Surveyors plan, direct and conduct survey work to determine the position of boundaries, locations, topographic features and built structures.
Graduate surveyors usually earn
$50K-$60K per year
Licensed surveyors usually earn
$70K-$120K per year
Source: Beca, Eighty4 Recruitment, Hays, University of Otago, 2018.
Pay for surveyors varies depending on experience, qualifications and where they work.
- Graduate surveyors usually earn between $50,000 and $60,000 a year.
- Newly licensed surveyors can earn between $70,000 and $85,000.
- With five or more years' experience, surveyors can earn from $90,000 to $120,000.
Surveyors who are managers, business partners or self-employed may earn more than this.
Sources: Beca, 2018; Eighty4 Recruitment, 2018; Hays, 2018; University of Otago, 2018.
(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 seabeds
- 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
Surveyors need to have:
- knowledge of survey methods
- the ability to interpret and use information from maps, graphic drawings and measurements taken in the field
- knowledge of 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?
Senior Associate – Surveying
How did you get into surveying?
“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 get much of a pay increase unless I got a qualification. So I decided to do surveying as a profession.”
What’s most enjoyable about surveying?
“The outdoor and indoor parts of the job are great, but I think it’s the people. We get to deal with a wide variety of people and I enjoy that.
“Also, if you’re working on larger projects you get to see them built. I worked on Te Papa and Westpac Stadium in Wellington. When you get to go and visit the thing you’ve worked on it’s pretty satisfying.”
What’s most challenging about surveying?
“You need to have a high level of attention to detail and sometimes you need to think outside the box. After the Christchurch and Kaikoura earthquakes we had some challenges with ground movements. As an industry we had to come together and figure out what was going on and sort that out. It was very difficult.”
To become a surveyor you need to have a Bachelor of Surveying (BSurv). The four-year degree is only offered by the University of Otago School of Surveying.
To work as a hydrographic surveyor you 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 required to enter further training. Useful subjects include geography, maths and English.
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
- good at problem solving
- skilled communicators and relationship managers.
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!
Senior Associate – Surveying
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 obtain a certificate of competency from the New Zealand Institute of Surveyors, which requires at least two years of practical experience. You can then apply for a licence with the Cadastral Surveyors Licencing Board of New Zealand.
- Cadastral Surveyors Licencing Board of New Zealand website - information on applying for a cadastral surveyor licence
- New Zealand Institute of Surveyors website - information on professional entrance exams for the certificate of competency
Find out more about training
- University of Otago School of Surveying
- (03) 479 7585 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.otago.ac.nz/surveying
What are the chances of getting a job?
Shortage of surveyors increases employment chances
Chances of getting a job as a surveyor are good as there is a shortage of workers. Reasons for this include:
- many surveyors have left the industry or moved overseas
- an increase in the number of building and construction projects, such as KiwiBuild
- ongoing infrastructure projects.
As a result, surveyor appears on Immigration New Zealand's long-term skill shortage list and Immigration New Zealand's construction and infrastructure skill shortage list. This means the Government is actively encouraging skilled surveyors from overseas to work in New Zealand.
According to the Census, 2,241 surveyors worked in New Zealand in 2018.
Demand for surveyors highest in Auckland
Demand for surveyors is highest in Auckland due to an increase in construction and infrastructure projects because of the city's population growth.
Types of employers varied
Surveyors may work for:
- private surveying practices
- government agencies such as Land Information New Zealand
- land developers
- construction and engineering consultancies.
- Buck, S, recruitment consultant, Eighty4 recruitment, careers.govt.nz interview, May 2018.
- Fraser, D, senior associate - surveying, Beca, careers.govt.nz interview, June 2018.
- Hays Recruitment, 'The FY18/19 Hays Salary Guide', 2018, (www.hays.net.nz).
- Hill, T, senior surveyor, Birch Surveyors, careers.govt.nz interview, May 2018.
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Construction and Infrastructure Skill Shortage List', 27 May 2019, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Long Term Skill Shortage List', 27 May 2019, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Jopson, F, professional practice fellow, University of Otago School of Surveying, careers.govt.nz interview, June 2018.
- Morrison, T, 'Residential Building Consents Rise to 13-Year-High', New Zealand Herald, 2 February 2018, (www.nzherald.co.nz).
- Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Surveyors may progress to set up their own surveyor business, or move into management roles.
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 13 October 2020