Surveying not a profession?Posted by Mike Shepp on May 17, 2022 at 4:42 pm
A few years ago I read about a state Supreme Court decision that concluded that surveying wasn??t a profession (in that state) because there was not a degree requirement. I think, but am not sure that it was in one of the southern states. Can anyone verify that this actually happened or is it an ??urban legend?? Can anyone give me any information about this? As I remember it the irony was that the surveyor who was being sued argument was that he was not a professional and couldn??t be held to that standard.
- 174 Replies
- MemberMay 17, 2022 at 5:00 pm
When a specialized license is required in the field of endeavor, it is professional. If expertise were not required, neither would the license be required.
- MemberMay 17, 2022 at 5:13 pm
IIRC it was in Florida, and the distinguishing factor was that there was / is an experience or apprenticeship path to licensure with no degrees required, and therefore surveying is a trade not a profession.
- MemberMay 17, 2022 at 5:27 pm
The absence of a degree requirement does not prevent someone from pursuing a law license in CA,VA,VT AND WA.
Candidates under this option serve an apprenticeship under a judge or lawyer. Persons pursuing this apprenticeship route are certainly a small minority. I heard of a few doing this in VA; I am not familiar with the other states.
- MemberMay 17, 2022 at 5:45 pm
it also led many states, including Florida, to review their standards and institute a degree requirement.
- MemberMay 17, 2022 at 5:55 pm
It was in Florida. Garden v. Frier.
Obviously there’s no end to the debate over what constitutes a professional, but generally speaking trades simply supply a service that requires specialized skills and/or tools. If one is a licensed tradesman, they have been found competent to perform a task or set of tasks.
Professionals, while often competent with respect to specific tasks and services, can go beyond that and also provide high-level analysis which requires additional education and training through a formalized accreditation process. It’s the “intellectual” side of licensed practice.
And the word practice is generally only applied to professionals as well, because an integral part of a profession is mandatory professional development and continuing education, beyond simply renewing your license. As the legal and ethical, not to mention technological, landscape changes, professionals are required to keep up. The ethics side is another difference – professionals can have their license yanked for ethical violations, but rarely does this apply to the trades.
None of this means that tradesmen are automatically “less intellectual” or somehow “below” professionals, but simply that their license covers a different area. There’s a “book-learning” (I use that term in the non-pejorative sense, because books are perfectly acceptable to learn from, and have been for hundreds of years) component that is rarely present in tradecraft.
With trades, it is often possible to operate as an unlicensed provider of those services without running afoul of the law. I can do electrical work on my new (old) house without needing to get an electrician’s license, and I can help a friend run a new circuit for his hot tub as a favor. I can take my motorcycle to the guy at the end of my alley for a valve adjustment, and even if I pay him, he doesn’t have to be a certified motorcycle tech.
But I can’t perform a survey of my own land, or return the favor for my friend by surveying his land, or barter with my motorcycle guy by surveying his property in exchange for my tune-up, without being a licensed land surveyor. I also can’t perform surgery on any of those folks without a license either. There are some additional restrictions that come with professional as opposed to trade licensure.
Surveying is weird because the field portion, and certain parts of the office portion, “look like” a trade. But those are the specialized skill sets and tool use that complement the main function of the surveyor, which is not simply to throw monuments in the ground, but to know how to determine where those monuments should be placed.“…people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.” -Neil Postman
- MemberMay 17, 2022 at 6:42 pm
@rover83 Very well articulated.Posted by: @rover83
Surveying is weird because the field portion
I would say, however, that aspects of our work is “trade-like” or alternatively titled “para-professional”.
There are many who call themselves “surveyor” but are more tradesmen than professional. I’m particularly thinking of those who perform construction layout.
- MemberMay 17, 2022 at 7:04 pm
@rover83 good reply, especially the “book learning” part. I took my exam based on 10 years of progressive experience, about half of those 10 years working seven days a week. At the seven year mark, I started buying the necessary books and studying them in advance of my application being accepted. With the field experience in place and being properly mentored, I was able to apply what I was learning in a real world environment.
In the last seven years, I have hired two people in their mid twenties with little field experience but a four year degree in Land Surveying. Both rich in “book learning” theory, both quick to challenge what and how I wanted things done to achieve the desired results and both quick to point out that their Professor told them something different. Attempting to discuss the hows and whys with them and demonstrating the outcome was always a fruitless process because it varied from their text book studies and what their Professor’s less plan said should happen. Needless to say, neither lasted long and I know that one of them still maintains that rigid attitude and has been let go from several firms in the area because of it. I know this because he keeps using me as a reference when applying for new jobs, for some strange reason.
My point in all of the above, and this is from my personal perspective, is that requiring a four year degree was, and still is, counter productive to what was hoped to be accomplished. When I was young, I never had any intention of seeking my license but was talked into taking the exam, just to have the license. I finally caved, and when I passed the exam, many doors were opened to me that otherwise would not have been.
The current requirements, again, in my opinion, throw up an unnecessary barrier to those who have put the time in but, for one reason or another, are disillusioned because they don’t have the time with a full time job and families to raise while spending the time in classes at night. There’s not a book or lecture in the world that is going to trump hands on experience and good mentoring.
- MemberMay 17, 2022 at 7:10 pm
@tim-v-pls I could not agree with you more and just had that argument with a kid the other night who was pumping his chest talking about being a great surveyor with only six years of pounding stakes on a plant grid system and having the set up work done for him. He did not have any concept of well rounded experience, the ability to make potentionally expensive decisions and the ability to calculate on the fly.
- MemberMay 17, 2022 at 7:34 pm
@half-bubble so you’re saying that a non degreed person who passes the same national and state exams as a degreed person is a tradesman and not a professional, despite what the license says?
It’s what Florida said. Furthermore I believe they implied that the degreed licensed surveyors were not professional, either, because the experience/apprenticeship path remained open.
- MemberMay 17, 2022 at 7:37 pm
@oldpacer I’m in NJ and the degree requirement is four years, regardless of prior experience. I was in the last round of applicants that were approved to sit for the exam before the degree requirement kicked in back in the early 90’s.
The legislation for this was pushed hard by the NJSPLS back then with the argument that a four year degree would raise income and provide a more professional appearance. The end result of the requirement coming to fruition is that, if people are forced to have a four degree, they are more likely to go into the engineering fields of practice.
The great original intent did work out for those like me who were licensed at a young age, I was 28 when I passed the exam and as the existing PLSs in the state started retiring or passing away. As things are now, NJ is issuing less than 10 new PLS licenses a year and I consider that to be a crisis as I have recently read that the average age of a licensed land surveyor is 58, I’m 57 now and am eying retirement some time between the next five or ten years. The future is not bright, the long term end result is that either there will be a complete monopoly of the market state wide held by a few mega firms, or, Engineers and GIS people will be given free reign to survey.
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