Topographical and Engineering Surveyor

Surveying is the science of representing the layout of the land accurately on maps or plans, and indicating the exact position of any structure or other man-made or natural object, above or below ground.

Surveying plays a vital role in the planning, provision and maintenance of all forms of construction and development.

Surveying comprises mainly two fields:

Topographical surveying entails the gathering of information to map the forms of the earth. This is done by means of: triangulation (measuring of angles); traversing; levelling (determining of heights); aerial photographs; calculating positions and heights; establishing place names; annotating aerial photographs by indicating the topographical features.

Back in the office, the surveyor applies this information to the task of preparing a detailed land map. A photogrammetric machine is used to assist in the process.

Engineering surveying entails the collection of all relevant information on the site of a proposed construction project and mapping out the area. Once the design of the project is complete, the surveyor pegs it out on the actual site and also monitors construction in progress to ensure that it does not exceed the layout.

Personal Requirements

  • mathematical ability - especially in trigonometry
  • intellectual ability
  • good observation skills
  • responsible
  • work accurately
  • drawing ability
  • willing to do field work
  • able to work independently or with people

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics, Physical Science
Recommended subjects: Engineering and Graphic Design 

What to Study

Degree: Land Surveying - UKZN

Diploma: Training for the N.Dip. Surveying takes 3 years, and consists of theoretical instruction and practical experience with an employer. It is offered by CPUT. Graduates are encouraged to register as Technical Surveyors with the SA Council for Professional and Technical Surveyors.


  • government departments such as Public Works, Water Affairs and Forestry and Transport
  • municipalities
  • universities
  • such organisations as Eskom, CSIR
  • civil engineering firms
  • building contractors
  • private land surveying companies
  • self-employment, with enough experience, initiative and capital, can start own practice and/ or work as a consultant

Further Information

The Director-General
Department of Public Works
Private Bag X65
Tel: (012) 337-2000

The Director-General
Department of Land Affairs
Private Bag X833
Pretoria, 0001
Tel: (012) 312-8911

The Director-General
Department of Water Affairs and Forestry
Private Bag X313
Pretoria, 0001
Tel: (012) 808-0374

Getting Started

  • speak to topographical and engineering surveyors and ask to observe them at work
  • try to get vacation work as a topographical and engineering surveyor’s assistant

Programmes by Study Institutions

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