Heneghan and Associates, P.C. (HA) is excited to celebrate all the surveyors who help develop our world and society. We’re so proud of our Professional Land Surveyors and their work. If you want to make progress in your community, this career might be for you!

What Do Surveyors Do?

When you walk through a neighborhood, you probably see the houses, the landscaping, and the streetlights. Maybe your house has a shed in the backyard, or a swimming pool. The point is, you notice the yards — but you probably don’t think about how the land is actually divided up into lots and merged into a subdivision. That’s why we have land surveyors 

Almost every building project requires a surveyor. Surveyors go onto properties and mark the property lines so that landowners know exactly what land belongs to them and what man-made or natural structures are included on that land. This job requires experience in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), as well as extra knowledge in subjects like physics, engineering, meteorology and law. To be a land surveyor means you’re analytical and interested in multiple disciplines.  

That’s partly why so many surveyors go into surveying; they get to experience something new every day, and they can see the results of their work everywhere. Land surveying is a necessary part of buying and selling property, as well as drawing maps. Surveyors also provide drawings of commercial land so that businesses and developers can design their buildings, or sometimes they help townships plan out their roads and bridges. When it’s time to break ground, construction crews follow the surveyor’s drawings (called “plats”) to make sure that everything is built exactly where it’s supposed to be.  

A land survey should take place to properly plan for and start a building project. Surveyors research legal documents and maps throughout history to understand where property lines are and how the land has changed. From there, it’s like putting a puzzle together. They see where all the pieces fit and how the properties connect. 

Surveying is one of the oldest professions out there, with the Great Pyramids of Giza as our earliest example. Americans moving west during the Western Expansion often developed the skills of a surveyor, and early leaders like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were surveyors themselves. Expansion and development are hallmarks of modern society, and these advances require land surveyors. To grow, we have to plan.  

That’s the job of a surveyor. Land surveying is an age-old profession that relies on both history and STEM, and the job is only getting more exciting. 

Should I Be a Surveyor?

If the chance to develop entire communities seems appealing, if you enjoy figuring out how history fits together, if you love seeing the outcomes of your work, then surveying might be for you. It’s an in-demand career with lots of opportunities to grow and try new things. 

Surveyors work in the field, which means they’re actively on the property and compiling data about the land, and in the office, where they analyze this data to draw up maps and legal documents. They also use historical documents to understand how the land has been previously divided and used. It’s not uncommon for surveyors to track down documents from a hundred-plus years ago. This research informs their work.  

Surveying begets development, but the surveying profession itself is developing, too. In the past, surveyors brought along tripods and telescopes to do their work. These are still essential tools, but lidar, drones and 3D laser scanning are also becoming more common. Such advances help surveyors get a complete view of a property and create plats and maps. They can also use hydrographic surveying (surveying the floor of a body of water) and photogrammetry (using photographs to map out 3D information) to survey properties that are underwater or only visible from the sky. The industry is developing alongside surveying technology. 

Although a lot of surveying relies on history, the ultimate goal is progress. You can see the physical results of survey work out in your community. It’s a collaborative, data-driven job with real-world results. Surveying allows you to play an integral role in developing your community. As your generation prepares to join the surveying profession, we’re seeing new ideas and plans take shape. It’s an exciting, ever-changing job. 

How Do I Become a Surveyor?

The path to becoming a surveyor is changing, too. But there are a few main things that all surveyors must do to become licensed. To begin your surveying licensure journey in Illinois, you’ll start work on a bachelor’s degree. Not many colleges offer a surveying program, so most surveyors get a degree in a related field, such as civil engineering or construction management. This is a great chance to develop your background knowledge and think about what kind of work you want to do as a surveyor. Before you graduate, you’ll complete 24 additional credit hours of land surveying courses to get a surveying endorsement. 

The Fundamentals of Surveying exam is your next big step. Once you pass, you’ll be a licensed Survey Intern. Spend four years working under a licensed surveyor as a surveyor-in-training, which will give you the chance to decide what kind of surveying work you want to do; will you draw up property lines, consolidate lots, plan roads? There are a ton of options to choose from. Then all you have to do is take the Professional Land Surveyors Exam, and congrats! You’re officially a surveyor, with lots of exciting projects ahead of you. 

By the Way…

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) has unveiled a new program specifically for land surveyors! Starting in Fall 2023, the Land Surveying and Geomatics major will be available to students. This is the only four-year degree of its type in our region, and it’s designed to meet licensure requirements for both Illinois and Missouri. This program is still developing, so check back at the SIUE land surveying website here to learn more. 

Those of us at HA are happy to talk with you if you have any questions about what we do, our scholarships, or even if you just want to get to know a surveyor and see how we work! Surveyors at our offices in Jerseyville and Columbia, IL are dedicated and eager to share their work. Feel free to stop in during our office hours, or you can visit our website or call us at 618-498-6418.