September 2018

Getting your foot in the door of an exciting and fast-paced industry

Working in the geomatics industry is a rewarding and challenging experience, if you’ve ever considered a change of career or simply thought about starting one in this field, here are some things to expect, and some established paths to the geomatics or land surveying career ladder. Geomatics is a rapidly growing global market, thanks to continual advancements in technology, especially in the field of 3D laser scanning and geographic information systems (GIS).

1st Horizon Land Surveyor using a robotic tool station

Entry points

It is perhaps most common for candidates to complete an undergraduate degree course in a relevant field before applying for roles in the geomatics sector. Ideally, students will have chosen at least one surveying module as part of their studies.

Popular courses with routes into land surveying include physics, geology, geography, mathematics, archaeology and civil or structural engineering. It would be beneficial but not essential for candidates to have undertaken an ICES (Institute of Civil Engineering Surveyors) or RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) accredited degree course.

Surveying organisations will be looking for graduates and trainees. Trainees ideally need a strong academic background that includes good GCSE and A Level results. Trainees will gain knowledge from seasoned surveyors, on the job experience and 3rd party training as part of their development. Before trainees are permitted on-site, however, they will first need basic health & safety training appropriate for their project profiles. Once this is completed, competent trainees will then be allowed on-site to begin their development cycle and career as a topographic surveyor.

Visit our careers page for more information about 1ST HORIZON’s graduate, trainee & apprenticeship route to employment.

Required skills

Although not absolutely essential, to make a success of a career as a land surveyor you will need a strong set of skills that complement each other making you an essential member of a team of skilled surveyors.

Below is an example of a preferred skill set for a potential surveyor.

  • Keen eye for detail
  • Methodical approach to work
  • Tendency to produce accurate & reliable work
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Ability to conceptualise 2D and 3D information
  • Academic ability
  • Ability to work in a team situation
  • Capacity to understand complex information
  • Planning and organisational skills
  • Analytic mind
  • Excellent work ethic.

1st Horizon Land Surveyor using topographic pole and logger

What to expect

A career in the surveying industry is incredibly varied, with no job being the same as another. This is in part thanks to the remarkably diverse nature of projects in varied industry sectors.

These sectors can include:

  • Construction / Civils
  • Engineering
  • Rail
  • Heritage / Archaeology
  • Architecture
  • Education
  • Infrastructure
  • Power
  • Utilities.

Depending on your organisation, you may well be working on large-scale, prestigious projects with blue-chip companies and on projects where several disciplines will collaborate. This will give you the opportunity to work with experienced professionals from varied surveying backgrounds. Land surveying is just one string to the measurement industry’s bow, during your career you could work closely with professionals from utility location, 3D laser scanning, CCTV survey or aerial survey backgrounds. This could be from the same organisation or as part of a multi-faceted survey commission.

CAD drawing inspection by 1st Horizon CAD Manager


Land surveyors will typically work 40 – 45 hours per week plus travelling time, though this will vary slightly from organisation to organisation and for specific jobs. Most survey companies will operate nationally rather than confining their services to local regions, which means that surveyors are often required to stay away from home for short durations. The upshot of this trend for short duration national work means that land surveyors get to experience many different locations throughout the UK on hugely varied sites.

Work is often quite fast paced and involves working to deadlines. As well as this, you will be working in all weathers, so a love for the outdoors is a must! In addition to spending time on site, you will usually be required to spend a good portion of your working time in the office, processing data and producing CAD drawings. As a surveyor you will be encouraged to further your career, most forward-thinking organisations will promote professional development and invest in staff training. This means you will be able to gain further qualifications as you work.

Career progression

Typically, you can expect to start out as either an apprentice or trainee surveyor. As a trainee you will support the wider survey team in the office and on-site. The next step is to become an assistant surveyor. In this role you will typically continue the same duties as a trainee, but to a higher standard and with more responsibility. An assistant surveyor will have around 12 months of experience and undertake further training in all aspects of surveying.

1st Horizon Land Survey team take on a briefing

Moving on from the assistant surveyor role, the following step is to become a fully-fledged surveyor. A surveyor will usually be responsible for his or her own work both on site and in the office, depending on the size of the organisation. At this point you will have around 2-3 years of experience in the role. Along with this, much greater responsibility will be afforded, and you may be liaising with clients directly on occasion.

Finally, after around 5-6 years in your role you could become a senior surveyor. With this comes the responsibility of managing a small team or teams of surveyors, with an intricate knowledge of the job role and the industry as well as relevant management experience. At this juncture your employer may well encourage you to undertake a professional qualification, usually funded for by the organisation.

Beyond this, surveyors can often progress into project management and operational planning roles where they are responsible for several members of a much larger team.

To find out more about a rewarding career in the surveying and measurement industry, visit our careers page. 

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