The basic principles of surveying have changed little over the ages, but the tools used by surveyors have evolved tremendously. Engineering, especially civil engineering depends heavily on the surveyor. Whenever there are roads, dams, retaining walls, bridges or residential areas to be built, surveyors are involved. They determine the boundaries of private property and the boundaries of various political divisions. They also provide advice and data for geographical information systems (GIS), computer databases that contain data on land features and boundaries.
Surveyors must have a thorough knowledge of algebra, basic calculus, geometry, and trigonometry. They must also know the laws that deal with surveys, property, and contracts. In addition, they must be able to use delicate instruments with accuracy and precision.
In most states of the U.S., surveying is recognized as a distinct profession apart from engineering. Licensing requirements vary by state. In Arizona, experience gained through an apprenticeship, together with passing a series of state-administered examinations is required to attain licensure.
Many other states now require a Bachelor of Science in Surveying, or a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering with additional coursework in surveying, in addition to experience and examination requirements. Registered surveyors usually denote themselves with the letters R.L.S. (registered land surveyor), P.S. (professional surveyor), L.S. (land surveyor), or P.L.S. (professional land surveyor) following their names, depending upon the dictates of their particular state of registration. Arizona uses the R.L.S. designation.