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Land Survey School (10)

Becoming a Professional Land Surveyor

Becoming a Professional Land Surveyor

Being a professional land surveyor is awesome! The woods become your office, you get to play with the coolest and most expensive gadgets available, and very often, you are your own boss!

But the journey to gain a professional land surveying license in your home state is a long one!
It takes years to gather the necessary education and experience required for licensure. Not to mention having to pass at least three different exams before being issued a pls seal.

But knowing what’s required of you is half the battle. Let me say that again: if you know what you need to do to become licensed, then you can create a gameplan to get your pls in as little time as possible.

Professional licensure as a surveyor requires three checkboxes: (1) gaining the necessary education, (2) working as a surveyor to gain experience, and (3) passing the required exams. The amount of these three items differs from state-to-state so check your board rules.
The first step is to get your education! To get a better idea of which states require what education, take a look at this map. Five states don’t require any formal education, twenty-four states require some education like an associate’s degree or some courses, and the rest of the states require a bachelor’s degree. Checkout our website for more info but always verify with your home state.


Once you have your education or possibly just some field experience, now it’s time to take your first test called the fundamentals of land surveying exam or fs exam. This exam tests you on the principles of land surveying including legal principles, survey math, survey processes, types of surveys, and more. The test basically mirrors the content taught by 4-year surveying programs. Less than 50% of first-time takers pass this exam so studying is very important. Once you pass the fs, then you will be able to gain a “surveyor intern” license.

Now that you are officially a surveyor intern, gaining practical experience is very important. When working for an employer, surveyor interns can only count certain types of jobs, duties, and projects towards the requirements for the next exam. Surveyor interns must be performing work “in responsible charge.” meaning holding the prism rod doesn’t count. Instead, si’s must be doing things that professional surveyors do like managing a crew, making decisions in the field, computing survey data, and other important work. Read your state’s definition of a responsible charge before starting a new job!

Went to school: check. Got your surveyor intern license: check. Worked for between 2 and 4 years in responsible charge: check. You’ve almost made it! The last step before gaining your professional land surveyors license is to take and pass two more exams. The first exam is the nationally-given principles & practice of land surveying test or ps. This test is all about practical surveying knowledge and is given in 49 of the 50 states (not you, texas!) the second exam is a state-specific exam. This tests you on all those state-specific laws, rules, acts, and statutes that you should know if practicing in the given state. Pass the ps and state exam and viola! You are now a pls.
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