If you have an analytical mind and are good with maps and technology, a career in land/geomatics surveying will suit you

As a land/geomatics surveyor you'll measure and collect data on specific areas of land, including information about boundaries, buildings and features, both natural and man-made. Geomatics is one of the most technologically advanced of the surveying specialist roles and has a key function in a diverse range of sectors, including:

  • cartography
  • construction
  • geographical information systems
  • property
  • offshore engineering and exploration.

You'll also assess land due for redevelopment and survey a range of different areas, including airports, landfill sites, mines and quarries and pipeline and distribution systems. The term 'geomatics' tends to be more commonly used than 'land surveying' in the industry.

Responsibilities

As a land/geomatics surveyor, you'll need to:

  • make use of geographical information systems (GIS) to analyse and interpret site features
  • produce detailed information (subsequently analysed by planners, builders and cartographers)
  • use a range of equipment to produce surveys, including GPS and conventional methods
  • analyse information thoroughly before it is handed over to other professionals
  • measure the ground, including aspects such as small and large-scale distances, angles and elevations
  • gather data on the earth's physical and man-made features through surveys
  • process data
  • undertake digital mapping
  • think creatively to resolve practical planning and development problems
  • interpret data using maps, charts and plans
  • utilise data from a range of sources, such as aerial photography, satellite surveys and laser beam measuring systems
  • use computer-aided design (CAD) and other IT software to interpret data and present information
  • keep up to date with new and emerging technology
  • provide advice to a variety of clients
  • manage and monitor projects from start to finish - you're more likely to do this once you're chartered.

Salary

  • Starting salaries for land/geomatics surveyors are in the region of £20,000 to £25,000.
  • Surveyors with experience and chartered status earn around £25,000 to £45,000.
  • At senior level, with management or partnership responsibilities, surveyors can earn salaries of up to £70,000.

The 2016 Rewards and Attitudes Survey by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and Macdonald & Company reports that the average salary for geomatics professionals is £39,254, with a bonus of £1,271.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Working hours are mainly 9am to 5pm, but this varies between locations and may not be the case when work is based overseas. Longer hours, weekend or shift work may sometimes be required to meet deadlines.

What to expect

  • Surveyors frequently work away from home and are often paid for travelling time. They may travel considerable distances within the UK. Car and petrol allowances are available.
  • Work is both office and site-based. You must expect to spend a good part of your time working outdoors and in all weather conditions.
  • There are currently more men than women in this area of work. Advice and support for women interested in careers in this field is available from Women into Science, Engineering and Construction (WISE).
  • Surveys must be completed to deadlines, which can sometimes be stressful.
  • Overseas work is widely available, mostly on a short-term basis, although individuals are sometimes required to remain abroad for a substantial period of time. Overseas allowances are available.

Qualifications

You can enter a land/geomatics surveying career from a number of disciplines, but most employers will prefer you to have a relevant surveying degree, or to have shown an interest in the area by choosing surveying modules as part of your course.

Examples of preferred degrees include:

  • civil or structural engineering
  • earth science
  • environmental science
  • geographical information science
  • geography or physical geography
  • geology
  • land or estate surveying
  • mathematics
  • physics
  • surveying and mapping science.

Many surveyors work towards achieving chartered status with either RICS or the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB). Studying an accredited course shortens the length of time you have to spend in professional training, which lasts at least one year. Information on accredited degrees can be found at:

If you don't have an accredited or relevant first degree, you can complete an accredited postgraduate course. Distance learning part-time courses are also available if you want to study while working.

Postgraduate courses in specialist areas are available for those aiming to move into a particular area of the industry. These include subjects such as geodetic surveying, environmental management and earth observation, hydroinformatics and geographical information science. A first degree in a subject such as geomatics, engineering, geography, maths or physics is usually required for entry to these courses.

If you have an HND or foundation degree only, you could find work at a lower level such as surveying technician, assistant land surveyor or digital mapping assistant. You could then take further qualifications, perhaps while working, to become a geomatics surveyor.

It's also possible to enter the profession via an apprenticeship and details of how to find these are available on the RICS website.

Membership of a relevant professional body is helpful and will keep you up to date with industry developments and provide an invaluable opportunity to network:

It's possible for school and college leavers to enter surveying with training accessed through a modern apprenticeship. You start as an assistant surveyor and progress through a combination of work and study.

Membership of a relevant professional body is helpful and will keep you up to date with industry developments and provide an invaluable opportunity to network:

For a general introduction and details of the pathway to qualification, see the RICS Geomatics Professional Group.

Skills

You will need to demonstrate evidence of the following:

  • knowledge of geographical information systems (GIS) and CAD as well as general IT skills
  • decision-making skills and the ability to work independently
  • good oral and written communication skills
  • high levels of numeracy
  • your ability to handle responsibility
  • map work orientation skills (for work in the field)
  • accuracy, especially when using equipment
  • your capacity to identify problems quickly and to offer solutions
  • your ability to conceptualise 2D and 3D information.

Employers

Geomatics is one of the fastest expanding global markets. The discipline is driven by advances in technology, such as geographical information systems (GIS) and global navigation satellite systems, and maintains its role in land law and other socioeconomic areas.

Throughout the world, the changing nature of mapping and spatial data management means that there is significant demand for chartered land/geomatics surveyors.

Your skills as a land/geomatics surveyor are required by a multitude of organisations in both the private and public sectors, including:

  • construction companies
  • engineering contractors and consultancies
  • geophysics consultancy companies
  • government agencies
  • local authorities and central government
  • mapping companies, including those working on relatively unmapped areas of the world
  • mining companies
  • rail companies
  • specialist surveying and geomatics companies that provide services for areas such as property development, construction and
  • heritage management
  • utilities companies
  • the Ordnance Survey (OS).

Look for job vacancies at:

Macdonald and Company is a recruitment agency approved by RICS that specialises in vacancies for property and construction professionals.

Speculative applications may be successful, especially to smaller companies. Directories of relevant employers are available from RICS: Find a Surveyor.

Professional development

Many land/geomatics surveyors decide to work towards professional qualification and chartered status once they have started their career.

To become chartered with RICS, you'll need to complete the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC). This is built around specific assignments linked to your chosen branch of surveying. You'll also need at least two years' experience of working in the role to be able to pass the APC.

You can also gain professional qualification with the CIOB.

Employers will provide general training on the job and may offer specific training on the use of specialist equipment. Some surveyors choose to complete a relevant postgraduate qualification, which can help with career progression.

Rapid changes in technology mean that as a land/geomatics surveyor, you'll need to update your skills and knowledge on a regular basis. This is why continuing professional development (CPD) is vital in the role.

A range of workshops, conferences and courses are available through RICS, CIOB and the ICES.

Career prospects

As a geomatics professional you can move into a range of areas, including:

  • cartography
  • construction
  • offshore engineering and exploration
  • property
  • railways.

Whichever sector you specialise in, you'll need to continue to study for professional qualifications. Gaining chartered status with RICS or CIOB can help with career progression and improve your pay prospects.

Career development depends on the industry you move into. In the more common employing sectors, such as construction, engineering and surveying, graduates generally start as junior surveyors. In some companies, this role may be undertaken with an additional role, such as CAD technician. With experience and training, you can progress into a role as a surveyor and then you may go on to manage a team within your organisation.

How you progress will depend on your professional qualifications and the size of your employing organisation. Being geographically mobile can aid your career development. You can also move between the public and private sectors, or establish yourself as a self-employed consultant, although this will require significant experience and contacts.