the benefits of a formal education.

Bill Leonard, PLS
North Carolina