Cartographer: Educational Requirements for a Career in Cartography

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a cartographer. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and state licensing to find out if this is the career for you.

Essential Information

Cartographers create maps based on geographic data they collect, and this job requires a high level of accuracy. Cartographers typically have a bachelor's degree. Some states require cartographers to hold a surveyor's license; they may also earn voluntary professional certification.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Other Requirements State license may be required; professional certification is voluntary
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022) 20% for cartographers and photogrammetrists*
Median Annual Salary (2013) $58,840 for cartographers and photogrammetrists*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements for Cartographers

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) noted that a bachelor's degree in cartography, geography or a related field is a common requirement for professional cartographers ( Often, aspiring cartographers can find an appropriate program in university geography departments, which typically offer a bachelor's degree in geography with a concentration in cartography. Some schools may offer a degree or certificate in cartography, and some graduate programs in cartography are also available.

Bachelor of Science in Geography with Concentration in Cartography

These degree programs may not focus entirely on cartography. Instead, students learn about the physical and human geographies of an area, which include the principles of cartography, interpretation of aerial photographs and data analysis. Students may use many aspects of this knowledge in their cartographic careers.

Certificate in Cartography

In certificate programs, students collect and analyze data while they learn to create maps. Students can choose from courses in Geographic Information System (GIS) applications, basic and advanced cartography and use of remote sensing equipment to map the environment.

Licensure and Certification Information

The BLS noted that some states require cartographers to be licensed as surveyors. According to the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES), each state may have its own licensing requirements. However, it's not uncommon for individuals to have to pass two licensing exams, one in college and the other after four years of work experience. Voluntary professional certification is also available.

Job Duties

According to O*Net OnLine, cartographers use information from surveys, photographs and other reports that they have gathered and created for the purpose of creating a new digital map or updating existing ones ( These professionals use global positioning systems (GPS), computer-aided design (CAD) programs and specialized mapping software to create maps for a variety of purposes.

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The BLS reported that as of May 2013, the median annual salary for cartographers and photogrammetrists was $58,840. Between 2012 and 2022, the number of jobs for these occupations is predicted to grow by 20%.

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