Education and NSPS

The National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS) encourages and supports educational endeavors in many ways.

By Curtis Sumner, PLS


Each year, NSPS offers more than $25,000 in scholarships (funded by a variety of individuals, companies, and organizations) to encourage and support college education in the geospatial sciences. These scholarships are a great opportunity for college students enrolled in surveying, mapping, geographic information systems, and geodetic science programs. The scholarships are awarded in four eligibility categories, and applicants must be student members of NSPS. The deadline for this year’s awards is March 15, 2013.Accreditation

Because of the recent merger giving NSPS responsibilities formerly handled by ACSM, NSPS is positioned to assume the role of lead society within ABET for the evaluation of many college programs: two-year and four-year degree college programs related to surveying/mapping/geomatics and those programs accredited through the Applied Science Accreditation Commission, the Engineering Accreditation Commission and the Engineering Technology Accreditation Commission. 

In conjunction with its role within these three ABET accreditation commissions, NSPS maintains a pool of program evaluators (PEV) who visit the college programs that are seeking either initial accreditation or renewal of a current accreditation. The PEV role provides an excellent opportunity for practicing professional surveyors (whether holding a degree or not) to become involved with the education of the next generation of professionals.

NSPS also holds a seat on the ABET board of directors and has a representative on the ABET Industry Advisory Council.

NSPS Student Competition

2011 marked the 10th anniversary of the NSPS student competition. Its purpose is to provide students with an opportunity to hone their skills in organizing a project and presenting it using the various mediums (paper, map, and oral presentation) regularly used in surveying professional and/or scientific work. It also gives them the opportunity to directly interact with practicing professionals.

The competition topic is extremely broad, by design. We know that not all students and schools have the same resources in the same subject areas. Judging is based not on which school has the flashiest imagery or most dramatic project, but rather on how clearly a team articulates its goals, how well it achieves those goals, how thorough is its members’ understanding of what they set out to learn, and how well they present what they did and what they learned. 

Earle J. Fennell Award

Established in honor of Earle J. Fennell, ACSM president 1966-1967 and executive director 1968-1971, this award is presented to an individual in recognition of distinguished educational contributions to the national organization and the surveying and mapping profession.

Persons who have worked in any aspect of surveying and mapping education may be nominated. The nominee may or may not be a professional educator but should have a sustained record of superior performance in surveying and mapping education for more than ten years at the local, state, or national level. Awards can be made posthumously.

Certification Programs

In addition to its scholarship program, NSPS promotes continuing education and credentialing opportunities for survey technicians through its Certified Survey Technician (CST) program and for hydrographers through the Hydrographers Certification program that
is a joint venture with The Hydrographic Society of America. The certification programs for both survey technicians and hydrographers (some are licensed professional surveyors) are managed by boards established by NSPS. Operating semi-autonomously from the governance structure of NSPS, these boards develop the program criteria, create the certification exams, and grade the exams. Exams for the survey technician certification are available both in paper form and online. An increasing number of college programs in surveying, mapping, and geomatics are using the CST exam as an assessment tool to gauge their students’ progress.


The NSPS annual TrigStar competition engages thousands of high-school trigonometry students each year. In addition to assisting teachers in demonstrating a practical application for what students are studying, the TrigStar program provides awards to those students who excel in the competition. Awards are made at the local, state, and national levels of competition and are presented for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places in the national competition, with the national 1st place winner receiving a $2,000 award. The teachers of the winning students in the national competition also receive awards. The 2012 national competition included state competition winners from 34 states.  

Boy Scouts Surveying Merit Badge Program

Since 1989, NSPS has been actively involved with the Boy Scouts of America’s surveying merit badge. The surveying merit badge was among the original 57 badges introduced in 1911, of which only 11 remain. In 1989, NSPS helped revise the surveying merit badge pamphlet and made a commitment to take the lead for participation at future jamborees. The 1993 edition of the pamphlet was prepared by NSPS, and the 2005 revision was based on that edition. Since that time, NSPS has supported and managed the surveying merit badge booth at every national Scout jamboree, which is held about every four years.NSPS views its involvement with the surveying merit badge and national Scout jamborees as fertile recruiting ground for future surveyors. Accordingly, it is very important that there are enough instructors present at each jamboree to accommodate the scouts who express interest. NSPS is now soliciting surveyors to assist in its efforts at the 2013 national Scout jamboree that will be held July 15-24, 2013, at the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve along the New River Gorge in West Virginia.
For information about any of the NSPS educational endeavors, visit the website at

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