What Surveying and Mapping Technicians Do
Surveying and mapping technicians collect data and make maps of the Earth’s surface.
Surveying technicians work outside extensively and can be exposed to all types of weather. Mapping technicians work primarily indoors on computers. Most surveying and mapping technicians work for firms that provide engineering, surveying, and mapping services on a contract basis. Local governments also employ these workers in highway and planning departments.
How to Become a Surveying or Mapping Technician
Surveying technicians usually need a high school diploma. However, mapping technicians often need formal education after high school to study technology applications, such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS).
The median annual wage for surveying and mapping technicians was $45,010 in May 2019.
Employment of surveying and mapping technicians is projected to grow 1 percent from 2019 to 2029, slower than the average for all occupations.
Surveying and mapping technicians collect data and make maps of the Earth’s surface. Surveying technicians visit sites to take measurements of the land. Mapping technicians use geographic data to create maps. They both assist surveyors, and cartographers and photogrammetrists.
Surveying technicians typically do the following:
- Visit sites to record survey measurements and other descriptive data
- Operate surveying instruments, such as electronic distance-measuring equipment (robotic total stations), to collect data on a location
- Set out stakes and marks to conduct a survey
- Search for previous survey points, such as old stone markers
- Enter the data from surveying instruments into computers, either in the field or in an office
Surveying technicians help surveyors in the field on teams known as survey parties. A typical survey party has a party chief and one or more surveying technicians. The party chief, either a surveyor or a senior surveying technician, leads day-to-day work activities. After data is collected by the survey party, surveying technicians help process the data by entering the data into computers.
Mapping technicians typically do the following:
- Select needed information from databases to create maps
- Edit and process images that have been collected in the field
- Produce maps showing boundaries, water locations, elevation, and other features of the terrain
- Update maps to ensure accuracy
- Assist photogrammetrists by laying out aerial photographs in sequence to identify areas not captured by aerial photography
Mapping technicians help cartographers and photogrammetrists produce and update maps. They do this work on computers, combining data from different sources. Mapping technicians may use drones to take photos and collect other information required to complete maps or surveys.
Geographic Information System (GIS) technicians use GIS technology to assemble, integrate, and display data about a particular location in a digital format. GIS technicians also maintain and update databases for GIS devices.
Surveying and mapping technicians held about 58,400 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of surveying and mapping technicians were as follows:
|Architectural, engineering, and related services||59%|
|Local government, excluding education and hospitals||11|
|Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction||1|
Most surveying and mapping technicians work for firms that provide engineering, surveying, and mapping services on a contractual basis. Local governments also employ these workers in highway and planning departments.
Surveying technicians work outside extensively and can be exposed to all types of weather. They often stand for long periods, walk considerable distances, and may have to climb hills with heavy packs of surveying instruments. Traveling is sometimes part of the job, and surveying technicians may commute long distances, stay away from home overnight, or temporarily relocate near a survey site.
Mapping technicians work primarily on computers in office environments. However, mapping technicians must sometimes conduct research by using resources such as survey maps and legal documents to verify property lines and to obtain information needed for mapping. This task may require traveling to storage sites, such as county courthouses or lawyers’ offices, that house these legal documents.
Surveying and mapping technicians typically work full time but may work additional hours during the summer, when weather and light conditions are most suitable for fieldwork. Construction-related work may be limited during times of harsh weather.
Mapping technicians who develop and maintain Geographic Information System (GIS) databases generally work normal business hours.
This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of surveying and mapping technicians.
For more information on certification in GIS, visit
For more information about career opportunities and the surveying technician certification program, visit
National Society of Professional Surveyors
For more information about photogrammetric technicians and Geographic Information System specialists, visit
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Surveying and Mapping Technicians,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/surveying-and-mapping-technicians.htm (visited ).