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Surveying the License Landscape

Industry Report – Engineering FirmsLand surveyors have historically worked work hand-in-hand with engineers. Now there is talk of eliminating the surveying profession altogether in the state and simply making it part of the engineer’s role.

The number of licensed land surveyors in New Jersey highlights the perceived problem: It has been stuck at 1,000 for the last three years, according to the state’s Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors. Meanwhile, the number of licensed engineers in the state has grown slightly. There was an increase of 600, or about 3.6 percent, from 16,900 in 2005 to 17,500 in 2006.

One major factor in the surveyor freeze is that while both professions require a four-year college degree, engineers earn more, says Peter Allen, executive director of the American Council of Engineering Companies of New Jersey, a Springfield-based trade group of engineering firm owners. “So why not go into engineering?” he asks.

Not all states require land surveyors to have an advanced degree, but to receive a license in New Jersey, a surveyor must have a bachelor’s degree in surveying and at least three years of practical experience, according the New Jersey Society of Professional Land Surveyors, a trade group based in Cream Ridge.

Allen says a pair of bills being discussed by the industry would change the surveying landscape: One would reduce the education requirements for land surveyors in the state from a bachelor’s to an associate’s degree; the other would abolish the partition between the two professions and allow a licensed engineer with at least three years of job experience to qualify as a licensed surveyor after earning 12 to 15 credit hours in land-survey classes.

Allowing engineers to do the work of land surveyors would be disastrous for the state, says Dave Smith, manager of the survey department at Cedar Knolls Professional Planning & Engineering and a licensed surveyor. “There will be mounting litigation because invariably engineers will not do the boundary surveys correctly,” says Smith. “Don’t dumb down the profession.”

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