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Career switch to land surveying  



Hi there, I am an electrical engineering student and recently accept an offer as an assistant land surveyor. I do not receive any specialized training or education about land surveying but am keen on starting a career in this field. May I know how can I prepare myself before I begin the job in two months? (What AutoCAD/Excel functions and features should I be proficient in?)

Thank  you very much in advance. Cheers!

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14 Answers

Howdy and welcome to the site

You will be in a learn on the job situation.

There are so many possible job titles to list and any creditable manager will teacheck or show you the ropes.

Do tell us your adventures as they unfold on your new job.

Good luck 


If you know you will be using AutoCad some practice would be a valuable use of your time. But there are other cad programs so if another one is used at the job the practice will not be so useful.

If you have no surveying education I recommend reading a basic surveying textbook. This will help you understand how measurements are made and better able to follow instructions.

Wolf and Ghilani Elementary Surveying is popular and you don't need the latest edition.  Prior editions are available for much less cost. I even found a free pdf download, but perhaps it was pirated and may be gone.

As I see you are in Singapore much of boundary law from the USA and other countries will be irrelevant, but awareness that there are variations is good.

Octa-Frequency GNSS Receiver, Quad Constellations


These are good introductory texts on the measurement/engineering side of surveying

If you didn't have this assigned in an undergrad class, it is (IMHO) the most important introductory level book that no one knows about





Those are, undoubtably, very good books. But entry level? No, those are very advanced.  This is like a guy asking how to install a light switch and advising him to read a book on cross county transmission systems.



Off topic but....I stared as a rod man on a three man crew in February of 1988 with an academic background in the liberal arts.  Went to Reiter's Scientific & Technical books in DC and bought every book on surveying they had. Was running a crew and doing all my own field comps in six months.   

"Entry Level" is whatever the employer and employee make it - especially with an employee with an academic background in engineering in the age of the one man crew.  In this job market, to get a decent candidate, I have to start them with no experience at $50,000/year  + benefits...but in exchange they need to hit the ground running

My own career started about that same time, and my time line was similar. Relevant books were not available to me for the most part, so I substituted asking a lot of questions of those around me. Some of those questions were not answered for many years. Heck, some remain unanswered today.  I recall it being an epiphany when I realized that the calcs were being done using coordinate geometry. Must walk before can run James-san.


Most people start off working in the field, serving as helper to a more experienced "party chief". The first things you will be taught are basics like setting up a tripod over a point and plumbing up a target rod.  Brush cutting. Basic operation of the instruments. Care and feeding of the tools.

If you want to do some reading before spring there are 2 books I'd go for. Elementary Surveying, by Ghilani. Or any basic surveying text. Not necessarily the latest edition, which is pretty costly. But one that's less than 10 years old. Then Boundary Control and Legal Principles, Curtis Brown. Get the 2nd Edition from 1969. Which can be had for under $10.  At the entry level that old edition has all you need. Newer editions are more detailed, more nuanced, but you can get into that later. is my go-to for used books of this kind.

As far as Excel skills go - I think that they area very useful thing. But something that a lot of long-time surveyors know nothing of. If you can add, subtract, multiply, divide in Excel, and do some basic formatting, etc., you will be well ahead of the game.   And if you can open an AutoCAD drawing, pan and zoom around, perform a few basic edits, maybe set and extract points if we are talking C3d, you will probably have more skills than the average newby.                                                                   

Octa-Frequency GNSS Receiver, Quad Constellations


Several members here are from Singapore. I suggest you click on "Members" at the top of this page, select Singapore as the country and search.  These members will have a better idea of educational resources that apply to your area.


I doubt there is much brush cutting (or need to read Brown) in Singapore

I stand corrected.  I was not aware of the Singapore element. The rest of my advice stands.


As others have mentioned, texts by Ghilani are great for self study in fundamentals.

While the cadastral system and structure of the professional certifications/licenses (you may want to join the SISV) is quite different from over here, the other aspects of surveying: engineering surveying. construction. monitoring,  mapping, etc are (mostly) the same.

You are also in the epicenter of the global infrastructure boom - one of the most advanced economies when it comes to investments and innovation in infrastructure. So much opportunity to work on amazing projects employing advanced technologies and processes. But also a lot of old school surveying... you can experience both. I attend infrastructure conferences there each year and am in awe of the scale
(and quality) of development. The entire city is 3D mapped and is recognized as one of the premier "smart cities" in the world.... building and maintaining that takes a lot of surveying (what the smart city folks call continuous surveying')... lots of opportunities.

Keep us posted on your adventures in surveying...

This post was modified 2 years ago by gms

Take the next step in your career, PPI will get you there


If I had to do it again and start from zero, I wish I had kept a journal the first few years. It would be interesting to look back in time to when I was raw. 


"Hi there, I am an electrical engineering student"

Why on earth would you want to give up a potential mid six figure salary for becoming a surveyor who makes substiatally less?  ? 


My biggest financial mistake 30 years ago was changing my degree from electrical engineering to surveying engineering.

Take the next step in your career, PPI will get you there


If you like


Being broke

Making dumb decisions, and realizing it 20 yrs later

Then, surveying might be for you!

So very very true - but it is a great lifestyle (maybe)


I've made my share of bad decisions over the years, pursuing a career in Surveying was NOT one of them!


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