We recently completed our spring semester at George Mason University, where I have been teaching for many years. On the last day of this class, which provides instruction on engineering and surveying computations, one of the students asked if I thought surveying was a good career to get into.

Let's say it was your son/daughter who asked you this question. Consider that the realm of the surveyor is under constant attack, where others are now performing traditional surveying tasks. Consider that equipment advances have reduced the need for field surveyors. Consider that surveyors don't get paid a lot of money but are responsible for enormous liabilities associated with their work. Consider that surveying is a dangerous field that must contend with snakes, parasites and intermittent angry homeowners wielding firearms. Consider that the average age of surveyors according to the surveying societies is around 58 years old. How would you answer?

My answer was that surveying is a viable field to pursue as a career. However, the next generation of surveyors may find that they won't be doing the surveying as we have traditionally. The new breed of surveyor may work for an engineering/surveying company, but significant work in surveying may also be found in construction firms, where a license is desired but not required; in law enforcement work for accident re-enactment data collection and other forensic surveying tasks; work on GIS systems or preparing 3D models for data prep and "digital stakeout."

I believe the field of surveying is expanding, but there no longer exists an environment of surveying being performed by licensed surveyors that work for surveying organizations. The LS is being used to set certain controls and absorb the liabilities thereof. Non-traditional surveyors then come off of these controls and produce all of the rest of the construction survey tasks on their own with advanced equipment. The LS then returns for as-builts. I don't know if this is good or bad, but it is happening more and more.

So what would you say? Would you recommend surveying as a career for your son or daughter, and why or why not?