Professional Roles: Land Surveyors

Elizabeth Tomlinson  |  9/10/2008 2:20:58 AM

What does a surveyor do?

There are many different types of surveys that can be performed, but generally, surveying involves measuring an area of land or sea and defining and positioning by dimensions all natural or man-made structures or objects that are present or proposed on the area being measured. The structures or objects are positioned in three dimensions; for example, the topographic survey, which measures and maps the contours of the land. Historic documentation or other types of research may also be performed.

The advent of Global Positioning System (GPS) technology and the laser scanner have greatly enhanced the degree of accuracy in today’s surveys.

For what specific tasks would you seek the services of someone in this profession?

There are many situations in which you might hire a professional land surveyor, but most often the homeowner needs a survey to determine legal property boundaries, to obtain a map of the property with all structures and objects placed by measurement on the property or to have the position of future structures and objects marked on the property in relation to what is already there, whether man-made or natural. An example of the latter use would be a layout survey for construction, such as having the footprint of your to-be-constructed home placed, or laid out, on your plot of land.

You may also need the services of a professional land surveyor if your existing property or property you wish to buy has minerals on the site or is suspected of having minerals. The subsurface mineral boundaries must be established to determine the distribution of mineral rights.

Another use of these services for the homeowner is to determine if, and by how much, a home has changed shape or is moving due to natural or man-made conditions.

What licenses and certifications are available in this profession and what requirements are needed to obtain these?

The Louisiana Professional Engineering and Land Surveying Board issues a Land Surveyor Intern Certification and a Professional Land Surveyor License (P.L.S.).

To achieve Land Surveyor Intern certification, an applicant must be a graduate of a four-year program in which 30 semester credit hours were in land surveying, mapping and real estate courses. A recommendation from a licensed professional land surveyor also is needed to apply for the Fundamentals of Land Surveying exam. Following successful completion of the exam, the applicant will receive his Land Surveyor Intern certification.

After the land surveyor intern has completed at least four years of office and field experience, two of which require the intern to be the responsible person in charge of land surveying projects under supervision of a P.L.S., the intern can apply to take the oral exam and the written exams in the principles and practices of land surveying and the Louisiana laws involved. With the experience above, passing the three exams and the recommendation of five references, three of whom must be P.L.S. individuals familiar with the work of the intern, the intern can then receive his Professional Land Surveyor license.

Licenses must be renewed every two years, and continuing education credit is needed. A total of 15 professional development hours are required to obtain license renewal.

How can the consumer verify that the professional has the license he/she purports to have?

The consumer can visit the Louisiana Professional Engineering and Land Surveying Board Web site at www.lapels.com for a roster of licensed individuals and firms or call the board at 225-925-6291.

What license is required in Louisiana to do what type of work?

While some surveys may be performed by a licensed professional engineer, all surveys relating to establishing property ownership boundaries in Louisiana must be performed by a Louisiana-licensed land surveyor.

What is the typical pay basis for this profession and what is the typical cost?

Fees for professional surveying services are based on the type and complexity of work to be performed. Ordinarily, a client will pay a fixed fee. Time and expenses pay for the surveyor to perform the services specified by the client may be suggested depending upon the complexity of the job.

How do you become a land surveyor?

In the past, experience was obtained through an apprenticeship, but in Louisiana today, a future land surveyor must first obtain a four-year degree with at least 30 semester hours of land surveying, mapping and real property courses. With this education and the recommendation of a professional land surveyor, the applicant can take the fundamentals of land surveying exam and receive his Land Surveyor Intern certification.

With this certification, he can now gain the four years' experience practicing land surveying under the supervision of a professional land surveyor that is required for licensing. After completion of these four years, the intern must take three exams: the oral exam, the principles and practices exam and the Louisiana laws of land exam. He must have the recommendation of five individuals, three having P.L.S. status, to qualify to take these exams. Successful completion of all of these requirements is needed to obtain the Louisiana Professional Land Surveyor license.

How does a surveyor who is licensed or certified for providing service in another state get authorization to provide services in Louisiana?

For a Louisiana license, a professional surveyor licensed in another state whose qualifications and requirements for licensure are at least as high as those in Louisiana and whose home state accepts Louisiana licenses, can apply for licensure as a professional land surveyor. He must provide documentation of meeting all the Louisiana requirements for P.L.S. licensing, which includes passing the Louisiana laws of land exam in order to receive his Louisiana license.

All land surveying documents prepared by an out-of-state licensed surveyor for work in Louisiana who has not received a Louisiana license must be approved and certified by a Louisiana-licensed professional land surveyor. The Louisiana land surveyor then assumes responsibility and liability for these documents as if he had prepared them himself.

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