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IESA to offer new graduate certificate in geomatics

May 28, 2020

University of North Georgia (UNG) alumni and professionals in the land surveying industry may expand their skills when the university's Lewis F. Rogers Institute for Environmental & Spatial Analysis (IESA) adds a new graduate certificate in geomatics in fall 2020.

UNG approved the new certificate in February 2020.

"Our IESA alumni and industry professionals can earn graduate credits and complete the coursework required for the professional land surveying exam," said Dr. Jeff Turk, director of IESA. "After passing the exam and coupled with surveying experience, they can become a licensed professional land surveyor."

Land surveying is providing mathematical and legal analyses of property boundaries, said Doug Sherrill, lecturer of land surveying with IESA. The analyses include horizontal and vertical data as they relate to the surface of the Earth. Land surveying also incorporates topographic survey, construction, residential land and commercial properties.

Typically the surveying industry employs both land surveying technicians and licensed professional land surveyors. Turk said the difference is the professional has passed the professional land survey exam and received a professional land surveying license from the state and can produce legal survey maps and documents. The additional credential also leads to a higher salary.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), surveying and mapping technicians have a median pay of $44,380 per year while surveyors have a median pay of $62,580. BLS also states the job outlook for both positions is set to increase by 5% and 6%, respectively, in the next decade.

Turk thinks the need for more land surveyors and geospatial technicians stems from a decrease of qualified individuals entering the field in the past decade.

"Every week, I receive one or two phone calls from professionals seeking students or graduates with surveying or geospatial engineering technology skills," he said. "Often they are looking for employees with both sets of those skills."

UNG's IESA is in a unique situation to help fill those empty positions. The IESA program graduates about 20 students each year, with 27 total from last year, Turk said. The new certificate program will offer graduate students and professionals the additional skillset. Registration will be open in spring 2020.

The geomatics certificate program will feature six graduate courses, including Terrestrial LIDAR Methods, Legal Aspects of Surveying, Professional Practice of Surveying, Airborne Geomatics Methods, and Geomatics I and II. Through the courses, current industry officials will learn about developing technologies while UNG graduates become more marketable in the workforce.

Chase Bennett, a 2015 UNG graduate with a geographic information science certificate, is currently taking more courses at UNG to prepare for the surveying license exam.

"The courses are teaching me to understand what's going on in the field," the Pendergrass, Georgia, resident said. "It helps since I work in the office, and I see the information from the field crew. And it's another tool for me to put in my tool belt."

The geomatics certificate marks the second graduate-level IESA certificate offered at UNG. The first was the certificate in geospatial science and technology.

Both certificates also indicate the IESA program is taking small steps toward initiating a master's- or doctoral-level program at UNG. Both are the result and addition to an original National Science Foundation grant that IESA received in 2017.

"UNG is moving toward developing more graduate programs," Turk said. "It's an initiative the university has encouraged."

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