March 22, 2021

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Cartographer Jobs – Description, Salary, and Education

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Cartographer Job Description

Cartographers use data collected from survey data, aerial photographs, satellite images, and other sources to create maps, charts, and drawings of the Earth’s surface.

Most of the maps that cartographers create are designed to demonstrate a particular characteristic of a region. For example, a map might show an area’s precipitation patterns, population density, political preferences, or demographic characteristics.

Some cartographers (called photogrammetrists) build 3D models of the Earth’s surface. They build their models using satellite images and light detection and ranging technology (LIDAR). LIDAR uses laser pulses to measure the distance between one object and another, and allow photogrammetrists to take precise physical measurements without leaving their office.

The majority of cartographers work for architectural and engineering firms and local government agencies, but there are employment opportunities in other areas as well. Consulting firms and the federal government also offer opportunities for cartographers.

The field of cartography has changed drastically in recent years. In the past, cartographers had to spend a lot of time in the field and create their maps by hand. Today, most of the data they need to access is stored in databases, and maps are created digitally using computer software.

A strong background in computer science can be very helpful for positions in this field.

How to Become a Cartographer

A minimum of a bachelor’s degree is required for most entry-level positions as a cartographer. Cartographers come from many different academic backgrounds, but some of the most common degrees for people in this occupation are geography, cartography, engineering, and geomatics.

In some states, cartographers need to be licensed surveyors, and many cartographers actually start their careers in that field.

If you’re still in high school and you’re considering a career as a cartographer, you should take as many math and computer science courses as you can. The technical requirements for working in this occupation are increasing all the time, so a strong background in computer science can help ensure that your employment prospects will continue to look good over time.

In today’s workplace, cartographers need to have stronger technical skills than they did in the past. Complex GPS and mapping software is used on a daily basis, and cartographers need to have the technical expertise required to operate the equipment and make sense of the data collected.

Related Occupations

Employment Outlook

There are currently 12,310 cartographers in the United States, with 640 new cartographer job openings created each year.

Cartographer jobs are not expected to see much growth beyond their current levels in the next decade.

Cartographer Salaries

Overall Salaries

Cartographer salaries can vary depending on your experience, the location, company, industry, and benefits provided. Nationwide, most cartographers make between $42,200 – $72,400 per year, or $20.28 – $34.79 per hour.

Career in Cartography/Photogrammetry – Description, Income, & Qualification


Cartographers and photogrammetrists create and update maps. These can be world, country, city, or a small town maps. Their work isn’t limited to geographical mapping; they also work on creating highways/roads and other types of maps. They are basically terrain map-makers.

The most common work they do is to create accurate maps of earth-surface. They use different technologies to collect data they require in creating new maps and updating the existing ones. Satellite imaging, and planes and cars with special sensors allow cartographers to collect data accurately and quickly.

There are several different uses for the maps, cartographers and photogrammetrists create. For instance, the navigation system you use in your car contains these maps. Geographically, cities do not stay the same; new roads, new houses, new parks, and many other structures are built. To keep our car-navigation system up-to-date, we need cartographers and photogrammetrists to keep updating these maps.

Different institutes are using these maps for environmental and educational purposes. For instance, some maps are used for measuring forest deforestation. Few jobs are available in government sector too; they hire cartographers and photogrammetrists to create maps that government agencies can use to improve public security, build road plans, etc.

Work Conditions and Timings

Cartographers and photogrammetrists usually work in offices and in the field. Data collection and verification often require their presence on the field. Fieldwork is usually intensive and involves lot of travelling on foot. This is a fulltime job and often requires cartographers and photogrammetrists to travel to other cities. They spend days, even weeks in remote places away from home.


To enter this occupation, you need a bachelor’s degree in cartography or any other related field such as, geometrics. Some US states require cartographers and photogrammetrists to earn a specific license before they apply for a job.

Check the following links for more information:

1. California State University
2. Florida Atlantic University
3. Idaho State University
4. Nicholls State University
5. Oregon Institute of Technology
6. Troy University
7. University of Alaska Anchorage
8. University of Florida

Job Prospects

Cartography and photogrammetry is a small occupation. There are currently around 12,500 jobs in this field. However, BLS estimates a 29% increase in demand for cartographers and photogrammetrists during the period 2014-2024. The job growth is greater than many other occupations. The reason for this growth is the increase in demand for car navigation and because of the need of updated maps in construction work.


Cartographers and photogrammetrists make an above-average income. The median annual wage is around $62,000. People doing the lowest paying jobs in this field make around $39,500 annually. People doing the highest paid jobs in this occupation make around $98,300 per year.

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