Geo Week News

March 22, 2024

National Surveyors Week highlights industry strengths to be passed on to the next generation

The industry is facing a worker shortage, and word needs to get about about all of the positives of working in this profession.

Every year starting on the third Sunday in March, National Surveyors Week is celebrated in the United States with the aim of educating the public about surveyors’ work and the important role they play in our society. Additionally, yesterday – March 21 – marked Global Surveyors’ Day, another annual celebration of this important profession. These two events coinciding made this week on social media an interesting one, with people flooding feeds with how proud they are of their industry and the work they do. A search on LinkedIn for the hashtag #globalsurveyorsday, for example, shows numerous examples of this.

This immense pride is certainly not limited to this week in particular, as I speak with surveyors throughout the year who are never shy about sharing their satisfaction with their work. It’s not hard to see where that pride comes from, either. There are so many positive aspects of this job. Surveyors get plenty of fulfillment from their jobs, playing an important role in tangible projects that add to people’s lives in a variety of ways. They often spend significant amounts of time outside and away from a desk, and sometimes get to travel to beautiful landscapes. It’s also truly one of those jobs where every day is different.


To me, all of these features and many others would seemingly appeal specifically to younger people, but that isn’t reflected in the current state of the industry. The truth is that the industry – like many others, to be fair – are dealing with a skilled worker shortage, particularly of the younger generation. This is why outreach about the industry as a whole is so important, as young professionals simply don’t have the awareness of what this job entails and don’t view it as a viable and fulfilling career path.

It can be difficult to get concrete statistics about this problem, but various research all agree that the average age of a land surveyor in America is older than we’d like to see, likely ranging somewhere between 50 and 55. That means the average worker is rapidly approaching retirement age. Furthermore, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said in 2022 that there were 50,800 surveying jobs, down from 56,200 in 2010. 

There are plenty of reasons for these troubling statistics, with the degree to which any given factor plays into the larger problem varying depending on who you talk to. Some will point to training requirements, as many of these jobs require four-year degrees in difficult subject areas along with licensure requirements varying across states. I won’t pretend to have the expertise required to argue for or against education requirements, though standardizing licensure across state lines would certainly lower at least some barriers to entry in the industry. 

One could also point to the proliferation of advancing technology in the field. Many of these tools have done a long way toward counteracting the “brain drain” that’s come from more workers retiring than are coming in, but it’s also had some negative effects. Specifically, many of these tools have ensured that only one person is needed for a specific job, something that helps make work more efficient for stretched firms but that also takes away crucial training opportunities. There are also salary issues, with the median salary in the industry in 2022 sitting at $63,080 per year. That’s higher than the overall national average, but below salaries similar degrees could fetch.

These are all valid issues, but it seems like the most obvious factor is that young people just don’t think of surveying as a career option when they are in middle and high school and thinking about what they’ll pursue as they progress through their education. Changing that is easier said than done, but the big goal of National Surveyors Week and Global Surveyors Day is to promote all of those positives mentioned above and at least present this career path as a viable option. 


I’d also point to technology as a positive, even if there’s an argument it has also been part of the problem in nurturing this next generation of surveyors. The fact is that today’s youth have come up their entire lives surrounded by rapidly advancing technology, and that is their expectation in professional life as well. Working in surveying, they absolutely have the chance to work on the cutting edge and utilize new and exciting technologies, to go along with being able to work in fascinating physical environments.

There are organizations who have dedicated themselves to this mission of attracting the next generation, including Get Kids Into Survey. This organization was founded in 2017 and provides resources to children, parents, and teachers about surveying while also boasting a network of “brand ambassadors” all around the globe – they have multiple representatives in every continent – for more support in promoting this industry. 

Surveying is not the only industry that is suffering through these types of workforce issues, and there isn’t an easy solution to reverse the trend. It’s vital that strides are at least made, though, as increasing urbanization, engineering challenges to counteract the effects of climate change, and critical fixes to aging infrastructure ensure that surveyors will be in high demand on critical projects for years to come. Initiatives like National Surveyors Week and Global Surveyors Day, along with organizations like Get Kids Into Survey, do very important work on this front, and are a model the industry as a whole needs to remember all year.

Want more stories like this? Subscribe today!

Read Next

Related Articles


Join the Discussion