obc_logo.jpg (4000 bytes)  SURVEYOR/FIELD ENGINEER

(Rodman, Chainman, Instrument Man, Party Chief)

A field engineer or surveyor normally supervises a crew of workers known as a survey party. Within the typical survey party is a rodman who holds the leveling staff while measurements of distance and elevation are made; a chairman who helps measure distances with a surveyor chain; an instrument man who adjusts and reads instruments for measurement (level, transit, laser, calculators/field computers, etc.); and a party chief who directs the work. Frequently the party chief and field engineer or surveyor are one in the same. Before any other work begins on a jobsite, a survey party must first establish the legal boundaries of the land upon which the work will be done. After the job begins the survey party measures and records distances and elevations that tell the contractor exactly where a new structure or system will be located. This can be critical to proper construction. Each member of the survey crew must perform-n his or her duty with patience and precision. Surveyors generally work outdoors.


Those who work on a survey party should enjoy outdoor work as nearly all their time is spent in the field. Field conditions vary depending upon what is being surveyed and the area where the survey is being conducted. Survey party members can work on bridges, tall building, tunnels, and in dense forests, city streets, mountains, and deserts. A great deal of walking is necessary, and some climbing may be required -- while carrying survey equipment. Most survey work is done in the summer, but it is not unusual for a survey party to work during the winter months.


For a party chief a high school diploma with emphasis on sciences and math should be considered the absolute minimum. Mechanical drawing and geometry should be considered as essential classes; algebra and trigonometry are important. While some members of the survey party can perform their task without any additional education, further training such as a two-year degree in surveying, mapping, or landscape architecture is clearly recommended for advancement. Modem surveying requires-the use of lasers and computer aided measurement instruments. The ability to read and understand blueprints is essential to the field engineer/surveyor.


Rodmen and chairmen may advance to instrument men by learning to use transits and levels, and other electronic measurement devices. An instrument man may in turn advance to party chief (field engineer), where he or she will supervise the crew and record notes from the survey. After years of experience, the party chief (field engineer or surveyor) may become a job or project superintendent. A party chief may also take an exam to become a registered land surveyor and can then start his or her own business.

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Page updated:  March 26, 2000