The Business Side
March 2009

You said that “very few of the double monumentation situations exist where registered surveyors are doing their own field work.” That really hit it on the nailhead. To have top-quality surveying, we need to return to the small operator where the professional is hands-on in the field and office. Of course, the high cost of modern equipment almost requires big operations. However, I guess that I am naive enough to believe that small operators working together in co-ops to buy equipment is the way to go.

George M. Cole, PE, PLS, PhD

Great POB article on “double monumenation.” I enjoyed it a lot. At best, it makes us surveyors appear incompetent, and some even think they are the “survey gods.”

Here’s a pic from the lands of Winter Springs, Fla. I’ve seen too many of these … not very smart. You can add this to your collection of “dumb surveying things.” As a project manager I always stress to search AND dig, even if there’s no hum from the metal detector, because not all corners are ferrous.

Mike Lucas, PSM

Professional Topography
March 2009 Web Exclusive

I enjoyed reading your recent article online at POB titled “Professional Topography: To Map or Not to Map.” Almost all of our projects involve some type of mapping, typically in a riverine environment. We perform a lot of hydrographic surveying in smaller rivers throughout the U.S. Your article brought something to my attention that I had not thought of much--that traditional surveyors do not always do a lot of mapping. It seems that mapping topography is its own unique area of surveying. Does obtaining a PLS take into account the technology and methodology of mapping? Does someone need to be a licensed surveyor to perform mapping? If an engineer has spent much of [his or her] career involved in mapping would [he or she] still need to go through all of the steps to obtain a survey license? And finally, is there a mapping-specific license within surveying?

Dusty Robinson, PE

Joseph Paiva responds:

A traditional concept of surveying is that surveyors don’t do a lot of mapping. Actually, they do a lot of mapping, but they (along with their peers and the public) don’t often recognize that fact.

To answer your first question, most surveyors in the U.S. are licensed through a variety of procedures, but almost all now take the uniform NCEES exam. This exam includes subject matter from the general topic of mapping such as topographic mapping.

Whether you need to be a licensed surveyor to perform mapping actually varies from state to state, so you’ll have to check the state statutes. In many states, even if it is covered within the practice area of surveying, it also often falls in the practice area of engineering (civil specialties are licensed) and sometimes even under architecture and landscape architecture.

An engineer who has spent much of his or her career involved in mapping would still need to go through all of the steps to obtain a survey license because almost all states use a licensing process to regulate the practice of cadastral or property boundary surveying. There is a dominant requirement for both experience and surveying knowledge (related to exam subject matter) in this area. But your question brings up an interesting fact from the past. There was a time--and maybe there still is, especially in some governmental agencies--when the position or title of “topographical engineer” existed.

As to your last question, there is not currently a mapping-specific license within surveying. However some organizations, such as ASPRS (, offer certifications in various branches of mapping. I don’t think anyone, however, offers a certification in just topographic mapping (unless they are employment-related and apply only within that organization, such as the military).

Traversing the Law
March 2009

As a professional land surveyor, I took offense to Mr. Lucas’ latest column. He, as far as I can tell, is saying that standard boundary surveys are routinely being handed out for basically mortgage loan inspections. He claims, and I quote, “This very same conduct is not only tolerated in the surveying profession, it’s actually condoned by a large segment (if not the majority) of the surveying community.”

If this problem is as rampant as he seems to imply, then I hold Mr. Lucas to blame. We here in Maine are required to “police” our own. If we find a problem, we report it if it cannot be taken care of otherwise. I am sure Mr. Lucas knows the majority of the surveying community, right? I am appalled that your editors let such generalizations against our profession go out like this. While it MAY happen, I would be inclined to think that it would be in the very small minority. We are heavily regulated in what our product can and cannot be. If someone is taking advantage of the general populace by giving them something that is different from what is in the contract, that “surveyor” should be taken out of the profession.

Greg Carey, PLS

The ideas and opinions expressed by our readers do not necessarily reflect those of POB. Send your thoughts to the editor at pobeditor@bnpmedia.