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Studying at the School of Surveying

The National School of Surveying at the University of Otago provides the only degrees in Surveying that are recognised as the prerequisite academic education for recognition as a professional land surveyor in New Zealand.

The 4-year Bachelor of Surveying meets this requirement.  However in addition, the BSc degrees in Surveying Measurement (SURM) and in Land Planning and Development (LPDP), as well as the BAppSc in GIS can satisfy this requirement when supplemented with one further year of study (usually a Diploma for Graduates). The Bachelor of Surveying degree is also recognised by the Cadastral Surveyors Licensing Board of New Zealand (with the appropriate elective courses), which has reciprocal licensing arrangements with all of the Australian jurisdictions.

The School also supports postgraduate study by offering the Postgraduate Diploma in Science, Postgraduate Diploma in Applied Science and the degrees of Master of Science, Master in Applied Science, Master of Surveying and Doctor of Philosophy in any of the disciplines offered in the undergraduate programme.

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Why study surveying?

The surveying profession has been active in New Zealand since the earliest day of European settlement and has contributed significantly to the development of the country. Its core business of cadastral surveying, the defining of land title boundaries, underpins the security of land ownership necessary for the development of the economy through the creation of collateral for securing finance.

The University of Otago Surveying programme offers the only academic qualification leading to professional recognition as a professional land surveyor in New Zealand. To complete that recognition a period of post graduation training is required, and is examined by Survey + Spatial New Zealand Tātai Whenua.

The courses offer a broad range of disciplines within the context of surveying that equips graduates for a professional career in New Zealand and also overseas. Many graduates are able to find employment in other parts of the world while undergoing their “OE”, and return to New Zealand with significant work experience. Particular skills in demand include engineering surveying, hydrographic surveying, construction surveying and mine surveying.

Land surveying is a technological profession. The School of Surveying aims to provide graduates who are educated in the principles of a wide range of land surveying disciplines that will equip them with the necessary attributes to adapt to the rapidly advancing technical environment so that they can enjoy a career in the particular specialities of their choice over a lifetime as a surveyor. However, like any qualification there is no guarantee of employment, but the opportunities are significant.

Find out more about the careers pursued by some of the surveying alumni students.

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Topics covered by Surveying papers

Land surveying in New Zealand embraces a range of disciplines or sub-disciplines that make the New Zealand surveyor sought after both in New Zealand and in most other parts of the world. These disciplines are largely focused on “position” or “location” and the management and interpretation of measurements gathered using a wide range of rapidly developing technologies, some of which are land based, others water based, and those which are airborne.

Paper topics include:

  • Cadastral Surveying
  • Land Development Engineering
  • Urban Design
  • Land Tenure
  • Statutory Planning
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Geodesy and Astronomy
  • Hydrographic Surveying
  • Engineering Surveying
  • Remote Sensing and Photogrammetry
  • Project Management
  • Environmental Engineering

Find out more about the papers taught at the School of Surveying.

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Advice for first year surveying students

If you are interested in the BSc Land Planning and Development, BSc in Surveying Measurement or BAppSc in GIS, be sure to read the university guide to Entry Requirements.

If you are interested in the Bachelor of Surveying (BSurv), you shoud also be aware of the following information.

  1. First time students MUST enrol for the ‘Surveying First Year (BSc)’ degree programme NOT the Bachelor of Surveying (BSurv First Year).
  2. You must choose and pass at least seven papers in your first year (semester 1 and semester 2). These must include SURV101, SURV102, ENGL228 and MATH160 (MATH130 from 2022) plus three papers of your choice.
  3. Consider whether you want to select three or four papers in semester 1. This is your choice and issues to consider include:
  • If you take four papers in semester 1 and fail one, there is still the potential of passing four papers in semester 2, hence, meeting the requirement to pass seven papers in the year.
  • Some students choose to take two mathematic papers in their first year, starting with MATH151 (MATH120 from 2022) in semester 1 and progressing to MATH160 (MATH130) in semester 2. This may help to make a smoother transition into the University level maths.
  • You may need time to settle in and adjust to University life, both in terms of academic and personal adjustments. A lighter first semester might accommodate this.
  • Your personal attitude, self-discipline and commitment to study all make a difference. Being clear with yourself about your university goals may help you decide how to balance your first year work-load.
  1. Select elective papers in an area that is particularly interesting to you.  This will help you to get the most out of those papers and can be a pathway to an alternative degree if you later decide that Surveying is not for you.
  2. Formal application for admission to the BSurv is made at the end of the first year. Applications are due by 15 November of each year. Students intending on studying towards the BSc Surveying Measurement degree must also apply for admission, as they must also enrol in the restricted SURV298 Introductory Field Course.
  3. BSurv entry is competitive. Admission does not normally exceed 70 students each year. Based on recent years, students should aim for a B level average in their first year of study to gain entry.
  • Applications are ranked based on the average grade across all four compulsory 100 - level papers (SURV101, SURV102, ENGL228 and MATH160 (MATH130 from 2020)).
  • Sixty (60) days or more of documented surveying work experience may be awarded a bonus of up to 5%. To apply for this bonus, you must submit a written report to the School prior to applying for formal admission to the BSurv. The report must describe the company size and domains of expertise, the work undertaken and the value the student obtained from it. This will allow the School to evaluate the relevance of the surveying experience to the application.
  1. If you are unsuccessful with your first application, the School may recommend an alternative Surveying BSc degree option. This may be the degree you choose to pursue or it may give you time to improve your academic record and apply again into the BSurv.

Additional Considerations

The restricted-entry SURV298 Introductory Field Course is an important introduction to the professional Surveying programme. Some applicants may have equivalent experience and be able to gain an exemption. Please contact our Course Advice to clarify your situation. In general, students who have completed the two-year National Diploma in Surveying through Unitec/Toi Ohomai/poytechnics, or have an international Sureying degree, and have at least two years of specific surveying work experience may submit a portofolio of work experience for assessment, in order that an exemption for SURV298 be given.

Students identifying with Māori or Pacific Island ethnicity should make contact with the Māori Centre and Pacific Island Centre for further advice/guidance and tutorial assistance. You can also discuss any issues or concerns with the School of Surveying Kaiāwhina — Dr Mick Strack (Room 114 on the first floor or email

Some optional papers are particularly well-suited to the study of Surveying. You must choose papers that do not create a timetable clash with other papers as first-year students are not permitted timetable clashes.

Semester 1

GEOG101, PHSI131, MAOR102, EAOS111, ENVI111, COMP101*, COMP150*, STAT110, BSNS101, BSNS104, BSNS105, BSNS106

Semester 2

GEOG102, GEOL112, ECON112, MANT101, PHIL105, MATH170, COMP101*, COMP160*, BSNS101, BSNS104, BSNS105, BSNS106

* These courses are also required for BAppSc (GIS).

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Surveying qualifications map

Have a look at the map below to see where your qualifications might take you.

Surveying Qualifications chart 2017

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