Cartographers create maps of large areas based on geographic, political, and cultural information. They chart the surface of the planet using mapping and measuring techniques. They complete research on the geography of areas and produce the actual maps themselves. They work with spatial data, such as latitude, longitude, elevation, and distance. They also use data that is nonspatial, like population density and precipitation levels. They create maps in digital or graphic formats with information gathered from satellites, aerial photographs, and geodetic surveys.
The cartographer occupation is currently going through a period of rapid change. Aerial photography methods are improving, Global Positioning Systems (GPS) are having a dramatic effect, and a new technology is emerging called geographic information systems (GIS). GIS utilizes computerized data banks of spatial data to assemble, integrate, analyze, and display location-oriented data. The technology is mostly used for projects in which information from environmental studies, geology, engineering, planning, business marketing, and other disciplines needs to be effectively combined.
Cartographers should have good visual abilities. Excellent eyesight, coordination, and hearing to communicate if they work in the field. They should also be in good physical shape. Teamwork is essential in this profession, and cartographers must be very good at working cooperatively with other people. They should also have good clerical, organizational, and research skills.
In 2002, cartographers earned a median annual salary of $42,870. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $25,810, to the highest 10%, who earned more than $69,320.
Training and Education
Most cartographers have a bachelor’s degree in engineering, forestry, geography, physical sciences, or a related discipline. Some cartographers enter the occupation by starting as a cartographic technician and working their way up as they gain experience. This is changing because most cartographic technician positions require specialized training from a postsecondary college or school. Cartographers also need to gain additional education and training using the technology of GIS. Technical skills, especially in computers, is becoming a prerequisite for entry into the profession. High school students interested in developing a career as a cartographer should take courses in algebra, geometry, trigonometry, drafting, mechanical drawing, and computer science. Visit this page about trade schools for more information on related careers.
In 2002, cartographers and closely related workers held about 124,000 jobs. Two-thirds worked in architectural, engineering, and related services. About 1 in 6 worked fro Federal, State, and local government agencies.
Between 2002 and 2012, employment of cartographers is expected to increase about as fast as the average. Advancing technologies will improve the productivity of these workers, which will somewhat inhibit job growth. However, workers who leave the occupation will still need to be replaced. Most job opportunities will be concentrated in architectural, engineering, and related services. New opportunities will arise in the areas of urban planning, emergency preparedness, and natural resource exploration and mapping. Opportunities will be best for those who have the strongest technical and computer skills and at least a bachelor’s degree.