Career in Surveying


Do you know the origin of the GPS or Global Positioning System we use on our mobile phones to find locations? It is a product of surveying.

Surveying was traditionally the science of determining the relative positions of points above, on or beneath the surface of the earth ( both land and sea ) through collection and analysis of data. With all the new technologies used for surveying purposes today, the profession has changed; it is hard to believe that the surveying profession is really one of the oldest in the world.

As early as 1400 BC, the Egyptians practised surveying to accurately divide land into plots for the purpose of taxation. During the industrial revolution in the 1800s, more people began to question the exact property boundaries and with the increasing demand for public infrastructures like railroads, roads and bridges, surveying became increasingly in demand.

A surveyor is mostly, although not always, involved in pre-construction/development planning. There is a lot of measuring and calculating to be done. A surveyor uses the science of measurement to collect and analyse land and geographic data. Unlike the traditional profession, the surveyor’s analysis must be in line with legal, economic, environmental and also social issues that may affect the project. The surveyor’s analysis, especially important to building, construction and real estate industries, is used for planning and implementing projects like building construction and land development. He/ she co-ordinates the analysis with the help of engineering and architectural personnel, valuers and clients.

In short, a surveyor

  • Collects and analyses land and geographical data
  • Co-ordinates the use of this information in projects with industry-related personnel like architects and engineers
  • Make sure that legal, economic, environmental and social issues are taken into account in the implementations of projects.


The surveying profession is multi-faceted with varied disciplines. Under The Royal Institution of Surveyors Malaysia (RISM) the profession is divided into four main categories: geomatic & land surveying, quantity surveying, building surveying and property management, valuation & estate agency surveying.

Geomatic and Land Surveying (GLS)

The surveying profession originated from this type of surveying. The geomatic and land surveyor profession has evolved in many ways with the many new technological advancements like Geographic Information System (GIS), Global Positioning System (GPS) and remote sensing. Nevertheless, the geomatic and land surveyor’s role is still basically involved in measuring points on the earth’s surface and collecting and assessing such data.

With environment increasingly becoming a global issue, the geomatic and land surveyors and other surveyors engaged with land will have an environmental issue in their work which may include assessing the safety of mines, sensitive disposal of waste and efficient use of resources, to ensure that the environment will be in a good condition for our future generations.

Below are the different types of Geomatic and Land Surveying:

Cadastral Surveying

A cadastral surveyor defines the ownership of land. When a land property is subdivided, bought or sold, a cadastral surveyor carries out surveys for approval processes related to the development of land. The cadastral surveyor ultimately comes up with a cadastral plan for that purpose.

Engineering Surveying

Engineering surveying is involved in the development of civil engineering projects such as dams, roads, pipelines and other structures. They measure and map the environment prior to the project being designed and approved and then control the spatial accuracy of the project during and after construction.

Engineering surveyors work closely with cadastral surveyors by using cadastral survey records to produce large-scale plans and profiles which include topographical detail necessary for the design and planning of engineering projects.

Mining Surveyor

The mining surveyor’s work within the mining industry is crucial in locating and safely extracting mineral resources. He/she determines the geographical conditions of the mines through measuring mine surfaces and underground tunnels.

Hydrographic Surveyor

Yes, even the sea needs mapping! Just like the land surveyor who works on land, the hydrographic surveyor maps the sea floor for the construction and maintenance of marine features like shipping channels, waterways, ports and offshore sites for oil and natural gas exploitation.

Technological advancements in land surveying have enabled surveying to take on a different level by providing more accurate observations and reaching further areas.

Here are some of the more popular tech-tools used for surveying:


Photogrammetry mapping produces three-dimensional ‘models’ of the ground by using aerial photographs taking by air craft or unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). It is used for plotting the topographical details by using strips of overlapping air photographs which are tied down with control points already established on the ground.

The Geographic Information System (GIS)

GIS is a more advanced form of land surveying in which a system designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage, and present all types of spatial or geographical data. In a general sense, the term describes any information system that integrates stores, edits, analyzes, shares, and displays geographic information.

GIS applications are tools that allow users to create interactive queries (user-created searches), analyze spatial information, edit data in maps, and present the results of all these operations.


Geodetic surveying uses satellite technology like Global Positioning System (GPS) which gives precise levelling, electronic distance measurements and lasers to locate positions on the earth’s surface.

This form of accurate survey is very important in the development of coordinate reference systems, earthquake prediction, mineral exploration and the monitoring of large-scale phenomena such as continental drift and sea level changes.

Remote Sensing

This refers to the digital data acquired from high-resolution satellite and airborne imaging systems to monitor changes on the surface of the earth. Remote sensing is used both nationally and internationally in numerous resources and environment related applications in forestry, agriculture, water resource management, and the monitoring of global change.

