Surveying with Army Corps of EngineersPosted by slim on April 11, 2022 at 12:59 pm
Has anyone here been a Land Surveyor with the Army Corps of Engineers? This will be my first time going the federal route and was just wondering what to expect? It is 50% office and 50% field with 15% of the time being travel. Seems like a pretty good gig – decent pay, good benefits, all the latest in equipment. But I hear a lot about the red tape that comes with a federal job and how it can be very bureaucratic. Anything anyone can add I would appreciate. Thanks!
- 21 Replies
- MemberApril 11, 2022 at 1:19 pm
When I worked there it was quite different from now. At the time, they had 3 crews in the district, and they did almost all of the survey work. Now, most is contracted. I was a lowly survey tech, GS-3. It was a great job for a single guy who lived with my parents still (early 20’s). I was probably on travel 75% of the time, but always home Friday afternoon. In those days (pre-GPS, pre-total station) the crews were bigger, and the work took a lot longer. I really enjoyed the work, and didn’t care at the time about the low pay. I had party chiefs who helped me learn.
When I went in I knew nothing at all about surveying, I had taken a generic “engineering technician” test. That got me into surveying, and here I am 42 years later…
- MemberApril 11, 2022 at 1:50 pm
I worked with a low three digit Missouri surveyor who retired from USACE. The only other one I worked with was a later retiree. They both said they loved the work and the retirement. Of course that was a lifetime ago…
- MemberApril 11, 2022 at 2:58 pm
What district? I’ve worked closely with the St. Louis District at a couple of different stops. Hopefully you get to know Danny Swain. He’s way up there in the ranks of the USACE Surveyors. The guy loves to teach. He’s intimidating at first but once you get to know him, he’s a good guy.
- MemberApril 11, 2022 at 3:28 pm
Government reports are evaluated by the weight of the submittal. Wide margins on all sides of the page plus larger print size leads to more pages, more weight, better acceptance rate.
- MemberApril 11, 2022 at 5:48 pm
If you are looking at the Pittsburgh District, I know a couple of people there. My main contact there will probably be your supervisor.
- MemberApril 11, 2022 at 7:35 pm
I took a job in the engineering department of my local city. I, too, worried about there being a lot of red tape. And if you are considered a “project manager” there will be plenty of applications, forms, and reports. In our department most of the engineers fall in this category, and it fills a goodly proportion of their time. As surveyor I mostly just take care of surveying things. I get in volved with this paperwork only in the form of supplying the project managers with the information they need to fill out their reports. And they appreciate having a go-to source.
I did have to attend 3 hours of mandatory “diversity, equity, and inclusion” training last week, but it was paid time and didn’t negatively impact any project schedules sooooo ….. In government work find that it isn’t all about how much deliverable you can produce in a unit of time, it is about getting along and dealing with whatever comes to you in whatever form it comes. Promptness is good but haste is not expected. Thoroughness is the necessity.
- MemberApril 13, 2022 at 3:00 pm
A federal position is not bad until the supervisory level. That said each agency and each location is not as uniform as one would expect. I found some frustration in the political budgeting process. I was furloughed once for a few days and prepared for it on multiple occasions until a Continuing Resolution was passed. The budgetary process affected training opportunity, supplies, and equipment purchases. I do not believe that we are treated as valued employees. if good benefits and a secure job is your goal, the fed may work for you. By the way, we would eventually get paid when we were furloughed, which resulted in a free holiday although with a deferred payment. As a taxpayer, I find it unacceptable to be a political football.
- MemberApril 13, 2022 at 4:17 pm
Had a fellow, who is a Fed employee, work for me every day he was furloughed. Let’s just say it was a financially wonderful time for him.
- MemberApril 13, 2022 at 4:39 pm
I worked for a small City, now the State. The State is more political and red tape than the City. Big Cities are probably more like the State.
Ethics training is a big deal, be very careful. Generally Surveyors aren??t in a position to run afoul of the ethics rules, that??s more likely if you do purchasing or construction management. Basically don??t accept anything from anyone and you??ll be alright (lunches, gifts, hats, shirts).
