A New Bachelor Degree Curriculum at East Tennessee State University

A New Bachelor Degree Curriculum at East Tennessee State University

Ali, Tarig A


East Tennessee State University (ETSU) offers a unique Bachelor of Science degree in Surveying and Mapping Science that covers a wide range of topics within geomatics. The ETSU Surveying and Mapping Science (SAMS) program’s location allows the university to serve not only the State of Tennessee, but also more than seven of the nearby states through a reciprocal tuition agreement. This program existed as a concentration in Engineering Technology since the 1960s and as a SAMS program since 1987. The program has been accredited through the Applied Science Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ASAC) of ABET since 1994. Recently, three new professional sequences within the SAMS curriculum have been developed, including Surveying/Cadastral, GIS/Photogrammetry, and Surveying Business. Every student in the program must take core courses that can lead to professional licensure, and there are specific classes for each sequence. Taking the new and emerging disciplines and technologies into consideration, the new curriculum has been designed to meet a challenging workplace. By doing so, SAMS program graduates are expected to have a much broader background to meet the requirements of an ever expanding job market. This paper discusses the new curriculum of the SAMS program at ETSU.


Surveying education has always been strongly connected to the profession. Since the profession is now quickly changing; surveying education has to change accordingly to prepare surveying students with the knowledge and skills to adapt to the new professional environment. It is evident that now, surveying students need to be equipped with more knowledge and skills than they had ever needed in the past. Most states currently require a four-year degree for surveying professional licensure, but the type of education that a surveyor needs remains unresolved (Wijayratne 1995).

The new and emerging technologies including GIS, GPS, and LIDAR require the development of new coursework to prepare surveying students with the skills needed to use these technologies. Lately, the licensing examination for surveyors conducted jointly by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) and the state licensing boards, started to include more questions than they had in the past about the new and emerging technologies and disciplines such as GIS, GPS, digital imagery processing, and engineering economics. Effective January 1995, some states such as the State of Georgia have begun requiring surveying gradates to have a minimum of five quarter credit hours of coursework in hydrology before they can sit for the LSIT/FS exam (GBPELS 1994). The technological advances in spatial information and related sciences, including surveying and mapping, have been so dramatic that the professional surveyor has to be part of that. This means, current surveying graduates have to be able to operate sophisticated data collectors that require efficient skills and training in college. Unlike previous generations, current and prospective surveying and mapping graduates have to possess additional skills in the following: information technology, advanced data measurement and processing, and business management (McDougall 2000).

Surveying and Mapping at ETSU

East Tennessee State University (ETSU) offers a Bachelor of Science degree in Surveying and Mapping Science, which covers the wide aspects of geomatics. Surveying has been offered at ETSU for a long time, but in 1987 the existing program was revised and expanded. The goal was to create a four-year degree in surveying and mapping science that meets the needs of the surveying profession in the southeastern region of the Nation and qualifies for ABET accreditation. In 1994, the program was accredited through the ABET Engineering Related Accreditation Commission (RAC), which is now the Applied Science Accreditation Commission (ASAC). Students are admitted to the program using the same standards used for all university students. The major components of acceptance include completion of high school or a GED and acceptable scores on the ACT or SAT exams. A certain number of high-school courses are expected in various areas, and if a student has any deficiency, it has to be removed, usually by taking certain college courses. Transfer students are normally admitted to the program after reviewing their course work from the schools and colleges they had attended. Basic core classes are evaluated during admissions and technical courses are evaluated by surveying faculty.

The Previous Program’s Curriculum

The previous curriculum of the Bachelor of Science degree in Surveying and Mapping Science at ETSU includes a general education core (Table 1), a major core (Table 2), and technical electives. Figure 1 illustrates the model of the previous curriculum (ETSU 1995-6; ETSU 1999-2000). This curriculum has always been subject to revision and improvement. Students in the program must have at graduation a GPA of 2.0 on a 4.0 scale overall and within the surveying coursework. Students have six years to complete the requirements for the Bachelor of Science degree in Surveying and Mapping. If the time needs to be extended one semester, they can request a waiver. If the time needs to be extended for a longer time, the year of the catalog of entry is progressed and the student must then graduate under the requirements in the newer catalog. The university also has agreements with six community colleges in the State of Tennessee, where students may start their Bachelor of Science degree in Surveying and Mapping and then transfer to ETSU for the junior and senior level courses.

Because there is a great demand for distance education courses from the professional community, either for licensure or to get formal education, some of the SAMS program’s courses have been offered through distance education since spring 2000. Currently, six courses are available on a rotating basis, of which some are offered in a web-only format and some are offered as web-enhanced courses using the Blackboard online learning system. In a web-only course, students are given access to the course materials on the web site, including syllabi, lecture notes, assignments, and online quizzes. In a web-enhanced course, students have similar access to the course materials online, but they attend classroom lectures and/or have lab exercises at the ETSU main campus (Clark 2004).

