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Career Explorers: Engineering vs. Surveying – What’s the Difference?

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Someone recently asked us what’s the difference between an engineer and a surveyor – and you know what? We didn’t know!

In true Explore Careers fashion, we decided to find the answer – and we learned a lot along the way that we know many of you will definitely be interested to learn too.

So, let’s explore – what is the difference between engineering and surveying?

Engineers & Surveyors: It’s a Match!

While they are two different roles with different focuses, they go hand in hand in many respects.

Here’s a brief overview of each role:

  • Surveyors: Surveyors conduct surveys of plots of land to establish measurements, lines and points that building, construction, and engineering projects will refer back to in their designs and developments. Surveyors are usually the first professionals on a site, gathering all the data that other professionals will require to do their work effectively and accurately.
  • Engineers: There are many different types of engineers, so we’ll focus on Civil Engineers for this article. Civil Engineers also get involved with projects at the very early stages, envisaging, designing, supervising and maintaining a wide range of projects. They tend to focus on urban developments, from office buildings to housing, bridges to dams, airports to shopping centres.

Another way to think about this is to see surveyors as the data people and civil engineers as the design people.

There’s a lot of overlap between the two roles. Some Surveyors go on to become fully qualified as Civil Engineers to deliver in both roles, but they are separate professions, too – with different entry pathways and qualification requirements.

The Pathway to Becoming a Surveyor

To become a surveyor in New Zealand, you need to have a Bachelor of Surveying (BSurv).

This four-year degree is currently only offered by the University of Otago School of Surveying.

Like engineers, there are different types of surveyors, and some of these roles may require you to obtain additional specialist qualifications. For example, to work as a hydrographic surveyor, you’ll need a Postgraduate Diploma in Science, specialising in hydrography.

Professional registration in New Zealand is voluntary, and you can apply to become a member of the New Zealand Institute of Surveyors.

The Pathway to Becoming a Civil Engineer

To qualify as a Civil Engineer, you’ll need to complete a four-year bachelor’s degree in Engineering as a minimum.

These degree programs include a substantial amount of work-based placements you’ll need to complete to meet the qualification requirements.

NCEA Level 3 is required to enter tertiary training, and some valuable subjects to focus on include English and maths, chemistry, physics, and any construction or mechanical technology courses available.

Once you’ve completed your bachelor’s, you can begin working in the industry. However, some prefer to obtain post-graduate qualifications in a more specific area to boost their technical skills and knowledge.

Once you’ve achieved a minimum of five years of work experience, you’ll be eligible to apply to

Engineering New Zealand as a chartered professional engineer (CPEng).

A Quick Look at the Skills Needed

Now you know a bit more about the two different roles, what types of skills are best suited to each pathway – and where do they overlap in their skills?

Let’s take a look:

Engineering Skills The Overlap Surveying Skills
  1. Interpersonal
  2. Critical reasoning
  3. Creativity
  4. Innovation
  5. Enthusiasm
  6. Personal Motivation


  1. Problem Solving
  2. Analytical Skills
  3. Decision-Making
  4. Up-to-date technical knowledge
  5. Communication
  6. Leadership
  7. Teamwork
  8. Presentation Skills
  1. Interpretative Skills
  2. Data Collection
  3. Precision
  4. Numerical
  5. Fact Finding
  6. Commitment

Find Out More

So, there you have it! Surveying and engineering: two vital roles that work together, offering a different set of skills and services to support the industry!

If you’re keen to learn more about these career pathways and the other types of roles you could explore, make sure you check out our Building, Construction and Engineering Industry Profile.

We’ve also recently welcomed Envivo to the Explore Careers family! If a surveying career sounds appealing to you, these leaders in surveying consultancy services are well worth checking out. As leaders in digital engineering, Envivo utilises the latest 3D technology to scan and model building, plant and infrastructure assets.

Head to our Employer Partners section to discover more about Envivo and all the excellent employers we’ve partnered with who can offer you your first steps into the building and construction industry!              


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