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Is this ethical? Yes or no.

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holy cow
Posts: 23323
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Topic starter

Is it ethical for a licensed land surveyor to accept a job that requires knowledge and skills that he/she does not possess?

An example:  All prior work has been for simple boundary surveys in suburban subdivisions created in the past 20 years.  The new project is a 12-mile new highway route survey through both rugged terrain and major developed industrial/commercial areas of a city.

Quite a number of issues arise for the route survey that are effectively never an issue with single lot surveys.  In fact, completely different software from what the surveyor uses routinely may be among the specifications for the project.  Time is critical in completing the project.

Posted : September 17, 2022 5:52 pm
Nate The Surveyor
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I've seen older licensed individuals hire competent persons, who did a good job. The older LS did really understand the project. But, his non licensed help did.

Was it ethical? The final product had lots of control. The output drawings had good metadata.

This was more of an exception, but I've seen it.


Posted : September 17, 2022 6:30 pm
paden cash
Posts: 11086
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I'm sure someday surveyors will be forced to follow suit with a declaration of competency in what ever corner of the science they plan to practice.  At that time surveyors with little or no experience in certain field will be excluded from legally practicing in those areas.

But here in OK only licensed engineers are currently required to declare a discipline of practice.  And from what I've gathered that engineer cannot practice outside of that discipline. From our statutes, to-wit;

Selecting a discipline of engineering does not necessarily indicate competency to practice all aspects of that discipline of engineering. The licensee is required by law to only practice within the discipline of engineering in areas in which the licensee is competent.

As an example, listing "Civil" as your primary discipline does not necessarily mean that you are competent to do all types of civil engineering projects. The civil engineer's specialty may be in wastewater, but not transportation. In this case, the engineer would simply list "Civil".

Our profession will too eventually evolve.  Until then inexperienced "90 day wonders" will continue to attempt to wrangle large and complex projects...sadly with the usually predictable results.

Posted : September 17, 2022 8:44 pm

not my real name
Posts: 780
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It would be ethical as long as the surveyor does not intend to drive on the highway, or makes full disclosure of that intent before contracting to do the work.

But seriously, this situation being one of the canons of our profession; one should not practice outside one's expertise.  


Posted : September 18, 2022 2:08 am
Jitterboogie reacted
Posts: 615
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To me it boils down to the individual's ability to push themselves to learn new things.  My hobby is learning new things and I've developed a decent system for it that includes reaching out to those with practical experience. 

As it relates to surveying, if I'm interested in learning it, I'll generally come close to breaking even on the first venture, then I'll make money on the second.  I'm also not wedded to my original assumptions.  Failure is the first step towards success etc..

It's only unethical if you don't intend to do whatever is necessary to make it right or will not put forth the effort to understand what it will entail.


Posted : September 18, 2022 5:14 am
JPH and T Ford reacted
Jon Payne
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At the risk of being "tut-tutted" at by folks who don't think a Code of Professional Conduct is an appropriate place to look for an answer to such questions -

In many states Code of Conduct, it is stated that a licensee is supposed to only solicit or accept work based on his/her qualifications or the qualifications of his/her employees.  So the initial concern would be how the licensee in the OP got their hat in the ring to be in a position to accept the work.

Beyond seeking out the work, most Code of Conduct sections will also state that licensee should only undertake assignments they are qualified for by education or experience in the specific area.  In that section of the code, there are sometimes stipulations that a licensee can accept work outside of their expertise as long as they cover the parts they are familiar with and have a knowledgeable person in the other areas (either from their firm or an outside consultant) certify and handle areas outside their expertise.  Which would leave an opportunity to grow their skill set for the next time that type of work comes up.

People accepting work outside their expertise would be wise to realize that in some states, a question of competency in the area of practice could allow the board of licensure to require the licensee complete a test to prove their competence in that specific area of practice.

Posted : September 18, 2022 8:39 am

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Posted : September 18, 2022 1:04 pm
Mark Mayer
Posts: 3326
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Oklahoma Society of Land Surveyors Code of Ethics:

.... a Professional Surveyor should accept assignments only in ones area of professional competence and expertise ..... 

Professional Land Surveyors of Oregon Code of Ethics:

..... I will perform professional services only within areas of my competence ...

Land Surveyors Association of Washington Code of Ethics:

..... Professional Surveyors shall perform services only in the areas of their competence .....


Those are the three I'm familiar with. I'm guessing that the other 47 can be filled in by others. 

Posted : September 18, 2022 1:56 pm
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I'd be curious how someone who has only done lot & block surveys would make it through the selection process unless they hired additional staff with corridor experience.

I've worked for firms that landed work they had never done before, but that was only after pulling in additional expertise and/or gaining certifications or training.

Posted : September 19, 2022 7:56 am

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This is from Florida (FSMS)....we stole it from NSPS 😎 

 Code of Ethics 

Code: As surveying and mapping professionals, we recognize that our ethical responsibilities extend to the public, to our clients, and to our peers.  Accordingly, we acknowledge the following elements to identify our basic values: integrity, competence, and social awareness.  Surveying and mapping professionals uphold and advance these values by (I) supporting and participating in the continuing development of the surveying and mapping professions; (II) serving with honesty, with forthrightness, and within their areas of skill; (III) using their expertise for the enhancement of human welfare and for the stewardship of resources.,accept%20assignments%20only%20in%20on e's

Posted : September 19, 2022 8:41 am
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How big is the company?

If it's a solo, residential boundary surveyor; he won't be able to keep up with demand, and if one of the requirements is; deliverables in a format that they are not familiar with, created in a software they don't own, and have never used. Then no, they'd be foolish to even apply.

If it's a mid-size firm, running 2-3 crews, then, maybe. The big factor here would be deliverables.


Posted : September 19, 2022 8:54 am
WA-ID Surveyor
Posts: 757
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I'd be interested in how the State agency selected that firm using a qualifications based process.  That's how all municipal work is completed in every city, county and state I work in.  This quickly eliminates those that aren't qualified or have knowledge of this type of work.

Posted : September 19, 2022 10:16 am
Jon Payne and Rover83 reacted

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Ah.  The classic we can't hire you because you don't have the experience you would gain from us hiring you.  Or, we can't give you a loan to buy equipment for your business that you would use to make the money that would prove that you are capable of repaying the loan.

The way I tend to interpret this code is 1.) don't be stupid about it, and 2.) don't bite off more than you can chew.  Because unless you're some sort of living, breathing deity everyone enters the world as a know-nothing and help is never guaranteed.

Posted : September 22, 2022 7:00 pm
Jim Frame reacted
Jim Frame
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Posted by: @bstrand

The way I tend to interpret this code is 1.) don't be stupid about it, and 2.) don't bite off more than you can chew.

Many's the time in both my personal and professional lives that I've stretched myself to learn and become adept at new things.  It's called "growth."

Posted : September 22, 2022 9:17 pm
Jim in AZ
Posts: 3325
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"Codes of Conduct" and the like can be dangerous items. Stating that one adheres to one or being a member of a Professional Society that has one means that you adhere to ALL of the items it may address. Many people have never even seen or read the "Code" that they profess to adhere to. This makes great fodder for attorneys if one is not very cautious.

Posted : September 23, 2022 8:14 am

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