Did you know?

In 2013, people from non-English speaking backgrounds represent about one-tenth of engineers who work in the Australasian rail industry.

Occupation description

Railway surveying is focused on providing and managing the spatial information required for the design and maintenance of the rail infrastructure. It requires the use of surveying techniques, technical standards and design principles that allow tracks and associated infrastructure to be designed, built and maintained so that trains can move safely at an optimum speed over the network.

Railway surveying serves three main purposes:

  • Safety: to maintain safe clearances between trains and structures and trains and other trains
  • Efficiency: to minimise maintenance caused by poor alignment
  • Passenger comfort: to help ensure smooth rides for passengers

Areas of specialisation relevant to the rail industry include: topographical surveying, cartography, cadastral surveying and engineering surveying.

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Learn from a surveyor about his surveying career in New Zealand.

Knowledge, skills and attributes

Surveyors are professionals who take responsibility for providing survey solutions in a project environment. They accept the challenges of working in an industry in which safety is a first priority; enjoy working in regional and urban locations; and must be prepared to register with their state-based registration authorities.

Working conditions

Surveyors spend part of their time indoors and at other times they work in the field. They frequently work closely with other professionals, at times pooling expertise on particular projects. You may also spend time liaising with engineers about their project. Railway surveyors use state of the art technology such as GPS, modern total stations, digital levels and sophisticated railway specific computer programs. 

Entrance requirements and ongoing training and development

Surveyors may have studied surveying at university, geomatics or a combination degree of civil engineering and surveying. They should have a sound knowledge of surveying principles and be familiar with standard commercial CAD and administrative packages. In Australia and New Zealand, there are no specific railway surveying subjects or courses at universities. 

You may also be required to be a member of a professional association such as the:

As a member you would need to participate in ongoing professional development to retain your membership. There is also an agreement between Australia and New Zealand for professional recognition. For more information contact the Council of Reciprocating Surveyors Boards of Australia and NZ.

The rail industry provides many opportunities to increase your knowledge and skills. The best way to learn about the rail industry is through on-the-job training and attending in-house courses. Additional tickets, certification, registration or licences may be required to work in the rail corridor – depending on legislative and organisational requirements. The website Surveying - A Life Without Limits  has extensive information for people interested in a career as a surveyor in Australia. The site includes courses and job opportunities.  

The value of a career in the rail industry

For even more details on what you might earn, the diversity of companies you could work for and the career opportunities available, visit the following careers and training websites. Careers in Rail by the Australasian Railway Association; About the Rail Industry by Rail Skills Australasia and Rail Training by the Transport and Logistics Industry Skills Council (TLISC).

For more information

Career paths

The rail industry offers a wide range of opportunities. There are many options open to you, and your career may take many turns depending on what stage you are at in life and your personal circumstances. Typically, a surveyor will progress from an entry level position such as a graduate or assistant surveyor through to a more senior position such as senior principal surveyor, or into management. Additional tertiary studies and project management skills will be required to progress to these senior roles.

Working in surveying engineering provides the opportunity to gain knowledge, skills and experience for careers in general maintenance surveying, project surveying, technical standards, remote sensing, project management and geographical information systems (GIS). Graduate surveyors can further their career opportunities and remuneration by undertaking a professional training agreement to become a licensed surveyor.

Once in the rail industry, to progress in a career, you will need to complete additional studies or authorisations which will depend on operational and state requirements. Due to the complexities of the rail environment, it takes time to become a specialist and it may be difficult to move laterally into other specialised areas. 

The information provided here is generic. Job titles and the experience and qualifications needed to move into other jobs may vary depending on the structure and needs of your organisation and government rules and regulations. 

Related Jobs

The jobs below may require additional qualifications as well as experience.

Career Path Flowchart

Typical career path for a surveyor

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