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Become A Cartographer

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Working As A Cartographer

  • Handling and Moving Objects
  • Performing for or Working Directly with the Public
  • Performing General Physical Activities
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Getting Information
  • Unpleasant/Angry People

  • Outdoors/walking/standing

  • Repetitive

  • $23,010

    Average Salary

What Does A Cartographer Do

Cartographers and photogrammetrists collect, measure, and interpret geographic information in order to create and update maps and charts for regional planning, education, and other purposes.

Cartographers are mapmakers who design user-friendly maps. Photogrammetrists are specialized mapmakers who use aerial photographs, satellite images, and light-imaging detection and ranging (LIDAR) technology to build models of the Earth’s surface and its features for the purpose of creating maps.


Cartographers typically do the following:

  • Collect geographic data
  • Create visual representations of data, such as annual precipitation patterns
  • Examine and compile data from ground surveys, reports, aerial photographs, and satellite images
  • Prepare maps in digital or graphic form for environmental and educational purposes
  • Update and revise existing maps and charts

Photogrammetrists typically do the following:

  • Plan aerial and satellite surveys to ensure complete coverage of the area in question
  • Collect and analyze spatial data, such as elevation and distance
  • Develop base maps that allow geographic information system (GIS) data to be layered on top

Cartographers and photogrammetrists use information from geodetic surveys (land surveys that account for the curvature of the Earth’s surface) and remote-sensing systems, including aerial cameras and satellites. Some also use light-imaging detection and ranging (LIDAR) technology. LIDAR systems use lasers attached to planes or cars to digitally map the topography of the earth. Because LIDAR is often more accurate than traditional surveying methods, it can also be used to collect other forms of data, such as the location and density of forest canopies.

Cartographers and photogrammetrists increasingly work on online and mobile maps. Interactive maps are growing in popularity, and cartographers and photogrammetrists collect data and design these maps for mobile phones and navigation systems.

Cartographers and photogrammetrists also create maps and perform aerial surveys for governments to aid in urban and regional planning. Such maps may include information on population density and demographic characteristics. Some cartographers and photogrammetrists help build maps for government agencies for work involving national security and public safety. Accurate and updated maps help emergency responders provide assistance as quickly as possible.

A cartographer who uses GIS technology to create maps is often known as a geographic information specialist. GIS technology is typically used to assemble, integrate, analyze, and present spatial information in a digital format. Maps created with GIS technology combine spatial graphic features with nongraphic information. These maps are used to provide support for decisions involving environmental studies, geology, engineering, land-use planning, and business marketing.

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How To Become A Cartographer

A bachelor’s degree in cartography, geography, geomatics, surveying, or a related field is the most common path of entry into this occupation. Some states require cartographers and photogrammetrists to be licensed as surveyors, and some states have specific licenses for photogrammetrists.


Cartographers and photogrammetrists usually have a bachelor’s degree in cartography, geography, geomatics, or surveying. (Geomatics combines the science, engineering, math, and art of collecting and managing geographically referenced information.) Although it is not as common, some have a bachelor’s degree in engineering, forestry, or computer science.

Growing use of geographic information system (GIS) technology has resulted in cartographers and photogrammetrists needing more courses in computer programming, engineering, math, GIS technology, surveying, and geography.

Cartographers must also be familiar with Web-based mapping technologies, including newer modes of compiling data that incorporate the positioning capabilities of mobile phones and in-car navigation systems.

Photogrammetrists must be familiar with remote sensing, image processing, and light-imaging detection and ranging (LIDAR) technology, and they must be knowledgeable about using the software that is necessary with these tools.

Many aspiring cartographers and photogrammetrists benefit from internships while in school.

High school students interested in becoming a cartographer or photogrammetrist should take courses in algebra, geometry, trigonometry, drafting, and computer science.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Licensing requirements for cartographers and photogrammetrists vary by state. A number of states require cartographers and photogrammetrists to be licensed as surveyors, and some states have specific licenses for photogrammetrists. Although licensing requirements vary by state, candidates must have a minimum of a high school diploma and pass a test.

Cartographers and photogrammetrists may also receive certification from the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS). Candidates must meet experience and education requirements and must pass an exam. Although certification is not required, it can demonstrate competence and may help candidates get a job.

Important Qualities

Computer skills. Both cartographers and photogrammetrists must have experience working with computer data and coding. Because maps are created digitally, knowing how to edit them on a computer is essential.

Critical-thinking skills. Cartographers may work from existing maps, surveys, and other records, and they must be able to determine the accuracy of each feature being mapped.

Decisionmaking skills. Both cartographers and photogrammetrists must make decisions about the accuracy and readability of a map. They must decide what information they require in order to meet the client’s needs.

Detail oriented. Cartographers must focus on details when conceiving a map and deciding what features to include. Photogrammetrists must pay close attention to detail when interpreting aerial photographs and remotely sensed data.

Problem-solving skills. Cartographers and photogrammetrists must be able reconcile differences between aerial photographs, land surveys, and satellite images.

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Cartographer jobs

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Real Cartographer Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Cartographer Telenav, Inc. Sunnyvale, CA Oct 17, 2011 $80,000 -
Cartographer Telenav, Inc. Sunnyvale, CA Jan 03, 2012 $80,000 -
Cartographer City of North Las Vegas North Las Vegas, NV Apr 01, 2010 $75,633
Cartographers and Photogrammeterists Google Inc. Mountain View, CA May 30, 2012 $54,000
Cartographer Blanton & Associates, Inc. Austin, TX May 09, 2016 $52,000
Cartographer Development Seed Inc. Washington, DC Sep 14, 2013 $51,418
Cartographer Development Seed Inc. Washington, DC Oct 01, 2012 $50,648
Cartographer Blanton & Associates, Inc. Austin, TX Sep 05, 2013 $50,000
Cartographer Dewberry & Davis LLC Fairfax, VA Feb 10, 2010 $49,338
Cartographer Republic Property Group, Ltd. Dallas, TX Sep 11, 2014 $42,000
Cartographer American Wind Energy Management Corp. Springfield, IL Sep 01, 2014 $41,740
Cartographers & Photogranmetrsts Central Nh Regional Planning Commission Concord, NH Apr 08, 2008 $39,653

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Top Skills for A Cartographer


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Top Cartographer Skills

  1. Arc GIS
  2. Geospatial Data
  3. Satellite Images
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Use Arc GIS 9 to create and update maps for the Chamber of Commerce.
  • Gained familiarity with aerial imagery, topography, structures and geospatial data.
  • Examined and analyze data from ground surveys, reports, aerial photographs, and satellite images in order to prepare parcelmaps.
  • Converted previously collected topographic data into finished topographic maps per client specifications.
  • Examined and analyzed data in order to prepare topographic maps, aerial-photograph mosaics, and related charts.

Top Cartographer Employers

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