How to Become a Cartographer
Job Duties of a Cartographer
Skills and Qualities of a Cartographer
Salaries of Cartographers
Influential Professionals in Cartographer Field
Leading Cartographer Organizations
Top Cities for Cartographer Jobs
Other Careers of Interest

How to become a Cartographer

To become a cartographer, it is a good idea to have a bachelor's degree, usually in surveying or a field that is related to surveying, such as geography. It is still possible to begin as a member of a survey crew, with no higher education, but has become increasingly difficult. For those aspiring cartographers who do not have a bachelor's degree, there are also vocational schools and community colleges which offer shorter programs.

Cartographers nowadays also need to take courses or be trained in computer programs, since many elements of cartography are now performed on the computer. Besides training and courses in computer technology, candidates for cartography should also study subjects like math and drafting. These studies can begin as early as high school and should continue through higher education.

Some states require that cartographers are licensed as surveyors before they can be professional cartographers. This requires at least one examination. Many states require a written examination provided by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES), and/or an examination given by the State licensing board. Cartographers must first pass one examination - the "Fundamentals of Surveying" - and then work under a surveyor who is more experienced for four years. After the four year period, the cartographers must take another examination, the "Principles and Practice of Surveyors."

What does a Cartographer do?

Cartographers map the surface of the Earth. Their job duties involve collecting, analyzing, interpreting, and mapping the information from geographic surveys and aerial photographs. Some cartographers perform research regarding the Earth's geography while others produce the actual maps. They use a variety of data in their work, including elevation, distance, longitude, latitude, precipitation, demographics, and population density.

Light-imaging detection and ranging (LIDAR) is used to map the Earth's topography in a digital format. Cartographers use this highly accurate technology to make extremely detailed maps. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are also used by cartographers to gather and display data, and combine data to make specific types of maps. Specialized maps such as maps which show population density or maps which display natural resources are only two examples of a wide variety of maps that are created by cartographers.

What skills or qualities do I need to become a Cartographer?

Anyone wishing to become a cartographer should have good visual-spatial ability to be able to easily visualize size, forms, and distance. Cartographers need to be meticulous and accurate, with good attention to detail. Modern cartographers must be computer literate, as most of their work now involves computer.

What do Cartographers make?

The median yearly salary of cartographers in the United States as of May 2006 was $48,240. The middle fifty percent of cartographers made between $37,480 and $65,240 per year. These amounts are about the same as surveyors make, and many cartographers are licensed surveyors. This amount may increase in the next decade, as the field of cartography is expected to grow very quickly.

Who are some influential professionals in this field?

One of the most famous cartographers in history was Willem Janszoon Blaeu, a cartographer and astronomer in the late 1500s. Although he lived hundreds of years ago, his maps, atlases, and globes are still reprinted today. Blaeu was the official cartographer of the East India Trading Company.

In modern times, the director of the USGS is Mark Myers, a geologist and geological surveyor. While not a cartographer himself, Myers oversees the United States Geological Survey, a government agency responsible for maps and mapping data.

What are some leading organizations in this field?

The United States Geological Survey, or USGS, is an agency of the United States federal government. USGS scientists include geologists and cartographers, whose jobs include studying the American landscape, collecting data on it, researching it, and creating reports and maps. The USGS may be best known for its topographical maps with a 1:24,000 ratio. The agency is also undertaking the National Map program, which is an online mapping service. Other specialized maps, such as maps of earthquakes and other seismic activity, are also available from the USGS.

What are the top cities for Cartographer jobs?

Garmin, a manufacturer of global positioning systems, or GPS, technology, is one of the leading employers of cartographers in the United States. Garmin has headquarters in the city of Olathe, Kansas, a good city for cartographers to find employment, along with Minneapolis, Minnesota, where the company also has offices.

GeoEYE, a satellite imagery company, is another large employer of cartographers. The top cities for cartographers wishing to work for GeoEYE include Denver, Colorado; Saint Louis, Missouri; and Sterling, Virginia.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) is the United States government's mapmaking agency, employing many cartographers to create both traditional and digital maps. The USGS is headquartered in Reston, Virginia, making that city an excellent one for cartographers who are seeking employment.

Other Careers of Interest

A geographer is a scientist who studies the physical environment of the earth, human habitat, and the interactions between the two. Geographers...

Geologists study the earth and the processes that shape it in order to better understand the history of our planet. They then try to apply this...

Geoscientists study the physical dimensions of the earth both in the present and in the past. Geology and geophysics are the two major subdivisions...

Meteorologist / Weather Forecaster
A meteorologist will study atmospheric conditions that he or she will then use as a way to help forecast the weather. Some meteorologists will...

Surveyor / Map Editor / Map Technician
Surveyors measure a variety of things, including distance, directions, and angles between two specific points. Surveyors can also calculate elevation...

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