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I was asked to write an article about the Certified Survey Technician Assistance Program, but there is a story to be told. It cannot be summated as just an Assistance Program, but an evolution of a vision created by surveyors for surveyors.

You may as well ask who I am. I am just the field guy who was just going to hold this rod until I get my “Real” Job. Thing is I fell in love with the profession and am just as passionate as when I first started. I would not have had this fire ignited without great mentors, teachers and friends.

Being a member of The Great Central Florida Chapter of the Florida Surveying and Mapping Society (CFCFSMS) and their support of the National Society of Professional Surveyors Certified Survey Technician (CST) program is the driving force for the creation of the CST Assistance Program.

Their support was championed within the chapter through Joe Stokes, Celeste VanGelder and Southeastern Surveying & Mapping. An established coordination of events occurred at this point: We would conduct “Study Groups” hosted by SSMC and taught by various surveyors in support of the program. Ms. VanGelder coordinated the CST for the Central Florida Chapter and Mr. Stokes instilled the value of education within the City of Orlando.

I recall being asked to help with the program, because I was a Certified Survey Technician. I asked what they needed me to do and after coordinating with Celeste I was invited to Southeastern Surveying & Mapping training area. The room could seat 50 comfortably and was equipped with projectors and dry erase boards, and I was given free reign over the copier. I arrived an hour early to prepare… I made copies of handouts and was told to make myself at home. The area wasn’t nearly as intimidating as when the participants and members/non-members of CFCFSMS arrived from, all over Central Florida. Why? To work towards a CST certification. I was greeted by grizzled old party chiefs, one in particular I remember keenly, who said “I have surveyed for 25 years, and my boss sends me here for this.” I just replied I am just here to help and couldn’t but help think “this guy has been surveying for 25 years, I was two years old when he started, what did I just get myself into?” I had realized a sense of reluctance to participate in the program from just a few participants, but as the sessions progressed we found that we could all learn from each other and together. Every company, every municipality, every agency here together to learn. I start off every eight to twelve week session with the same first class, you get out what you put into the program and this education/certification is something no one can take away from you (so many had lost so much in the economic crash.)… It seemed befitting.

When the economy crashed surveyors were out of work, but we still held sessions for the unemployed and employed. These guys would do just that, put in everything but struggled monetarily. There was something that troubled me. While some companies would pay for the certifications others were reluctant and/or could not afford it. We already had the Gerald O. McNair scholarship at the chapter, but it was for a four year degree and not everyone aspires for that type of education. What could I do to help out surveyors, my peers, the profession and companies in central Florida who genuinely cannot afford to support the program in this economy? Some of these guys had participated in two to three, eight to twelve week sessions, but could not afford to take the test. Then it hit me an Assistance Program or Scholarship for those surveyors whose companies could not afford to support the program and for the candidate committed to obtaining their CST certificate. The dedicated were in front of me and all we needed was a means of support and funding.

It was time to call in the Big Guns… The Great Central Florida Chapter of the Florida Surveying & Mapping Society and its Champions for Education. I proposed my idea and it was instantly approved and funded, this is what it was all about. We support the CST program as far west as Tampa, throughout Central Florida, and to the surveyor conferences throughout the state. The study groups are unique to our chapter and we have a team who can proctor anywhere, anytime, and with or without local support. The chapter is a place where people come together for the betterment of the profession, volunteers in a volunteer organization.

We still hold study groups with guest speakers: Surveyors, engineers, GIS professionals, utility designators, geotechs, and environmentalists coming together to learn. Six years later and that grizzled old party chief now helps teach a class every session. 6000+ copies later, a training room to be proud of and not a sign of slowing down. A six week study group once or twice a year has turned to eight to twelve week sessions two to three times a year. There are 1595 active CST’s in the nation and Florida comprises approximately 15% of those. Having a CST Certification shows qualification, personal investment of time and carries the reputation of the National Society of Professional Surveyors and Mappers. My wish is that this Assistance Program and the study groups can take effect in other chapters throughout the District, the state and the nation. You really do get out what you put in, sometimes more.

—Ronnie Figueroa


My name is Mike Tarnowski. I graduated college with an AAS Degree in Civil Engineering from MSCTC, Detroit Lakes, MN. I have been in the Land Surveying and Civil Engineering field for over 11 years, as a Party Chief for 8 years.

After surveying for several years, I attempted to take the Fundamentals of Surveying exam and failed. I felt the technical degree I had acquired was geared more towards drafting and survey technology and lacked the fundamentals of Land Surveying. My survey manager talked me into taking the CST 2 and CST 3 exams, as he had done in the past. He was one of the first to take the CST exam, when it was originally implemented. After studying the provided practice material, I passed both exams.

After passing the CST 3, I took the Fundamentals of Surveying exam again and breezed through it. I really feel that the CST exams helped in achieving the knowledge to pass the FS exam. I also feel it is great practice to prepare for taking long exams. I would highly recommend it to anyone wishing to further their career in Land Surveying.

—Michael J. Tarnowski

Hello, I am Bill Oberle, an engineering tech at the City of Mankato, MN. The CST has helped me mostly in securing a Senior Tech position within the organization. I have been here 18 years, during the first seven of which i worked with a Senior Survey Crew Chief. When he retired, I took over the survey crew by myself for another 10 years. i thought I would be promoted after the second year of doing that, but no. Meanwhile, I got certified in this program and kept it current every year. The city engineer said that the certification is one of the main reasons I got promoted. I personally feel good about this certification because it makes me feel confident when I do staking for state and federal jobs, and because I am the only person here who has this certain certification. So thanks very much!
—Bill Oberle

My Name is Uriel Ordonez, when I first came into the Engineering/Surveying Field in 2011 I had no idea what NSPS was let alone what CST was.

As I began to gain knowledge and experience. I learned what it took to be a good survey technician. Well I thought I knew what it took, until I read up on the actual CST Exam through NSPS, I began reading the questions on the Practice exam for the Entry Level CST and realized. “WOW I’m not as great as I thought I was”, so what this meant to me is that I needed To STUDY and by study I mean study. Not just flip through surveying books. But really sit down and study what it meant to be a Survey Technician. I worked for a Surveyor that helped in every way he could. We would stay late after work and do practice problems on the chalk board and he would tell me of the history of surveying and equipment used for weeks. After all that studying I decided I was ready to really prove to myself that I was worthy of Calling myself a Survey Technician and set up a test date, and took the proctored exam. Wouldn’t you know it I passed with flying colors! If it wasn’t for the CST program I probably would of never of picked up the books and learned all the valuable fundamentals of past and present of Surveying. It has helped me strive for more as well. I currently have the experience and requirements needed to be able to continue my CST advancement and will Hopefully Have my CST Level III Construction by next year. Thanks to NSPS and the CST program I am where I am in my Career today!

—Uriel Ordonez

— Field Engineer/Survey Tech.CST1

After taking the exam, I was given a raise, and most importantly, a much better understanding of what surveying is about, and why we do it. I appreciate the Exam and will continue to take them and renew my certification.

—Sam Rainwater, IN

Certified Survey Technician