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Study Surveying / Surveying Measurement at Otago

A practical look at the land and sea floor.

Surveyors work in a range of land, property and construction related areas. Using modern technology such as GPS and laser instruments surveyors precisely measure land, building, and features in the environment for mapping, development and spatial analysis.

Because of this close association with land and property the roles of the surveyor extends to land development engineering and urban design, resource management and land planning, property boundary surveying, and the determination of land ownership and rights.

The use of computer mapping technology in the form of Geographical Information Systems also leads to work in the capture, display and management of spatial information. Surveyors typically work in a variety of settings – indoor and outdoor - and with a variety of other professions.

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Why study Surveying?

The Bachelor of Surveying (BSurv) is a four-year professional degree that allows both inside and outside work, has great employment prospects, and gives you an internationally recognised skill.

You'll become a specialist in precise measurement and an expert in land law and land ownership. You'll learn to subdivide land and assess its development potential, undertake city and environmental planning, design urban infrastructure, and prepare resource consents. It even gives you the skills to map the ocean floor.

To complement your lectures, you will gain hands-on experience in practical classes, computer labs and on field trips.

Over the last 15 years BSurv graduates have had as good a record of employment as surveyors and geospatial professionals. There is typically more demand than we can supply for our graduates.

This degree is internationally recognised for its quality and broad scope. It will really open up your world.

Career opportunities

The BSurv degree is the only academic qualification offered in New Zealand that will lead to licensing by the Cadastral Surveyors Licensing Board – a licence to carry out land title surveys that is also recognised in all Australian states. It can also lead to full Professional membership of Surveying + Spatial NZ (formerly the NZ Institute of Surveyors).

Because Otago graduates have the skills to take on the full range of surveying activities immediately, you will have a wide variety of options, both in New Zealand and overseas. You might begin with a private sector company here in New Zealand involved in defining land boundaries, mapping and designing subdivisions (including roads, stormwater and sewerage systems), and preparing resource consents. Alternatively you might work for a government agency or a local authority, in their policy planning or GIS departments.

Some graduates do scientific research while others travel the world undertaking seismic surveys, mining, hydrographic surveying, or ensuring that the foundations for buildings and major engineering structures are correctly positioned. Others are involved in defining national and international boundaries for the United Nations. Many end up as consultants running their own businesses.

Most surveying jobs are roughly 50/50 inside/outside — at least in the early years. If you choose a planning option, it will be considerably less outside. If you choose project surveying it will be more.

What you can expect to earn depends upon your personal skills, where you are and how quickly you learn. Starting salaries for most New Zealand-based graduates are approximately $55,000. Those working offshore would start on about $80,000 or more.

The challenges are many and the work is exciting. It is this variety and diversity that makes surveying such an enjoyable profession.

Surveying at Otago

What you will learn?

Your first year covers introductory papers in surveying, mathematics,  spatial science and communication plus electives of your choice. The remainder of your degree focuses on a number of core subjects:

Surveying methods gives you hands-on experience in using and calibrating surveying equipment. You learn about GPS (global positioning), and how to determine your position anywhere on Earth. You also learn the science of measurement (both on land and on the oceans), and how to analyse and use the data you collect.

Papers in land tenure studies trace the development and application of land law in New Zealand in both Māori and Pakeha contexts. Combine this with cadastral surveying and you will be able to calculate and lay out land boundaries

Papers in subdivision design and land development introduce principles of urban and rural design. You learn how to value land and design housing developments, including services such as roading and sewerage. A specialist paper on project management gives you the skills to convert designs into reality and managing construction contacts.

Land planning papers explore the history of New Zealand's planning legislation, deal with the practical application of the Resource Management Act and examine environmental ethics.

Finally, papers on how to use spatial data enable you to integrate all the above activities into geographic information systems (GIS) software.

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Background required

The ideal secondary school subjects are English, Geography, Physics, Maths with Calculus and Maths with Statistics. If you've taken other subjects we can work out a suitable study programme for you in your first year at university.


