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Why Use CST

Robert W. Overall, P.L.S.
NSPS State Director – Louisiana

As the state director of the NSPS, it is my responsibility and personal initiative to promote the Certified Survey Technician (CST) program. Most of those reading are probably licensed professionals who may not think there would be need for CST certification.

However, how many licensed professionals send field crew personnel out into the field or have plats drafted regularly, knowing that every time these tasks are performed, your license, liability, and livelihood are at stake?

That being said, is it wiser to promote and invest in someone who has proven competency through further education and experience than one who does not demonstrate the motivation and desire to excel in his chosen field?

Perhaps it is my opinion that the answer to this question is yes, but it is not only I who recognizes the benefits of this program. The industry, the federal government, and the military recognize the CST program for certifying the ability and competency of survey technicians.

Some of the many benefits of having this program are as follows:

  • Identifies the important contributions that the technicians provide to the surveying and mapping profession
  • Provides credentials to technicians
  • Identifies those who have achieved specific technical competencies
  • Provides a career ladder for technicians
  • Provides those firms who support and utilize certified technicians a way to evaluate applicants and an opportunity to promote that their technical staff are certified.

Regardless of location in the state, the CST examination may be proctored within an applicant’s LSPS district. I want to encourage those who are licensed or already CST certified to share this opportunity with promising individuals in our field that may not be looking to acquire a professional license.

John Fenn
CST Board Member (( Notes from a Presentation)


As we go through my presentation, keep though in mind:

Every Professional Surveyor must cope with the dilemma of staying abreast of staff capabilities, whether it is for assisting potential employees, internal evaluations, or for the marketing and delivery of services. I guarantee the CST Program can assist you.

Look at it this way; on many occasions, we send them out into the field to either set survey control points or collect data. All of which we, the licensed professional takes responsibility for. Heck, many times we have them survey a residential lot or stake a road or a structure all of the while we are exposing our license.

We demand Professional work from ourselves, we are proud of our accomplishments, can we say the same about our technicians, and, are they working and presenting themselves in a manner we would approve of? How about our reputation, one bad job is never forgotten, no matter how good you are. It is our future too, do we want to trust it with someone who quite possibly may not understand the true meaning of surveying. Let us admit it; our field crews make many field decisions on what to set, how far to look and what to collect and?

We trust them on a daily basis with our livelihood, our ability to remain licensed and to remain in business, which, by the way is our own paycheck. Can we sleep at night wondering if they collected all the needed data, put the building in the right location, set the right grade? We also trust them with the future of all of our employees … no company, no jobs. A lot to think about. While I cannot guarantee a CST will not make a mistake, I am confident that I have at least tried to minimize the probabilities.

There is certainly a long list of benefits to us the surveyor and to our companies on having our technicians educated, trained and certified.

  • Sets a standard for your Technical staff. The staff will realize you require that they need to not only study but pass exams that show they are acquiring knowledge, which will further their career and the expertise of our company.
  • Can be used as a hiring requirement. Many companies are now requiring credentials, wanting CSTs. Certification has a way of showing their degree of field and or office knowledge, and abilities. In fact, I am aware of two maybe three states that now require a company to have CSTs on staff in order to qualify to bid state projects. I have recently contacted my state DOT through one of their licensed surveyor to look into requiring CSTs. Think about this in the same manner you would evaluate a college graduate or a licensed surveyor.
  • Can be used as a career ladder, which creates a promotional tool within your firm or agency. A great tool for advancement. Instead of that yearly evaluation, one where the employee expects a raise, tie their increase to passing the CST. That way you are removed as the bad person and place the burden on them. If you think about it, they will indeed be a better employee, and you a happier employer

We must recognize the important Contribution technicians provide

  • The certification tells you they have a working knowledge of the profession and to what degree. This provides the technician with the required credentials.
  • Can be used as a marketing tool – incorporated in your QA/QC Program. You can display their certificate. Which informs the public your company employs educated and tested personal.
  • Can be used as a marking tool – “CST’s On STAFF” A banner you can be proud of.
  • IT can be used in conjunction with training. Many firms fall short when it comes to education their employees. They do not take the time to show employees what really goes into surveying. We neglect to educate them in the ways of the past, to help them understand instruments, or how a figure is constructed. I have found from my own experiences in business that a person who can draft a figure using a t square, scale, compass and other drafting tools, have a far better understanding of Auto Cad. Same as a field person who has used a plum bob. A tape or a transit. I find it amazing that many crews now days do not even have a plum bob, not even one to share.
  • IT Raises the bar and creates healthy competition. You will be in a position to brag. My employees have passed a national exam. They have been educated in the profession in the ways of the past as well as the present.
  • THINK ABOUT IT. Better qualified staff – more production – more profit – you can pay your staff more – you can attract better staff – your job becomes easier
  • Better qualified staff – less mistakes – reputation improves – more business
  • The professional, the company and the public will benefit from a well-educated and experienced field crew, crew chief or office technician.

I have had a personal goal to have all of my technicians certified. For all of the above reasons. I was successful with a maybe couple of exceptions. I had one employee, Tom Dilger. Tom had been with me for near unto 15 years before I got involved with the CST Program. Tom was one of those employees who would take on almost any job that was given to him. From survey to construction layout and he was good at it. I got Tom to attend a few classes that the society was offering on CST and even got him to encourage other employees to attend the seminars. Tom was more than willing to train in the instrument operations and field procedures .He was good. However, I could not get Tom to take an exam. I believe Tom was afraid of failure, and would lose his creditability. He just would not be tested saying “ Why get tested when I know my job” This caused some hard feelings, however, I was successful with other employees both inside and outside in taking the exams, and I did indeed feel proud and more secure having them as employees. I know you too will feel more confident once you get started in the program.

As I stated earlier, one of the topics that the candidates are tested on is First Aid. Although nothing to do with the art of surveying, the CST Board felt it was a very important topic. For a moment j Just think some day it is possible that one of your crew members needs emergency first aid, wouldn’t be beneficial if someone in the crew knew the basics of first aid, and not panic and do nothing? Knowing how to stop bleeding, treat heat exhaustion, or one of many life threaten accidents.


Certified Survey Technician