Cartographic Drafter: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Apr 13, 2021

Creating maps is the name of the game for cartographic drafters. They design maps for construction, civil planning and other uses. In order to become a cartographic drafter, one must hold at least a bachelor's degree and hold the appropriate licensure if their state requires it.

Essential Information

Cartographic drafters work with surveyors and engineers to develop maps used by construction companies, government planning entities or environmental organizations. Technological advances have increased the amount and scope of data available and how it can be represented. These advances also require that cartographic drafters enhance their experience with formal education throughout their careers.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Other Requirements Licensure required in some states
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029) 4% for all cartographers and photogrammetrists*
Median Salary (2020) $68,380 for all cartographers and photogrammetrists*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Cartographic Drafter Job Description

Cartographic drafters create maps for use in industries such as construction, civil planning or resource management. They work for private engineering companies; construction and development companies; and government agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S Forest Service and the U.S. Geological Survey. A cartographic drafter compiles information from surveyors, databases, satellites, Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and generates maps and other charts displaying details such as topographical, political, environmental, or cultural characteristics.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for cartographers and photogrammetrists should increase by 4% between 2019 and 2029, which is an average rate. In May of 2021, the BLS reported that these professionals earned an annual median salary of $68,380.


Cartographic drafters use Computer-Aided Drafting (CAD) systems to design maps. They must follow standard mapping methods when representing information. In creating maps, drafters might conduct research in the field, but they usually work in offices using existing data from other sources. These professionals are also responsible for the integrity of the information and its mapped representation.

Responsibilities can include analyzing data collected by a surveying team to produce plans for a construction project and using GPS or GIS information to plan roads or other infrastructure projects. Cartographic drafters can be in charge of updating existing maps with new geological or political information and refining boundaries for cities, states or countries.

A cartographic drafter is also in charge of determining the format of maps based on the needs of a specific application. Characteristics can include the map size, the details included, how those details are represented and the coloring of the map. Sometimes, the cartographic drafter is also in charge of production standards after the map is created, including operating map reproduction or printing equipment.


Computer, math, research and analytical skills are critical for cartographic drafters. Attention to detail and an understanding of drafting methods, geographical concepts and research procedures are important. High school coursework focusing on advanced mathematics, CAD or other drafting instruction, geography and computer science gives a solid foundation on which to build these skills. Good communication skills are also necessary in addition to manual dexterity and precision.

Most cartographic drafting positions require a bachelor's degree in cartography or surveying; however, a related degree in geology, forestry or civil engineering may also be acceptable. Experience as a drafting technician can sometimes substitute for formal education, but rapid advances in technology and data collection mean that a degree is usually necessary. Many employers require degrees to be from a school that has received accreditation from ABET.

In some states, cartographers may need to be licensed as surveyors. The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) issues the licensure examinations. This license requires an applicant to have a bachelor's degree and several years of experience as a surveyor as well as to pass exams on procedure and technique. Most cartographic drafters need to periodically enhance their skills and knowledge through specific coursework on topics such as computers, drafting, geology and engineering; continuing education may be required by the state or the employer.

Cartographic drafters must be knowledgeable not just in cartography but also in mathematics and computer drafting technology. Ideally, cartographic drafters also need to have strong communication skills and they need to be organized and precise. Individuals interested in this field can look forward to excellent employment opportunities, with an average job growth predicted for the 2019-2029 decade.

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