According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of surveyors is projected to grow 11 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. With a national average wage of almost $30 an hour, it would seem like an attractive occupation for people interested in a balance of field work and office work, but many experts in the industry are concerned with a potential surveyor shortage in the near future.
Unfortunately, as more and more current professional and licensed surveyors reach retirement age, young people appear to have neither the interest or proper training to take over the work they will leave behind. Surveyors are grouped with cartographers and photogrammetrists by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to the latest data regarding this group of professionals, of the 65,000 working under those titles, just 9,000 are 34 or younger. Young people simply don’t seem interested in this occupation.
Only 14% of current surveyors, cartographer, and photogrammetrists are under the age of 34 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Jerry Carter, CEO of the National council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) noted the worrying statistic. “We’ve seen a significant reduction in the number of candidates taking the licensure exams, and that’s been a trend for probably the last several years. … The numbers of people taking the exams are significantly down and the trend appears to be that that’s going to continue to be the case at least in the foreseeable future.”
There are simply more survey jobs than surveyors.
What are some of the contributing factors to this dwindling of suitable future surveyors?
While technological advancements have helped to improve efficiency and accuracy in many fields, including surveying, it has actually made on the job training more difficult.
Surveyors once worked in teams of 3 or 4, giving younger workers interested in becoming licensed greater opportunity to learn what they need to know for state licensing exams. This kind of education is invaluable to retaining the information required to pass as well as allowing people the opportunity to decide if the work interests them before committing to long hours of studying and paying hundreds of dollars in fees.
So, while technology has allowed smaller firms to grow their business, it’s also made it difficult to recruit interested young workers as teams of four have been reduced to one.
Changing Educational Expectations and State Regulations
Jerry Carter also cites the changes in education and licensing qualifications as another barrier to recruiting. Many state boards now require a four-year degree to become licensed. Each state also has varied regulations determining what sort of work a surveyor is suitable for. In some states like Maryland, there is market constraints since “minor engineering” (as defined in the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation requirements) tasks are part of the statutory definition of Land Surveying. Experience or education in these tasks are necessary to take the state exam.
This means the number of qualified candidates among currently licensed surveyors is drastically reduced in some areas. Relocation from state to state is difficult as a result unless someone is willing to take several credit hours of classes before being able to apply for the state exam if they have no experience in hydrology, grading, drainage design or other minor engineering tasks.
Of course, quality shouldn’t suffer in order to accommodate the demand of surveyor products, but a more congruent and streamlined process to license workers throughout the United States would help alleviate some of the shortage fears.
How does this affect your real estate closings?
A good surveyor is simply hard to find. We know. We have spent massive amounts of time reaching out to qualified surveyors in order to build a national network to meet the demand of surveyor products for real estate transactions. Surveying firms are stretched thin by projects related to public works, transit and infrastructure, making less time for boundary surveys of residential and commercial properties.
The field of surveying is in a state of transition. We are witnessing a rebalancing of the demand for licensed surveyors with technological advancements and potential coordination with other geospatial professionals to complete building and infrastructure projects, but will this be enough to deal with the shortage of new entrants into the field?
As spring heats up, so will the housing market. The demand for new surveys on properties for sale will increase. If your not familiar with surveyors in the area and your real estate transaction requires a survey to be completed, you may be scrambling to find a surveyor for your next deal.