SURV papers

Paper Code Year Title Points Teaching period
SURV120 2024 Surveying and Spatial Science 18 Semester 1, Semester 2
SURV130 2024 People, Place and the Built Environment 18 Semester 2
SURV201 2024 Surveying Methods 1 18 Semester 1
SURV202 2024 Surveying Mathematics 18 Semester 2
SURV203 2024 Land Development Engineering 1 18 Semester 1
SURV204 2024 Land Development Engineering 2 18 Semester 2
SURV205 2024 Statutory Land Planning 1 18 Semester 2
SURV206 2024 Land Tenure 1 18 Semester 2
SURV220 2024 Geographic Information Science 18 Semester 1
SURV298 2024 Introductory Field Camp 0 1st Non standard period
SURV301 2024 Surveying Methods 2 18 1st Non standard period
SURV302 2024 Geodetic Reference Systems and Network Analysis 18 Semester 1
SURV303 2024 Urban Design 1 18 Semester 1
SURV304 2024 Land Development Engineering 3 18 Semester 2
SURV306 2024 Land Tenure 2 18 Semester 2
SURV307 2024 Cadastral Surveying 2 18 Semester 2
SURV309 2024 Introduction to Remote Sensing Technologies 18 Semester 1
SURV319 2024 Spatial Algorithms and Programming 18 Semester 1
SURV322 2024 Hydrographic Surveying 18 Semester 1
SURV329 2024 Selected Topics in Surveying 1 18 Semester 1, Semester 2
SURV399 2024 Third Year Field Course 0 1st Non standard period
SURV413 2024 Resource Mapping and Image Processing 18 Semester 2
SURV450 2024 Professional Practice 18 Semester 2
SURV451 2024 Surveying Methods 3 18 Not offered, expected to be offered in 2026
SURV452 2024 Hydrographic Surveying 2 18 Not offered in 2024
SURV453 2024 Urban Design 2 18 Semester 2
SURV455 2024 Statutory Planning B 18 Semester 1
SURV456 2024 Land Tenure 3 18 Not offered in 2024
SURV457 2024 Cadastral Surveying 3 18 Semester 1
SURV458 2024 Marine Law and the Environment 18 Not offered in 2024
SURV459 2024 Engineering Surveying 18 Semester 2
SURV462 2024 Hydrographic Field Design and Voyage 18 Not offered in 2024
SURV463 2024 Advanced Practical Techniques in Hydrography 18 Not offered in 2024
SURV465 2024 Land Development Management 18 Semester 1
SURV469 2024 Selected Topics in Surveying 2 18 Semester 1, Semester 2
SURV470 2024 Professional Project 18 Semester 1, Semester 2
SURV473 2024 Special Topic 36 Not offered in 2024
SURV474 2024 Special Topic 36 Not offered in 2024
SURV480 2024 Research Project 36 Full Year, 1st Non standard period
SURV499 2024 Vacation Employment 0 Semester 1, Semester 2, Full Year
SURV509 2024 Introduction to Remote Sensing Technologies 20 Semester 1
SURV513 2024 Resource Mapping and Image Processing 20 Semester 2
SURV519 2024 Spatial Algorithms and Programming 20 Semester 1
SURV551 2024 Advanced Surveying Methods 20 Not offered, expected to be offered in 2026
SURV552 2024 Advanced Hydrographic Surveying 20 Not offered in 2024
SURV553 2024 Advanced Urban Design 20 Semester 2
SURV555 2024 Advanced Statutory Planning 20 Semester 1
SURV556 2024 Advanced Land Tenure 20 Not offered in 2024
SURV557 2024 Advanced Cadastral Surveying 20 Semester 1
SURV558 2024 Advanced Marine Law and the Environment 20 Semester 1
SURV559 2024 Advanced Engineering Surveying 20 Semester 2
SURV562 2024 Hydrographic Field Design and Voyage 20 Not offered in 2024
SURV563 2024 Advanced Practical Techniques in Hydrography 20 Not offered in 2024
SURV565 2024 Advanced Land Development Management 20 Semester 1
SURV569 2024 Advanced Topics in Surveying 20 Semester 1, Semester 2
SURV573 2024 Special Topic 40 Not offered in 2024
SURV574 2024 Special Topic 40 Not offered in 2024
SURV575 2024 Special Topic 40 Not offered in 2024
SURV580 2024 Research project 40 Full Year, 1st Non standard period
SURV590 2024 Dissertation 60 Full Year, 1st Non standard period

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Regulations on this page are taken from the 2024 Calendar and supplementary material.

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