What does a Cartographer do?

Median Pay $63,990
Growth Rate 19%
Citation Retrieved from BLS.gov

A cartographer and photogrammetrist interprets, collects, and measures geographic data. They create user-friendly maps and update charts and maps for education and regional planning. They may also be known as a geographic information specialist because their maps provide support for decisions involving business and marketing, geology, engineering, environmental studies, and land-use planning.

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How to Become a Cartographer


A bachelor’s degree is considered the entry level qualification necessary to gain a position as a cartographer. A bachelors degree in geography or cartography with a GIS (geographic information system) specialization is helpful.Cartographers have many mapping tools they must be familiar with because of advances in technology, such as positioning capabilities of mobile phones and in-car navigation systems. If you are in high school, math and science courses would be extremely helpful to prepare you for college.

A cartographer may be required to be licensed as surveyors. However, each state may vary and all would require a minimum of a high school diploma and passing a test.

Job Description of a Cartographer

A cartographer uses data from geodetic surveys and remote sensing systems along with satellites and aerial cameras to create maps and provides aerial surveys to governments to help with regional and urban planning which may have information on population density and demographic characteristics.

A cartographer compiles geographic data and prepares maps in graphic or digital form for educational and environmental purposes. They create visual representations of data and collect information from aerial photographs, reports, satellite images, and ground surveys. A cartographer would update and make necessary changes from existing charts and maps. Some government agencies require maps for work involving national security and public safety, as well as accurate maps to assist with emergency responders.

Teacher and Student Resources

ETH Zurich offers an Introduction to Web Cartography course on EdX.org (opens in a new tab). During this course, you will learn understand the functioning of JavaScript mapping libraries and how to use them, how to adding animations and interactions to your cartographic product, how to design and create a complete, interactive cartographic project based on modern web technologies, and how to apply established cartographic principles.

Cartographer Career Video Transcript

Mapmakers of the past may have labelled unknown territory “Here be dragons”… but today’s mapmakers rely on detailed measurements from satellite imagery to describe even those areas hidden from human eyes.

Cartographers and photogrammetrists are the technologically-skilled professionals who collect and interpret geographic information to create maps. While they share many characteristics, the two fields differ in the products of their work: cartographers design accessible maps for general use, while photogrammetrists create specialized maps of the Earth’s surface features. They obtain geographic data from a variety of sources, including aerial cameras, satellites, and lasers attached to drones, planes, or cars. Some maps require gathering data about a population, including demographics or population density. Maps may sometimes be made for a particular purpose, such as regional or education planning, or emergency response.

Although cartographers and photogrammetrists spend much of their time in offices, certain jobs require travel to the areas being mapped. Most work in architectural and engineering firms, local government, or technical consulting services. Full time, normal business hours are typical, though those who do fieldwork may have longer workdays. A bachelor’s degree in cartography, geography, geomatics, or surveying is the most common path of entry into this field. Courses in computer programming, engineering, math, and GIS technology are helpful. Some states require cartographers and photogrammetrists to be licensed.

Article Citations

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Cartographers and Photogrammetrists.

National Center for O*NET Development. 17-1021.00. O*NET OnLine.

The career video is in the public domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.