Like many professional industries, practicing as a land surveyor requires a unique set of licenses.
Whether you are a principal of a surveying firm, an employee within a firm, or a recent graduate
starting your career, you will face certification and licensing requirements at every level of your
Adhering to professional licensing requirements is key to
maintaining your legal authority to practice
land surveying. Beyond that, full compliance demonstrates that you have the surveying skills and
judgement to safely practice your trade. Failing to observe surveying industry requirements can
result in state imposed penalties and even denial, revocation, or suspension of your license.
The good news? An experienced, dedicated compliance partner can help you take a proactive approach
to maintaining surveyor licensure and certification. Contact Harbor Compliance today
to help you simplify the professional licensing process.
The following guide contains an overview of land surveyor firm licensing and specific board requirements
in each state.
Individual Surveyor Licensing
Overview of Requirements
All 50 states and Washington, D.C. require land surveyors to be individually licensed before
practicing or soliciting business. Each state board has its own professional standards for surveyor
licenses. There are certain prerequisites for licensing, which vary slightly by state. Generally
speaking, the requirements include:
- A four-year degree from an accredited surveying program.
- Successful completion of a
Fundamentals of Surveying (FS)
written examination, testing an applicant’s breadth of understanding of basic surveying principles.
- Successful completion of a written
Principles and Practice of Surveying (PS)
examination, testing an applicant's knowledge and competency of surveying skills.
- A requisite amount of surveying experience, which for most states is four years and is
usually under the supervision of a professional surveyor.
Advanced Degree Waiver: In some cases, a state board of surveying
may waive the requirement of a four year degree and register an applicant who has demonstrated
professional experience that is deemed to be equivalent to a degree in surveying from an accredited
Once these initial steps are complete, an aspiring surveyor can begin the application process in
his or her state. Licensing is administered by the board of surveying in each state. The specific
requirements, application fees, and processing times vary by state.
Each state has their own additional land surveyor requirements. Common requirements include:
- Duration of state residency
- Reference from licensed surveyor
- Duration of internship or training
- Additional experience
- Additional jurisdiction-specific exam (beyond the FS and PS)
Initial Application Fees
Fees vary widely by state. The fee in Pennsylvania is just $50 whereas the California fee for
registration by examination is $275. States typically charge an application fee plus the fees for
processing exam applications.
Thanks to reciprocity, many land surveyors are licensed to practice in more than just one jurisdiction
for greater job flexibility, mobility, and security.
Reciprocity or licensure by comity is when a registered surveyor in one jurisdiction applies for
registration in another by providing documentation that he or she meets that jurisdiction's registration
requirements. Typically this is accomplished through an NCEES Record.
Registration boards examine and keep a record of qualifications for each applicant for registration.
Many registration boards expect a NCEES Record as a basis for reciprocal registration, although a
some consider applicants without this record. A complete copy of an applicant’s NCEES Record will
be provided to a registration board in support of the application for reciprocal registration.
If reciprocal registration is permitted, there will be an application fee registration. For example,
the fee for the Surveyor by Reciprocity application is $100 in North Carolina.
Generally speaking, surveying individual licenses must be renewed periodically. The renewal frequency
is one to two years, depending on the state. State fees also vary. California imposes a surveyor
license renewal fee of $115 for a two-year period, while Wisconsin renewal is $82. Continuing
education (CE) is required in nearly every state. Keeping up with each state’s requirements,
tracking renewals, and submitting the applications on time is critical to avoiding penalties. A
expert can help you keep track of varying jurisdiction requirements and updated laws.
Surveyor Firm Licensing
Overview of Requirements
A business entity offering land survey services to the public typically must register with the State
Board of Surveyors and receive a Certificate of Authorization. The Certificate of Authorization, or firm
license, is necessary to practice surveying in about 75% of states. Firms practicing without one can be
liable for steep penalty fees.
Licensure for surveying firms usually follows incorporation or foreign qualification of the business
entity with the Secretary of State. Common legal structures for firms are corporations or professional
corporations (PC), and limited liability companies (LLC) or professional LLCs. Incorporation refers to
formation of the business entity, whereas foreign qualification refers to applying for a Certificate of
Authority to transact business in another state.
After registration with the Secretary of State, firms must apply for a Certificate of Authorization
through the relevant licensing board. It is worth noting that the Certificate of Authorization is a
separate document from the Certificate of Authority used during foreign qualification. This can be a
confusing for firms needing to file both documents, especially in Oklahoma and Missouri, where the
licensing board form is also called a Certificate of Authority application. Applications and forms are
fairly standard, but there are some differences from state to state.
Applications require proof of incorporation or foreign qualification and typically a fee. Other required
items can include notarized bylaws and ownership requirements. For example, in North Carolina there are
ownership requirements in order to obtain a Certificate of Authorization. A minimum of two-thirds of the
controlling officers, partners, directors, or members of the entity must be surveyors registered under
the laws of any U.S. jurisdiction, and at least one must be a surveyor registered in North Carolina.
Some states combine the applications for land surveying, architecture and engineering firm licensure into
a single design firm application. Firms that provide more than one of these professional services may
only need to fill out a single application but with a slightly higher application fee. Illinois, for
instance, uses a general design firm application for architecture, land surveying, professional
engineering, and structural engineering.
Initial Registration Fees
Fees for an initial license range from $0 to $600. Georgia and California do not require an application
fee, while Alaska charges $600. The average firm fee is about $130 while the most common filing fee is
Firm license renewal varies by state. Slightly over half of the states that require a firm license call
for licenses to be renewed every two years. Almost all other state licenses renew annually. California
is an exception to this however, as licenses are only renewed when firm information changes.
Like initial application fees, renewal fees also vary by state. Fees range from just $10 in Georgia and
to as much as $500 in Alaska. Firms can expect to pay closer to the national average of $110 when
applying for a license, however, the most commonly applied fee is $100.