Professional Topography
November 2009

It would seem that you only qualify EDUCATION as being acquired from a public source. It was not that long ago that engineers were able to obtain licensure with merely experience. Are those engineers/surveyors who obtained their license from experience after meeting the minimum requirement and passing the test the first time less qualified than the college graduates who took the same test and passed it after the fifth try?

Yes, we all need to do a better job of training and preparing our technicians, but I have more confidence in a technician with 12 years of field experience than in a geomatics graduate with two years of experience. Also, the graduated geomatics student has a very limited understanding of establishing or retracing boundary lines, even after two years of experience. The few times that I have been to court to testify for one side or the other, the argument has not been about the measurement process or the understanding of it; it has been about the placement of the boundary. That is where I feel surveying has been dumbed down. Geomatics is more about the math and less about the boundary. Establishing the boundary is the core of land surveying.

Kevin Douglas Hinkle, PLS

I just got through reading your article in the November 2009 issue of POB. I am 26 years old and have been in the land surveying business since the summer of 2000. I have all of my endorsement forms and am shooting to take the LSIT exam in April. It amazes me to see that 90 percent of the fellow surveyors I talk to do not understand the differences in horizontal and grid data or that there is a difference between magnetic north and grid north. Many don’t know what grid north really is and can’t convert from tenths to inches. Here in Georgia, a state where the headright system was once very popular, we come across so many surveys that people assume coordinates on [or] do not check deeds to make sure they set property lines and right of way lines up correctly. [They] just plain only do enough to get by. The technologies are out there to help make most of these things easy and common practice.

I thought being a professional meant that you do a professional job and look out for your client as well as your profession. I am not sure how some of these surveyors ever even get their license, and it really aggravates me that these same surveyors are doing jobs for half or even less than half of what a company who does a professional job charges. This leaves clients not only wondering why the more-professional company is more expensive but also makes them wonder whether surveying is really that complicated.

Why is it that as a young surveyor with no degree I can see these things going on, yet many cannot? I believe it is because a lot of professionals are not tutoring and mentoring the younger surveyors to do surveys the right way or showing them the details behind why they are doing certain procedures.

I have been fortunate to work under two surveyors who care about their profession and also care about passing on their knowledge to other people. I do believe that requiring a degree would help weed out many of these nonprofessionals; however, such a requirement would also weed out those people that learn by hands-on training and who do have good mentors to lead them on the right course. Something needs to be done about this “dumbing down of surveyors,” as you call it, before it weeds out the professionals and we are only left with the nonprofessionals that work for nothing and only do enough to get by.

Degree or no degree, we will still face the same problems because new technology “makes it so easy a caveman can do it.” Just because you can turn the equipment on doesn’t mean you can survey with it or get the right data. Anyway, it’s nice to see people are thinking about this subject.

Denver Youngblood

Thank you, sir, for an excellent article on the lack of understanding for the collecting, processing and analyzing of collected field data on the part of the next generation of surveyors. I am most grateful to be old enough to have learned my surveying (on a university level and through job experience) at a time when “closing” a survey meant understanding latitudes and departures, trig books and a whole host of geometric equations.

Today’s surveyors do not understand these things. They don’t understand how to form a defensible opinion as to the location of a property corner, and they do not understand how to turn inside angles and to add them up as a field check. I don’t think most understand the real use of a plumb bob!

Our modern equipment brings us to an exciting new level of accuracy and speed. However, if all of the batteries die, only a declining number of people are still able to keep working.

John M. Hennemuth, PLS

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