What does a Cartographer and Photogrammetrist do?

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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. Watch a to learn what a cartographer and photogrammetrist does:

How to Become a Cartographer


Many cartographers have earned a bachelor’s degree though some earn a certification after high school. To earn a degree, you would want to look for programs in geography or cartography with a GIS (Geographic Information System) specialization. If you are in high school, math, science, and technology courses would be extremely helpful to prepare you for college. This is because cartographers use many mapping tools and must keep up with advances in technology, such as positioning capabilities of mobile phones and in-car navigation systems.

A cartographer may be required to be licensed as a surveyor. 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.

Benefits of being a Cartographer and Photogrammetrist

Cartographers and photogrammetrists relish the challenges of aiding various industries in collecting, measuring, and interpreting data to craft user-friendly maps and charts. Their work is characterized by low stress levels, contributing to high job satisfaction. These professionals benefit from a blend of office-based work and site visits, offering a dynamic work environment.

With a healthy job market, experienced individuals have job security and readily available employment opportunities. They typically enjoy full-time positions with competitive salaries and receive standard benefits like health insurance, paid sick leave, vacation time, and retirement plans. Cartographers and photogrammetrists appreciate working collaboratively, relishing the opportunity to meet new people and explore new places while on assignments. Their work plays a crucial role in ensuring accurate navigation and mapping for everyone who uses maps and GPS systems.

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.
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