Guest Editorial: The Education Problem

A 416Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

Editor’s note: We are pleased to announce that Mike Pallamary has agreed to become a contributing writer for the magazine. Mike’s a controversial guy, choosing to address issues that many won’t, often acting pro bono when appropriate. His article in the last issue about the shenanigans in San Diego has received a lot of attention, and I’m sure his upcoming article about FEMA flood map errors will as well. Below is his resume, and below that is a portion of an article he has written about education.

Mr. Pallamary owned and operated a 12-person land surveying firm for 20 years and he has been the vice-president of a 45-person surveying and engineering firm. He has been in the land surveying profession since 1971 and he brings a broad depth of experience to the professional community. One of his hallmarks is a willingness to take on controversial issues and a devotion to the betterment of the land surveying profession.

He is currently the president of Pallamary & Associates of La Jolla, CA, and is a recognized expert on "Standard of Care" defenses and litigation matters. He is also the author of the recently released Curt Brown Chronicles. He wrote Lay of the Land, the History of Land Surveying in San Diego County and is the co-author of Advanced Land Descriptions written with the late Paul Cuomo and the late Roy Minnick. In addition, he co-wrote The History of San Diego Land Surveying Experiences with the late Curtis M. Brown. He has extensive experience as an expert witness in local, regional and federal courts testifying as to the location of property lines, boundary lines, and easements as well as serving as an expert witness as a land use consultant in some of the largest condemnation/eminent domain cases in the State of California. He served as the principal coordinator for the California Land Surveyors Association (CLSA) when they became involved in a landmark case involving Lot Line Adjustments in the State of California. The decision produced an important and oft-cited appellate court decision. He is also the owner of, a land surveying research website for land surveyors in California, and can be reached at

The Education Problem
The ongoing debate within the surveying community always seems to involve education. Are today’s surveyors properly educated? Should there be mandatory continuing education and if so, what courses should be offered?

There are many questions and not a lot of convenient answers. As an example, what are the implications associated with requiring a four year degree in land surveying if there are no universities to offer such a program? Budget cuts and dwindling resources are resulting in decreasing enrollment and the economic emasculation of teaching staff. And misguided political agendas have curtailed the ability of schools and universities to offer the necessary classes needed to address this problem. How then is the great education problem solved?

According to NSPS, the average age of today’s land surveyor is 59. What this means is the baby boomers are defining the state of surveying and to a large degree, they are responsible for this failed educational environment. These hard headed baby boomers are a stubborn lot and by sheer force of numbers, their influence is everywhere. The suggestion that they need continuing education in order to retain their licenses is blasphemous. After all they have been surveying for 30 or 40 years and they know what they are doing and no one is going to tell them differently. They learned how to survey the traditional way–as products of the apprentice system; that is the way surveyors have always been educated.

Clearly the baby boomer licensees do not feel they need continuing education. Great. Leave them alone. The political obstacles involved in imposing this requirement on veteran land surveyors is a battle without merit and it is evident an educational grandfathering provision must be implemented. That is not to say that continuing education should not be imposed on the practicing land surveyor. There simply needs to be a transition period. Continuing education should be imposed before the requirement of a Bachelor’s degree as a prerequisite to licensure. If continuing education is imposed, it will not only benefit the individual and the profession, it will serve a vital function by guiding the four year degree curriculum which will naturally follow. Put another way, by imposing continuing education on practicing land surveyors, they will be better versed as to what subjects constitute the educational requirements for licensure as a modern land surveyor, one who will command impressive wages and be viewed upon with considerable admiration and respect. GIS mapmakers outnumber "surveyors" at the ratio of fifty to one. What happened there?

Given the wide range of subjects that relate to land surveying versus those that are offered by entrenched academia, most surveyors, i.e. Technical Field Measurement Persons are unfamiliar with the courses and training that is needed to guide the future of the profession. If one intends to survive in this profession (notice I did not say industry), tomorrow’s land surveyor must be trained and educated in business law, land planning, land use, boundary law, land development, land use entitlements, real estate appraisal, and condemnation. If nothing else, these areas of practice are being rewarded in the marketplace. If the land surveying profession is to rise above the demeaning commoditization of land surveying, one where the number of hubs banged into the ground in an hour dictates one’s profit margin, bold steps must be taken. After all, a child can push buttons. At what point do land surveyors want to abandon the educational and financial limitations imposed on a commoditized industry to become a modern profession?

A 416Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE