So You Want To Be A Land Surveyor? Career Opportunities at W&A Engineering

While some prioritize finding a career without limits, for surveyors Jim and Lori Fisher it’s exactly the limits they’re interested in.

Jim and Lori Fisher, W&A Engineering Nashville’s Assistant Director of Surveying and Surveying Project Coordinator respectively, have been performing a wide variety of land surveys since 1986. Having held every position the industry has to offer from Instrument Operators to President and CEO, this power couple have dedicated their lives to ensuring the highest standards of land surveying are passed down to future generations.

However, with more and more land surveyors retiring or leaving the industry, Lori and Jim’s mission of keeping the industry’s highest standards standard is becoming more and more difficult.

Due to these dynamic shifts within the industry population, an astounding number of career opportunities are projected to become available within the field over the next ten years—opportunities perfect for those looking to lead a hands-on life of “adventure and treasure hunting,” according to Lori.

The Early Years: Meet Jim and Lori Fisher

At the start of his career, Jim Fisher, RLS had been Aviation Structural Mechanic Petty Officer 3rd Class Fisher just a few years prior, serving as the plane captain of an antisubmarine crew in the United States Navy from 1978 to 1982. After finishing his contract and returning to shore, Jim moved back to Bloomington, Indiana and was actively on the job hunt, having never even heard of the land surveying industry.

In January 1986, he took the advice of a close friend and joined a small land surveying firm as an Instrument Operator. There, he was introduced to the very basics of surveying and received the on-the-job training upon which he would build his career.

It was in these early years that Jim made some of the most meaningful connections of his life, both in the field and outside of it. At his very first job, Jim met Registered Land Surveyor Ben Bledsoe, working on his team for many years and building a relationship that continues to impact him today. It was also during this time that he met his wife and future surveying partner, Lori Fisher.

Jim worked for various land surveying firms in the 22 years between his very first surveying job in 1986 and the Market Crash of 2008 at which time his life and the lives of his growing family completely changed. After having been let go from his latest position with no new opportunities in sight, Jim and Lori found no reason not to start their own land surveying business.

Combining Jim’s decades of experience and Lori’s administrative genius, the two founded a small land surveying firm which would dedicate itself to providing Nashville with the “highest-quality land surveying services from field work to office work and everything in between” for the next decade, according to Jim Fisher.

Through the growth of their small business and connections to land surveyors all across the southeast, Lori and Jim established themselves as experienced, professional, and seasoned land surveying professionals.

The Fishers Today: Joining W&A Engineering

After nearly a decade on their own, Lori and Jim wanted to once again be a part of a larger firm. Though six firms sought to lure the power couple and their team, none stood out the way W&A Engineering did.

“W&A is up to the standards we live by and built our own business by. I’ve got 35 years of experience. I’ve worked at a number of different firms, and this is the first time I’ve felt home,” Jim said.

“It felt like a family reunion. Adam told us when we signed, ‘You’re coming home,’” Lori added.

The Adam referenced is, of course, W&A Nashville’s Director of Land Surveying Adam Bledsoe with Adam Bledsoe being the son of Registered Land Surveyor Ben Bledsoe for whom Jim worked at his very first land surveying job.

Today, Jim and Lori are dedicating themselves to furthering their unique methodology, building better communities across the Greater Nashville Area, and mentoring the next generation of land surveyors.

While W&A Engineering welcomes several surveying interns each year, however, the industry as a whole is losing more land surveyors each year than are joining the industry.

Changing Industry, Growing Career Opportunities

The number of land surveyors working in the United States is projected to grow only 2 percent from 2020 to 2030, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. With the Bureau’s average growth for an industry reported at 7.7 percent, the land surveying industry is growing three to five times slower than all other industries.

Though the growth of this industry is expected to be much slower than average, there are still an average 4,000 openings for surveyors expected each year over the next decade.

Most of these openings are expected to be the result of currently-employed land surveyors transferring to different occupations or exiting the labor force altogether. Despite this stunted growth, land surveyors will continue to be very much needed to certify boundary lines, work on resource extraction projects, and review sites for construction.

Today, land surveying remains the cornerstone of land development and design and continues to be a sustainable profession for those wanting to live a life of adventure and exploration. With industry trends favoring growth decline and retirement, the industry’s demand for new tradespeople is more pressing than ever.

It is exactly this new generation of in-demand tradespeople on whom Jim, Lori, and W&A are focused on offering on-the-job training and career mentorship for those interested in learning land surveying.

“I started surveying in 1986 and had never heard of land surveying before… I go to work every day, and I love my job, love my wife, and love the people I work with,” Jim said. “We want to share our love for the industry with the next generation.”

With the only prerequisite being a high school diploma and thousands of jobs available for motivated, hard-working young people, surveying offers countless opportunities for those joining the labor force.

“If you’re looking for an adventure, a treasure hunt, and having pride in your work, consider land surveying,” Lori added.