Career Information for a Degree in Cartography

Learn about the preparation and education needed to become a cartographer. Get an overview of requirements, degree programs and job duties, and find out if this career is right for you.

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Long before the Internet, there were maps made by cartographers. Believe it or not, even in this modern age, job opportunities for cartographers are projected to increase at a much faster rate than the average for all occupations. There are postsecondary certificate programs and post-graduate programs available, but most cartographers enter the field with a bachelor's degree.

Essential Information

Cartography is the study and practice of making maps or globes. Modern cartographers work with CAD and GPS systems as well as specialized software to do their jobs. They often learn their trade through college degree programs in cartography or geography.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 29% (for all cartographers and photogrammetrists)
Median Annual Salary (2015)* $61,880 (for all cartographers and photogrammetrists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Cartography Career Profile

Cartographers create maps. They must perform extensive research, gathering data from surveys, photographs and other sources to accurately chart the physical landscape. Maps can take a variety of forms and be expressed in several mediums, so cartographers must be able to obtain and analyze the latest information as well as utilize current technology for the best possible results. Distance, elevation, population density and demographics are only a few elements that cartographers must account for in their work.

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Education

Several schools offer bachelor's degree programs in cartography and related fields, and aspiring cartographers are usually required to complete an undergraduate education. However, certificate programs are also available at some schools and take less than one year to complete. There are also graduate-level degree programs in this field.

Cartography is often linked to geography, which is a more common degree leading to this occupation. As a result, the two fields often overlap. In addition to geography, cartography students usually take courses in subjects such as biology, politics, geology and statistics. Cartographers must also possess drawing and drafting skills and should have some experience with computers due to recent technological advances. In a similar vein, they should become familiar with geographic information systems (GIS), which can sometimes constitute their own course.

Job Outlook and Salary

As technology becomes more refined, demand is increasing for accurate, available maps, particularly in the digital format. Increasing use of maps in local government planning is also a factor in growth. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, cartographers held 11,970 jobs in 2015, with employment expected to rise 29% from 2014 to 2024.

In May 2015, the median salary for a cartographer was $61,880, with the middle 50% making between $48,960 and $78,940 each year, according to the BLS. The highest levels of employment for cartographers and photogrammetrists are in the architectural and engineering industry and local governments.

Cartographers can gain career skills through bachelor's degree programs that incorporate geology, biology, politics, geography, statistics, drawing, drafting and computer technology. There are many job openings with the government, as well as architectural and engineering firms and technical consulting services.

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