My boss is retiring, I applied but luckily they chose someone else ha ha.
- MemberApril 13, 2022 at 4:56 pm
I worked for the Feds for 30 years. I was constantly in a battle of wits with unarmed men. Once you are in, there are unlimited opportunities to transfer (with promotion) all over the country. I got to use the latest and best equipment around. I got to attend Conferences all over the Country and have a cocktail with Art Trimble, Bruce Carlson, Kurt Wurm, and numerous other technology giants in the Surveying industry. My response to my Supervisor was always “I can do that.” Then I’d have to figure out how to do it. One of my mentors once told me. “There’s Thinkers and Doers in the Government, keep being a Doer”.
It was a great career until I became a Thinker, but the retirement benefits are the Best.
Good Luck in your Government Career.
- MemberApril 13, 2022 at 5:04 pm
My sister works for the Forest Service. Her description of what it takes to travel somewhere sounds painful to me. The travel approvals then she did all the expense claims for the office at her last job assignment. The Federal per diem rates are a lot higher but their salaries are very low, at least out here.
My approval is a short talk with my supervisor, either he tells me or I tell him I need to go to A, then I log onto the internet based expense program to get an advance (I never finance travel, I??m not the Bank of Dave) then the same program to submit the expenses so 1) I don??t have to payback the cash they advanced me and 2) they almost always owe me a few dollars at the end.
The way the state advance works is I can get up to $1000 at a time. I have to spend it all or pay it all back before I can get more. So if I spend $800 (all approved through the expense system) then I owe them $200. I can travel another week then they will wind up owing me $300. I don??t like that. So I say just give me 1000-200=$800. They won??t do that, it??s against the rules. I have to write them a check for $200 and deliver it to accounting then they will give me a $1000 check. If they owe me money then it??s direct deposit. Getting the $200 deducted from my paycheck is a paperwork nightmare, easier to write a check. So I always try to make sure they owe me money at the end of travel.
one time I got sent to a big fire for several weeks. When I got back I was tired, long days with no days off wears on you. I accidentally put down 10 hours too much overtime on a straight time day. I just blundered. They have people that audit the incident accounting (volumes of electronic ledgers). He caught it, I said oops and immediately notified our HR person. I had to hound them to take the money back out of my paycheck. It took 3 months. I didn??t want it to get caught 10 years from now and I owe a huge interest bill. Seriously they audit ten year old travel expenses. They probably spent 1000s catching a $10 overcharge on parking (there??s a limit if you don??t have a receipt), the guy was retired but he gave them their money. Big story in the local scandal sheet.
Remember the government runs on rules, not logic.
- MemberApril 13, 2022 at 5:10 pm
Remember the God of government finance is the fiscal year.
God forbid you should spend this year??s money next year.
We always joke that we can??t use a lath or nail bought last year this year, what if the Governor found out? We??d be in big trouble.
- MemberApril 13, 2022 at 6:47 pm
What kind of appointment will you get? Permanent/part time, or Permanent? The Federal Government uses a lot of Permanent/Parttime positions to avoid hiring limitations. If a layoff come, it never did in my career, the Permanent/Temps are the first to go. Early on I did have to take a week off without pay.
- MemberApril 14, 2022 at 2:38 pm
Thanks everyone I really appreciate the helpful replies and insights. Some of the stuff I haven’t thought about like the possibility of being furloughed due to the nature of the political budgetary process. That is something I’ll definitely have to pay more attention to in the future and prepare for accordingly. Also, the position will be a permanent full time position. Seems they are using top of the line equipment which would be a huge benefit for me for where I’m currently at in my career. The projects they work on seem like they will be challenging and interesting. And the benefits and retirement are another bonus. My start date isn’t for a few more weeks, so I’m just looking forward to getting those first few day over with at this point. Going watch, listen and learn everything I can and put my best foot forward from Day 1!
- MemberApril 14, 2022 at 3:08 pm
I was hired in Pittsburgh as a 10 month/seasonal in 1980. I thought that was great…they would lay me off for two months in the winter. Never happened. I worked 12 months every year.
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