Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Autonomy of the Land Surveyor

I have seen and read a number of articles lately that suggest that Land Surveying is a dying profession.  I even read an article suggesting surveying is a trade and the education requirement is killing it.  Although I must say the articles written about how the education requirement is making surveyors experts at being EXACTLY wrong are particularly entertaining.  Therefore not wanting to miss the boat; I thought I would chime in.
     Let us define which parts of surveying are technical and which parts are professional.  Curtis Brown wrote that (I am paraphrasing) mapping and construction layout are functions of Civil Engineering because they are used primarily in the design/build process; therefore these are of a technical/trades nature.  Mr. Brown went on to say that Boundary Surveying requires data gathering, data analysis, and a determination; therefore this is a professional activity.  Backing up this conclusion is the fact that many States license or register Surveyors primarily for boundary surveying activity.
     Now let's discuss the training of surveyor; education versus apprenticeship.  I do not plan to waste a lot of time here but we can all agree education is a good thing.  Education without application is meaningless.  What is the benefit of a wealth of knowledge if there is beneficial application or practical use.  Conversely with apprenticeship; what is the benefit of training if a situation develops that requires out of the box thinking that the training is ill prepared for?  Many State jurisdictions that license surveyors have adopted an education requirement; I believe it is now around 45 of the 50 states or there about.  Most substitute education for experience concerning the licensing requirement.  I believe this is a mistake.  I argue the education requirement should be on top of the experience requirement.  Not a substitute for it.  Education cannot replace experience and vice versa.  We must have both.
     After the "In-Training" status is achieved through testing I believe the LSIT should have his work reviewed by all of the PLS's that recommended them for licensure.  Not just the employer.  I would not allow experience beyond boundary experience.   This will bother some; but it is boundary that the states license for.  Finally I believe the professional examination should be a comprehensive review of the candidate(s) individually by a committee of professionals duly licensed, with unblemished records, and considerable experience.  This examination should be an oral interview after a written examination is successfully completed.  I once had a mentor in Colorado tell me "congratulations on passing the the PLS exam; all it means is you scored better than 70% on a test."  It took me a while to figure out what he meant.
     Our profession is not dying.  We are a profession in transition.  As our younger candidates become better educated and the technology available them becomes more highly evolved; we will continue to see less human interaction on the trade side of surveying (mapping and construction layout) through drones and machine controls.  However we shall see an increase in the professional side of surveying as the land surveyors take their rightful position as caretakers of the cadastre.  Our profession is evolving and as it does there will be some discomfort.  However the sky is not falling.  As far as the argument concerning the declining number of surveyors; well I see that as a free market issue.  Fewer surveyors; higher demand; higher fees; more surveyors.  There is and will always be equilibrium.