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Cartographers design, prepare and revise maps, charts, plans, three-dimensional models and spatial information databases, often using computer-based techniques, and applying principles from science, mathematics and graphic design.

Sample of Reported Job Titles

Photogrammetrist, Cartographer, Photogrammetric Technician, Compiler, Production Manager, Stereo Compiler, GIS Analyst (Geographic Information Systems Analyst), Stereoplotter Operator, Digital Cartographer, Geographic Information Systems Specialist (GIS Specialist)



Cartographers may specialize in topographical maps (which show earth surface features and land use); or maps used for operational purposes in fields such as town planning, weather forecasting, tourism, hydrography, geological or mineral exploration and the military.

Typical tasks:

  • Determine map content and layout, as well as production specifications such as scale, size, projection, and colors, and direct production to ensure that specifications are followed.
  • Inspect final compositions to ensure completeness and accuracy.
  • Revise existing maps and charts, making all necessary corrections and adjustments.
  • Compile data required for map preparation, including aerial photographs, survey notes, records, reports, and original maps.
  • Prepare and alter trace maps, charts, tables, detailed drawings, and three-dimensional optical models of terrain using stereoscopic plotting and computer graphics equipment.
  • Delineate aerial photographic detail such as control points, hydrography, topography, and cultural features using precision stereo plotting apparatus or drafting instruments.
  • Build and update digital databases.
  • Examine and analyze data from ground surveys, reports, aerial photographs, and satellite images to prepare topographic maps, aerial-photograph mosaics, and related charts.
  • Identify, scale, and orient geodetic points, elevations, and other planimetric or topographic features, applying standard mathematical formulas.
  • Determine guidelines that specify which source material is acceptable for use.


Educational Requirements

There are several routes into cartographic occupations. Employers look for applicants who have two to four years of formal education in mathematics, trigonometry, geography, geology, drafting, or related fields. Depending upon the particular job, specialized courses such as surveying, cartography, and photogrammetry may be needed.


Median Salary 2018

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary of a Cartographer in 2018 was $64,430.


Potential Employers

Most cartographers work with engineering, architectural, and surveying firms, but a substantial number work for federal, regional, state, and local governments. Government agencies hire cartographers in areas such as highway departments, land management, natural resources planning, and national defense. Many are also employed by businesses, which specialize in map publishing or map drafting services.


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Information retrieved from We Use Math and O*NET Online.

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