Geomatics/land surveyor: job description

Geomatics/land surveyors carry out measurements and collect and interpret data about areas of land, including information about boundaries, buildings and both natural and man-made features.

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Archaeologists might employ land surveyors to find out more about possible sites of archaeological interest.

What does a geomatics surveyor or a land surveyor do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Geomatics surveyors or land surveyors measure, map, assess, and collect and interpret information about specific pieces of land. They often work on land due to be redeveloped (built on) or on which the built infrastructure (such as a railway line) is due to be repaired – but not always. Archaeologists might employ land surveyors to find out more about possible sites of archaeological interest, for example.

Typical responsibilities of the job include:

  • undertaking land/topographic/hydrographic/measured building surveys, using a variety of specialist equipment and technology, such as robotics and 3D scanners
  • analysing data using plans, maps, charts and software such as AutoCAD and GIS (geographic information systems) programs
  • preparing survey drawings
  • presenting data to clients and writing reports
  • advising about technical matters and whether construction plans are viable.

The job combines working in an office with working outdoors on sites. You’ll need to travel to sites and sometimes work away from home for stretches of time. Depending on the piece of land and how it’s being used (eg if it has a busy, operational rail line on it), you may need to work shifts or out of hours.

The typical career progression in geomatics or land surveying involves starting out as a trainee or junior surveyor, progressing to be an assistant surveyor (usually within two years) and then going onto surveyor and senior surveyor. Surveyors and senior surveyors are expected to lead teams and manage projects.

Typical geomatics surveyor or land surveyor employers

  • Specialist land surveying consultancies
  • Civil engineering and construction companies (contractors and consultants)
  • Central and local government
  • Rail companies
  • Mining companies
  • Utilities companies.

Geomatics surveying is a specialist career. Vacancies are typically advertised via TARGETjobs, university careers services and specialist recruitment agencies, as well as through the magazines and websites of relevant professional bodies, such as the Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors (ICES), the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE).

Qualifications and training required

There are routes into a geomatics surveying or land surveying career for both university graduates and school leavers.

Graduates usually have a degree in geomatics or geospatial sciences – or a related subject such as geophysics, geology, geography, geotechnology and earth sciences. Civil engineering, planning, surveying or construction degrees can also be accepted by employers, especially if they include relevant modules. Most employers require the degree to be accredited by a relevant professional body (such as ICES, ICE or RICS) so that you can gain full membership or the chartership professional qualification while working. Depending on the institution, a professional qualification can take between two and five years of completing work-based study and a final assessment.

Most graduate opportunities are advertised as individual vacancies rather than as formal graduate schemes. However, some large engineering consultancies include geomatics and geospatial roles as part of the graduate schemes they offer in specific engineering divisions, such as ‘environment and ground’ or ‘geotechnical and geosciences’. You may have to apply for vacancies speculatively – find out how to do this .

As a school leaver you can apply for a trainee surveyor role with both GCSEs/standard grades or A levels or highers. Trainee surveyor roles might be entry-level vacancies or formal apprenticeships and you can expect to be trained on the job and supported towards a professional qualification. If you want to apply for a trainee role, useful subjects to study include maths, English, the sciences and geography. If you decide to go to university, entry requirements vary but maths, physics, chemistry, biology and geography A levels/highers (or equivalent) are often required or preferred.

Key skills for geomatics surveyors and land surveyors

  • Numeracy and the ability to make mathematical calculations
  • The ability to understand and interpret data
  • Lateral and logical thinking
  • Cutting-edge IT skills and confidence with new technology
  • Problem solving and analysis
  • Attention to detail
  • Client management/customer service skills
  • Verbal and written communication skills
  • Organisation and time management
  • The ability to work independently and as part of a team.

Also: employers often require you to have a full driving licence in order to travel to sites.

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