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.
What they do
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 are mapmakers who design user-friendly maps. Photogrammetrists are specialized mapmakers who use various technologies to build models of the Earth’s surface and its features for the purpose of creating maps.
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 forests.
Cartographers and photogrammetrists often develop online and mobile maps. Interactive maps are popular, 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 maps help emergency responders provide assistance as quickly as possible.
Cartographers and photogrammetrists who use GIS technology to create maps are often known as geographic information specialists. 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 data. These maps are used to provide support for decisions involving environmental studies, geology, engineering, land-use planning, and business marketing.
Although cartographers and photogrammetrists spend much of their time in offices, certain jobs require extensive fieldwork to collect data and verify results. For example, cartographers may travel to the physical locations they are mapping to better understand the topography of the region. Similarly, photogrammetrists may conduct fieldwork to plan for aerial surveys and to validate interpretations.
How to become a Cartographer and/or Photogrammetrist
Most cartographers and photogrammetrists need a bachelor’s degree in cartography, geography, geomatics, or surveying. 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.
The growing use of Geographic Information System (GIS) technology has resulted in cartographers and photogrammetrists requiring 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.
Licensing requirements for cartographers and photogrammetrists vary by state. Some states require cartographers and photogrammetrists to be licensed as surveyors, and some states have specific licenses for photogrammetry and remote sensing. Although licensing requirements vary by state, candidates must meet educational requirements and pass a test.
Cartographers and photogrammetrists may also receive certification from the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS). The United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation offers certifications for GIS professionals. Candidates must meet experience and education requirements and must pass an exam. Although certifications are not required, they can demonstrate competence and may help candidates get a job.
The median annual wage for cartographers and photogrammetrists was $65,470 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $41,670, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $103,380.
Employment of cartographers and photogrammetrists is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
The use of maps for government planning should lead to some employment growth. Cartographers and photogrammetrists also will be needed to map and locate areas that require help during natural disasters, often using Geographic Information Systems (GIS). However, GIS-related technology increases these workers’ productivity, which may reduce employment growth in this occupation.
Similar Job Titles
Aerial Photogrammetrist, Cartographer, Cartographic Designer, Compiler, Digital Cartographer, Mapper, Photogrammetric Technician, Photogrammetrist, Stereo Compiler, Stereoplotter Operator
Computer Programmer, Software Developer-Systems Software, Geographic Information Systems Technician, Architectural Drafter, Mapping Technician
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- American Association for Geodetic Surveying
- American Association of Geographers
- American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing
- Association of Photogrammetry, Mapping and Geospatial Firms
- Geospatial Information and Technology Association
- National Society of Professional Engineers
- National Society of Professional Surveyors
- North American Cartographic Information Society
- Society for Conservation GIS
Magazines and Publications
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.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org