I have been looking forward to, and dreading this exam for years. Last month I drove down to SAMS headquarters in Jacksonville, FL to finally take this 4-hour beast of a test.
Just qualifying to take the AMS exam is an achievement in itself. The first step is getting accepted into SAMS (Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors) as a Surveyor Associate, or SA. A solid SA candidate has years of technical marine-industry experience under his or her belt and has attended some kind of survey-specific school like the Chapman School of Seamanship. Once accepted, an SA can begin surveying as a SAMS surveyor.
While there are some exceptions, SAMS requires most SA’s to survey and/or apprentice for the next 4-5 years. During this time, SA’s must complete mandatory continuing-education hours and submit yearly survey reports for review by their SAMS regional director. Most importantly, SA’s must maintain a clean, complaint-free professional record.
Every surveyor’s situation is a little different when they start off as and SA. Some people have jobs or apprenticeships lined up. Some work part time, conducting surveys every now and then. I know a few guys with full time jobs who joined “just in case” they want to pivot to surveying down the road. But the most common type SA is the person starting their own surveying business, often by themselves. This was my situation.
Whatever your situation, if you can maintain it for 4-5 years, in good standing with SAMS, they let you take the AMS exam.
Without getting into specifics, the exam tests you on everything a surveyor might need to know during his or her surveying career. I say “might” because there are a lot of scenarios and topics they test you on that you’re very unlikely to come across, but you might, so you better know what to do and how to do it. I will mention one semi-specific thing about the exam, because I think it’s brilliant. The “study guide” includes dozens of recommended books and manuals that deal specifically with wooden boat building. I’ve only surveyed 5 wooden boat in my 5 years of surveying, and I won’t likely survey that many more with the advancements in composites, but SAMS has made it a priority to keep this knowledge alive and fresh by passing down old wooden boat building techniques to future AMS surveyors.
The exam sucked every ounce of mental energy I had, but I passed on the first try (you get 3 attempts). I had no intention of driving down I-95 again if I could help it.
The process is a testament to the quality of SAMS as an organization. Unlike most universities, they don’t care how much money you have or what your last name is (including the one I graduated from), you have to run the gauntlet, and run it well.
Jeff Kibler, SAMS-AMS #1245