The New Program’s Curriculum

A new curriculum was recently developed at ETSU in which the technical electives in the previous curriculum have been replaced by three guided electives within the Surveying Science major-Surveying/Cadastral, GIS/Photogrammetry, and Surveying Business. The general education core and the major core have undergone only minor changes. Figure 2 shows the new curriculum of the Bachelor of Science degree in Surveying and Mapping, while Figure 3 gives details of curriculum on a year-by-year basis (ETSU 2004-5). The general education core consists of 42 semester credit hours (Table 1). The major core of 64 semester credit hours for the Bachelor of Science degree in Surveying and Mapping Science at ETSU is shown in Table 2.

The core courses cover, but are not limited to, the following subjects: Written and Verbal Communication, Geodesy and Surveying Astronomy, Cadastral Law and Administration, Boundary Law, Business Law, Management, Surveying and Mapping History, Field Data Acquisition and Reduction, Photo/Image Data Acquisition and Reduction, Graphical Communication, Mapping, Plane Survey Calculation, Geodetic Survey Calculation, Measurement Analysis and Data Adjustment, Geographic Information System Concepts, Land Development Principles, and Survey Planning. Our core surveying courses are offered on an annual or three-semester sequence, and advisement is critical to make sure that students take courses in the proper sequence and at the proper time. This prevents delays in graduation due to a course not being offered before the student is planning to graduate.

The newly developed sequences of guided electives have been designed to prepare the students for exciting careers in Surveying/Cadastral, GIS/Photogrammetry, or Surveying Business. Regardless of the sequence, the program is designed to provide students with the basic knowledge and skills to become licensed professional surveyors. The new sequences involve careful student advisement by the faculty on a semester-by- semester basis to make sure that, students follow the sequence they have chosen. A detailed description follows for each of the new sequences. A comparison of the previous curricula in 1995 and 1999 and the new curriculum as of Fall 2004 for the Bachelor of Science degree program at ETSU is shown in Figure 4.

Surveying/Cadastral Sequence

This sequence is designed to provide students with the opportunity to explore the traditional field of surveying including in-depth boundary surveying, subdivision design, and cadastral and geodetic surveying. This sequence includes the courses listed in Table 3 below. There are many avenues for a graduate from this program to work as cadastral or geodetic surveyor in both private and public sectors.

GIS/Photogrammetry Sequence

This sequence is designed to provide students with solid theoretical and practical background, which will enable them to work efficiently as GIS professionals or photogrammetrists. Students in this sequence will learn issues involving the design, implementation, and operation of a variety of commercial GIS and mapping systems. This sequence includes the courses shown in Table 4.

Surveying Business Sequence

This sequence is designed to provide students with the background necessary to proficiently operate and manage their own surveying or geomatic engineering business. This sequence includes the courses shown in Table 5.


The new curriculum provides students enrolled in the SAMS program with strong knowledge and skills, which will broaden their work opportunities. A graduate from the program can work as a professional surveyor, a GIS specialist, or as a photogrammetrist, or he/she can become an entrepreneur. Without exception, the students will have acquired the knowledge and skills needed to successfully complete the LSIT exam during their senior year. Because it incorporates new and emerging disciplines and technologies, the program will produce graduates who are well prepared to meet the challenges of an ever growing and expanding profession.


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ETSU (East Tennessee State University). 1995-6. Surveying and Mapping Science Program Curriculum. East Tennessee State University Bulletin LXXXIV(S): 40-41 & 68-69.

ETSU (East Tennessee State University). 1999-2000. Surveying and Mapping Science Program Curriculum. East Tennessee State University Bulletin XC(4): 53-65 & 82-83.

ETSU (East Tennessee State University). 2004-2005. Surveying and Mapping Science Program Curriculum. East Tennessee Stale University Bulletin XCI(5): 52-55 & 135-136.

GBPELS (Georgia Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors) 1994. Requirements for Land Surveyor-in-Training certification, Section 43, Chapter 15, Part 43-15-12. [http:// www.sos.state.ga.il s/plb/pels/sec43.htm#43-15-12].

McDougall, K. 2000. Surveying andm Education-Designing for the future. Draft discussion paper on the Design of a Professional Level Course, Queensland Institution of Engineering and Mining Surveyors. [http://www.iemsq.org].

Wijayratne, I. 1995. A baccalaureate degree program for the traditional surveyor. Journal of Surveying and Land Information Systems 55(3): 115-24.

Tarig A. Ali, Jerry W. Nave, and Marian M. Clark, Surveying and Mapping Science Program, Department of Technology and Geomatics, East Tennessee State University, PO Box 70552, 213 Wilson-Wallis Hall, Johnson City, TN 37614. E-mail: .

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