Quantity Surveying (QS)

Quantity surveyors manage the financing and budgeting of construction projects. Quantity surveyors calculate, evaluate and manage project costs so that projects work within budgets. In detailed, quantity surveyors:

  • Prepare preliminary cost estimates and cost plans of the development project like construction, labour, material and plant costs, professional fees and also maintenance costs for the new building.
  • Advise project architects and engineers by suggesting different construction methods, alternative choice of materials and size and quality of the project so that the project adheres to project budgets.
  • Advise project developers on legal matters.
  • Prepare tender documents (including production of the ‘bills of quantities) for tendering purposes
  • Call for tenders.
  • Evaluate interim payments
  • Evaluate variation orders
  • Prepare necessary documentation for settlement of Final Account

Building Surveying (BS)

Building surveyors are involved in these areas of work:

  • Building control administration – oversee building plans, approve building, inspect building upon completion before issuing Certificate of Fitness, impose building law and regulations and enforcement.
  • Development and construction management – analyse feasibility of project, appointment and coordination of consultants, negotiations and contract administration, monitoring and coordinating of development
  • Building works – carry out condition surveys to advise on alterations, extensions and refurbishment of buildings
  • Building maintenance – advise on maintenance plan and management of buildings.
  • Insurance – assess replacement costs for insurance purposes, prepare and negotiate for insurance claims ( e.g. fire, flood and structural damage ).
  • Heritage and conservation – carry out detailed surveys and advise on rehabilitation and conservation.

Property Management, Valuation & Estate Agency Surveying (PMVS)

Property management, valuation & estate agency surveyors deal with property and real estate, mainly valuation, property management and property development services and consultation as well as transactional services. They:

  • Provide valuation advice on industries such as real property and plant and machinery for purposes of loan, sale, purchase, accounts, insurance, taxation, land acquisition, securities commission and litigation.
  • Advise clients on real estate and can also act as an estate agent on selling, buying, letting & sub-letting of properties by private treaties, auctions and tenders.
  • Are involved in facilities & property management where they give advice to clients on the management of property to derive optimum returns including the management of properties.
  • Prepare market and feasibility studies to provide basis for land use planning for various appropriate use(s) based on researched data and surveys.
  • Provide development management services on specific projects which include advice on land use and development strategy, development funding options, project management coordinator as well as marketing management and consultancy.
  • Provide value estimations of intangible assets, its management and consultancy services on the value optimization of intangible assets of an organization.


Every sector uses property assets and needs property related business expertise. The employers of surveyors range from small practices to large surveying firms, government agencies, academic institutions, private individuals and multinationals.  Advice can be provided in-house or by private consultancy agents on a contract basis. Surveying is also a pathway to entrepreneurship.


To become a qualified and professionally competent quantity surveyor or property consultant and valuer, the candidate will need to pursue the following career path:

1. Academic Qualifications

A candidate will need to pursue a course of study in surveying, either full time or by distance learning with an academic institution of higher learning in Malaysia, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand or Singapore that are accredited by the relevant board for surveyors in Malaysia; i.e. Board of Valuers, Appraisers & Estate Agents Malaysia, Board of Quantity Surveyors Malaysia, Board of Land Surveyors Malaysia etc, to obtain the academic qualifications required by the board for registration as a registered surveyor/valuer qualified to practise in Malaysia

2. Postgraduate Work Experience

A graduate who holds a relevant Degree or Diploma from an accredited institution of higher learning, prior to registration as a registered surveyor or valuer will be required to complete two years of “Postgraduate Work Experience” under the supervision of a registered practitioner in the respective field. During the two years of supervised work experience, he/she will be required to gain experience in all aspects of the work of his/her profession.

Royal Institution of Surveyors Malaysia (RISM) Examinations and Its Entry Requirements

Royal Institution of Surveyors Malaysia examinations are suitable for those who wish to earn the professional qualification outside the formal education system. It is also relevant to those who are already working in the industry to earn the professional qualification.

Minimum Requirements:

SPM/ O Levels with five credits including Maths & Malay/English Language

Foundation Examination (Three years):

SPM with STPM/A Levels with any two principal passes in:

LS:      Maths, Physics, Geography & Malay Language
QS:     Maths, Economics, Physics, Chemistry, Geography & Malay Language
PMVS:Maths, Economics, Physics, Chemistry, Geography, & Malay Language
BS:      Maths, Physics & Malay Language
General Degree (e.g. BA in Business Administration, BSc in Civil Engineering etc);
SPM/ O Levels with three credits including Maths & Malay/English Language with 10 years of relevant working experience under Member of RISM and above 28 years.

Duration to Complete RISM Examinations

Foundation & Part 1 Examination (Three years),
Part two Examination (Five years),
Part Three / Graduate Entry Examination (Ten years),

Upon completing the final/direct final exam, one can complete the two-year training and subsequently sit for Test of Professional Competence (TPC). These are the main routes to become a professional surveyor in Malaysia. Please check with RISM on details as registration procedures are subject to review from time to time.

Personal Characteristics and Aptitudes

A quantity surveyor or property consultant and valuer is a professional who should be a person of high integrity, able and willing to perform his duties with the highest principle and honesty expected of a professional. Candidates should be statistics-inclined, though not an absolute necessity. They should have an analytical and critical mind with the ability to size up situations logically to form sound and reasoned opinions.

Surveying offers a mix of commerce and social interaction – suitable for those who like a combination of indoor and outdoor activities in project planning, management, negotiations and advising.

ROYAL Institution of Surveyors, Malaysia
3rd Floor, Bangunan Juruukur
No. 64 & 66, Jalan 52/4,
46200 Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
Fax: +603-79550253


Written by:
Ms Wee Hui Bieh, AFMSA, August 2016

Information verified by:
Royal Institution of Surveyors Malaysia

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