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Pioneering the way for women surveyors

Rita Lumos, P.L.S.

Tell us about your background and your experience as the first licensed female surveyor for the state of Nevada.

I am a descendent of Nevada pioneers and have lived all my life in Nevada. I grew up on a farm and was a member of 4-H for most of my school years. That experience taught me the value of dedicated work and doing service to the community.

I got into surveying quite by accident. After leaving the University of Nevada, I was hired by a local engineering company to do drafting work. I was fortunate that the engineer owners of the company recognized my interest and ability and were willing to teach me about the profession. After several years of experience and learning, a lot of self-study, and a surveying course offered by the Department of Transportation, I applied to take the licensing exam. The board turned me down. I suspect they were not convinced that a woman could possibly be qualified. It was 17 years before I was admitted to sit for the exam, which in those days was 12 hours of the NCEES exam and 4 hours of the state exam, over two consecutive days. I felt a heavy weight of responsibility to do well as the only woman ever to be admitted for the surveying exam in Nevada.

I did do well and received my license in 1979. I was met with some curiosity and doubt, but for the most part, my fellow surveyors accepted me. As time went by, I earned respect and was elected to the boards of the local and state professional association.

I am grateful to all those who helped me along the way. I have been fortunate to have many experiences and to have traveled to many places in conjunction with my professional activities.

Why should someone pursue getting their P.S. license?

Surveying today is a truly diverse profession, offering opportunities in many areas, including land and boundary surveys, construction surveying, land development, and some elements of GIS and photogrammetric work. Anyone who is strong in math, interested in solving puzzles, and interested in understanding aspects of land law is a good candidate for the profession.

Tell us about the most memorable moment you had in your career as a licensed surveyor.

Until the breakup of the Soviet Union, there was no private land in Russia and no private surveyors. Prior to that, all surveyors were government employees. Russian surveyors in private practice were struggling to establish licensing and professional society regulations.

In 1999, a subsidiary to USAID—ACDI Voca—was asked to send someone from the United States to help them understand how our system works. I was chosen to go, presumably because I had experience in both licensing and professional societies. Armed with many binders, including the NCEES Model Law, I spent two weeks meeting with Russian surveyors and agencies to explain our system. They were quite surprised to find that our professional societies and licensing agencies were not one, as in the U.K., Canada, etc. They also balked at our experience requirements after college before licensing.

Soon after that trip, I was privileged to visit New Zealand and Australia on a People-to-People tour. Australia had just revised its licensing laws, and I was able to provide the Russian surveyors with that information.

You’ve served on many committees at NCEES. Can you give us some background on your participation in those?

The Nevada board strongly encouraged its members to be active on NCEES committees.

My first committee in NCEES was the Committee on Uniform Procedures and Legislative Guidelines (UPLG). Early on, I was able to have the committee study and broaden the Model Law definition of the profession of surveying. This stirred a bit of controversy and eventually the establishment of a task force involving several organizations to further study the matter. The Model Law definition survived with little change as a result of the task force work. I was privileged to chair the UPLG Committee from 1995 to 1997.

I spent many years as a member of the Committee on Examinations for Professional Surveyors, and two years as its chair. This was very gratifying work and led to participation on other exam-related committees, cut-score workshops, etc. I was privileged to attend three President’s Planning meetings.

Later, I was sent out to exam sites by ELSES (now known as NCEES Exam Administrative Services) as an observer for several years and served as the NCEES representative on the ABET Applied Science Accreditation Commission for five years.

I treasure all the years I was involved in NCEES activities. I was able to associate with many inspirational people and make lifelong friends.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in the surveying profession? What advice would you give to women?

Often, when folks think of surveyors, they think of the field crews they see in their communities. Those are often technicians and only a part of what a surveyor does. (Although, with today’s equipment and technology, it is possible for one professional to accomplish much of the work alone.)

For many years, I was the only licensed Nevada female surveyor. I am pleased to say that now there are many. I’m proud to have mentored some of them.

There are many opportunities for women in the profession. A good educational foundation is important. After that, the opportunities are endless. This (formerly) shy farm girl from Nevada has had experiences I never dreamed of as a young person.

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Lumos’ experience

Rita Lumos is a professional land surveyor who has worked in the surveying profession for over 40 years. Currently retired, she has experience in both the private and public sectors.

Lumos attended the University of Nevada, majoring in mathematics. She joined the firm of Sprout Engineers, later SEA Inc., in 1962. She participated in many interesting surveying projects, rising to the position of principal surveyor and stockholder. This firm was listed among the top 500 firms in the United States by Engineering News Record for many years during her tenure there. The firm had offices in Reno, Nevada; Las Vegas, Nevada; Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; and Phoenix, Arizona.

In 1990, she was appointed to the position of city surveyor for the city of Las Vegas, Nevada, where she served until her retirement in 2004.

Lumos has long been active in professional organizations, including the Nevada Association of Land Surveyors (NALS), the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS), the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM), the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES), and the American Public Works Association (APWA). She also served as an evaluator for the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).

She was appointed to the Nevada Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors by two governors, serving from 1991 to 2003.

Lumos is a proponent of education requirements for surveying and has served on advisory committees at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas; the Community College of Southern Nevada; and Great Basin College.

In 1999, she was chosen to represent ACSM and U.S. surveyors as an advisor to the Russian Association of Private Land Surveyors. This was through a program that provides expert consultants in an international development program funded by USAID.

Lumos’ passion for surveying has also translated to the engineering profession: two of her grandchildren are engineers—one a civil engineer licensed in California and Nevada and another a mechanical engineer.

Offices in Professional Boards and Societies

  • Southern Nevada Chapter Nevada Association of Land Surveyors: President 1987
  • Nevada Association of Land Surveyors: President 1990
  • NSPS Board of Governors: 1991–96
  • NSPS Board of Directors: Area 9 Director 1996–2001
  • ACSM Board of Direction: 2002–03
  • NSPS: President 2007
  • Nevada Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors: 1990–2002; Chair 2001–02
  • NCEES: Chair of Committee on Uniform Procedures and Legislative Guidelines 1995–97; Chair of Committee on Examinations for Professional Surveyors 2003–05
  • ABET ASAC Commissioner 2007–12


  • Southern Nevada Chapter NALS Lifetime Achievement Award 1995
  • NALS Nevada Surveyor of the Year 1995
  • ACSM Fellow 1996
  • NCEES Distinguished Service Award 2000