Each year, POB editors and BNP Media’s market research division team up to ask surveying, mapping and geospatial professionals about the market’s most valuable asset — the people who do the work. The annual POB Salary & Benefits Study sheds important light on not only who is working in the profession, but why and how.

In 2015, the best and most optimistic message may just be one that, ironically, we mined from answers to a negative question. Those respondents who actually had a salary decrease, although the minority, revealed the reasons for their decreases were less about the economy than in previous years. Among those, 42 percent cited lack of work or less business, down from 56 percent in 2014; 35 percent reported a slow economy, down from 53 percent the year prior.

As you will see throughout the study results, this business is blessed with overwhelmingly motivated, educated, satisfied and, above all, professional people. Read on and, as always, let us know what you think.

An Old Man’s Game?

The aging of surveyors is threatening to the profession’s future, right? In other words, as 58-year-old surveyors have repeatedly asked, who is going to do our important work when we pack it in? While concerned groups are putting forth good efforts to nurture future generations of surveyors, the challenges they face may not be as daunting as has been assumed; well, at least not quite as daunting. In 2013, 30 percent of respondents to the POB Salary & Benefits Study were aged 45 and younger; a year later, it had slipped to 27 percent, supporting the concern about an aging profession. This year, though, 35 percent of respondents are aged 45 and younger; 39 percent are aged 56 and older, down from 44 percent in 2014 and 46 percent in 2013.

Does age necessarily translate into years of service? Essentially, yes. While the mean age of respondents slipped from 53 to 52 years old from 2014 to 2015, the mean years of industry experience slipped from 27 to 26. This, however, remains a profession dominated by experience.

Further to above, the entry level to the profession has remained fairly consistent and yet very slim. Less than one of every 20 respondents has just a few years in the business. Even one in 20 — or 5 percent — would set a new bar.

A Good Source for Jobs

Among the good news for surveyors, their profession remains a solid, stable source of employment. Respondents increasingly reported the number of full-time employees in their companies increased or stayed the same compared to the year prior. In total, 39 percent said their companies increased full-time staffing, up from 38 percent in 2014, 29 percent in 2013 and 23 percent in 2012. About 49 percent this year said their companies maintained staffing levels, up from 44 percent in 2014. Conversely, the group of respondents reporting their companies have cut staff has steadily decreased in size from 30 percent in 2012, shrinking to 21 percent in 2013, 18 percent in 2014 and 13 percent this year.

On the Team

Could it be that surveyors, long considered highly independent, are now more ingrained in the corporate structure? Team players even? Over the past four years, respondents to the POB Salary & Benefits Study have increasingly reported being paid a salary as compared to an hourly wage. Of respondents in 2012, 57 percent were compensated by salary; in 2015, 63 percent are on salary. Have they changed? Or, perhaps more critical, has the expectations of their employers changed? While still overwhelming, the percentage of full-time employees as compared to part-timers has fluctuated over the same period.

Close to Home

Being licensed clearly remains important to POB Salary & Benefits Study respondents, but the state-by-state requirements continue to keep a majority of them working in-state. More than half of respondents in 2015 are registered in just one state; 29 percent are registered in more than one state. The remaining 17 percent? They are keeping busy without being registered in any state; that level is down from 20 percent in 2014, 18 percent in 2013 and 20 percent in 2012.

True Professionals

Of respondents, the overwhelming majority continue to hold professional registrations/licensures. In fact, the percentage did not change from last year. And, true to course, most of the registrations/licensures obtained are of the RPLS/PLS/RLS/LS designation; 90 percent of respondents already with registrations/licenses fall into that group. Of those, some clearly have earned other credentials along the way, falling into other categories also.

No doubt, the efforts to obtain licensure translate to professional longevity. Among licensed respondents with 30 or more years of experience, 95 percent have a RPLS/PLS/RLS/LS designation. Even with some respondents holding multiple designations, that still leaves a very small minority of veteran professionals outside the RPLS/PLS/RLS/LS group.

And, perhaps most importantly, the efforts to obtain licensure translate into more income. Holders of an RPLS/PLS/RLS/LS designation commonly experience salary increases, but the LSIT/SIT respondents may be catching up. Although much fewer respondents have LSIT/SIT designations, it is increasingly more common for them to receive increases in income now, up from only 50 percent in 2014.

Education Matters

There was a time, some surveying veterans will proudly point out, when all a good surveyor needed was a high school education, a good mentor, and a willingness to learn and work. That still may very well be, but that’s certainly not all they need. Of respondents to the POB Salary & Benefits Study this year, 83 percent have degrees in higher education. The ever-decreasing number of respondents with high school diplomas only would seem to indicate those respondents are increasingly retiring out of the profession.

Most of Us Benefit

Respondents to the POB Salary & Benefits Study continue to be cherished by their employers, considering the paid benefits being made available to them. Most of these benefits have, for multiple years now, remained at or near the levels reported in 2015.

Making Money

Good money continues to be made in the surveying and related professions. Of 2015 respondents to the POB Salary & Benefits Study, more than 50 percent make $70,000 or more annually. The mean income is $70,443.

So, are salaries going up? For the slight majority, yes they are. Among respondents, 52 percent report salary increases from two years prior; conversely, only 10 percent report decreases for the same time period.

The three leading reasons for salary increases each grew in 2015. Among respondents receiving increased income: 37 percent reported a bonus/raise as the reason why, up from 36 percent in 2014; 31 percent reported a cost-of-living/inflation increase, up from 28 percent in 2014; and 26 percent reported company profit/success for the boost, up from 24 percent in 2014.

What Does It All Mean?

Finally, we asked surveying, mapping and geospatial professionals just how satisfied they are with their jobs. On a scale of 1-10, 71 percent of respondents scored their satisfaction level as 8 or higher, matching the level for 2014 respondents. On the other end, those who gave their jobs a score of 3 or lower remained miniscule … and dropping; it fell from 4 to 3 percent.


2015 Salary & Benefits Study
Click here to download the PDF of the 2015 Salary & Benefits Study