This job is sometimes referred to by alternative titles
Surveyors map the Earth's surface, including sea, river and lake beds. They determine boundaries, locations, topographic features and man-made structures.
Graduate surveyors usually earn
$40K-$50K per year
Surveyors with over five years' experience usually earn
$50K-$80K per year
Pay for surveyors varies depending on experience and qualifications.
- Graduate surveyors typically earn between $40,000 and $50,000 a year.
- Newly licensed surveyors earn between $50,000 and $65,000.
- With five or more years' experience, surveyors usually earn between $52,000 and $80,000.
Surveyors who are managers, business partners or self-employed may earn significantly more than this.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Surveyors may do some or all of the following:
- survey and monitor land or seabed
- carry out land title surveys and set boundaries
- check the accuracy of records and measurements
- prepare maps, plans and charts to give pictorial representations of the land or seabed
- map out location and design of structures such as new roads and pipelines
- report on survey data to clients and councils
- discuss surveying or land development projects with clients, local authorities, other professionals or local iwi
- ensure project proposals comply with council district plans and liaise with the council to deal with any issues
- prepare resource consent applications, including environmental impact assessments.
Skills and knowledge
Some of the skills and knowledge surveyors need includes:
- knowledge of survey methods
- the ability to interpret and use information from maps, graphic drawings and measurements taken in the field
- knowledge of physics and maths, particularly trigonometry
- computer skills and the ability to use computer-aided design (CAD) software
- good general knowledge of environmental issues, earth sciences and civil engineering
- understanding of issues such as land rights, land ownership and boundary definitions
- understanding of relevant legislation such as the Resource Management Act, local by-laws and town planning regulations.
- usually work regular business hours, but may need to work evenings or weekends
- work both on-site and in offices. On-site locations may be remote, for example mines or rural locations
- may have to work in all weather conditions.
What's the job really like?
Dan Fraser - Land Surveyor
"When I left school I wanted to be a policeman but had to wait until a certain age, so I was basically looking to fill in a summer. I was playing touch rugby and one of the guys in my team asked if I wanted to work for him at his surveying firm.
"I started as a survey assistant, but eventually realised I wasn't going to get much further up the food chain or much of a pay increase unless I got a qualification. So I decided to do surveying as a profession.
"I've done quite a few interesting things. Last year I went to the Chatham Islands and Pitt Island to do surveys. It was an interesting flight that ended with landing on a paddock, so we had to do a fly over first to get all the cows off the runway!"
Dan's work mostly involves surveys for subdivisions and boundaries, which means a mix of office based and field work. This variety is a key attraction of the job for Dan. "I enjoy the freedom the job brings. When it's a bit drizzly, I'll work on some stuff in the office, and when it's nice and sunny, I'll be outside getting jobs done."
To become a surveyor, you need to have a Bachelor of Surveying (BSurv). The four-year professional degree is offered only by the University of Otago School of Surveying.
Those wanting to work as a hydrographic surveyor also need to complete a Postgraduate Diploma in Science, specialising in hydrography. The Royal NZ Navy also trains a small number of hydrographic surveyors.
A tertiary entrance qualification is needed to enter university, and usually Level 3 NCEA is preferred. Useful subjects include English, maths with calculus and statistics, geography, computer studies, physics, economics and graphics.
Surveyors need to be:
- patient and precise, with an eye for detail
- adaptable, as they may work on different types of projects
- able to work under pressure and to deadlines
- comfortable working in an office and outdoors
- methodical and precise when taking measurements.
You need to be someone who likes details because that's what it comes down to. It also helps if you like getting outdoors because you're going to end up out there!
Dan Fraser - Land Surveyor
Useful experience for surveyors includes:
- work as a surveyor's assistant or technician
- experience working in cartography, draughting or engineering
- experience working at a mining or construction site.
Surveyors need to have a good level of fitness and be reasonably strong, as they may need to carry measuring equipment into the field. They also need good eyesight (with or without corrective lenses) to operate surveying and measuring equipment.
Surveyors of all specialisations can apply to become members of the New Zealand Institute of Surveyors and work towards professional registration, which is voluntary.
By law, only a licensed cadastral surveyor can certify cadastral (land title) surveys. To become a licensed cadastral surveyor you must do two years of practical work, take a series of oral exams and present some practical work to the Cadastral Surveyors Licensing Board. Most survey companies support graduate employees through this process.
Find out more about training
- University of Otago School of Surveying
- (03) 479 7585 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.surveying.otago.ac.nz/
What are the chances of getting a job?
According to Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment estimates, the number of surveyors decreased by about 7% between 2010 and 2012.
This is because:
- many surveyors have retired, or are nearing retirement
- many new surveying graduates are moving overseas, where they can often earn more money.
As a result, the job of surveyor appears on Immigration New Zealand's long-term skill shortage list. This means the Government is actively encouraging surveyors from overseas to work in New Zealand.
Land surveyors needed to help rebuild after Canterbury earthquakes
The 2010 and 2011 Canterbury earthquakes have generated a significant amount of building and construction work, and surveyors are needed to inspect sites before this work can begin.
Rebuilding and repair work is expected to continue until at least 2020, and the number of people working as surveyors is not expected to keep up with demand.
Because of this, the job has been added to Immigration New Zealand's Canterbury skill shortage list, which highlights occupations in shortage that are needed during the rebuild of Canterbury following the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes.
Types of employers varied
Surveyors can work for:
- private surveying practices
- government agencies such as Land Information New Zealand
- land developers
- construction and engineering consultancies.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, ‘2003-2012 Occupation Data’ (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2012.
- Dyer, M, President, New Zealand Institute of Surveyors, Careers New Zealand interview, November 2011.
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Canterbury Skill Shortage List’, accessed July 2013, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Long-term Skill Shortage List', accessed July 2013, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Kloeten, N, 'Budget 2011: Government Commits to SOE Selldowns', 19 May 2011, (www.nbr.co.nz).
- South, G, 'Demand for Experts to Rebuild City', 15 June 2011, (www.nzherald.co.nz).
- Stevenson, R, 'Construction Sector Braces for Drought', 25 August 2010, (www.stuff.co.nz).
Progression and specialisations
Surveyors may specialise in areas such as:
- Cadastral Surveyor
- Cadastral surveyors define and mark property boundaries.
- Engineering Surveyor
- Engineering surveyors work in the civil engineering industry to help map and plan new structures such as buildings, roads and bridges.
- Hydrographic Surveyor
- Hydrographic surveyors map and monitor the bottom contours of bodies of water such as seas, streams, rivers and lakes.
- Mine Surveyor
- Mine surveyors undertake surface and underground surveys designed to produce information for the construction of mines.
- Map Maker
- Map makers, also called cartographers, use aerial photographs and photogrammetric processes to create and revise maps.
Last updated 23 March 2018