Cartography Education Requirements with Career Info

Sep 11, 2019

Cartographers require a fair amount of formal education. Learn more about cartography studies, degree programs and job duties to see if this is the right career for you.

To pursue a career as a cartographer, you will need a solid educational background and a specific set of specialized skills. This article provides details about educational requirements, job duties and career details for cartographers.

Essential Information

Cartographers, also called mapmakers, produce accurate, scaled diagrams of geographic areas in which points correspond to specific positions in space. Cartographers combine spatial data with information such as population and demographics to create maps that convey the social, physical, natural and manmade characteristics of an area. Cartographers require a minimum of a bachelor's degree.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Other Requirements Licensure required in some states, voluntary certification is available
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 15% for cartographers and photogrammetrists
Median Salary (2018)* $64,430 for cartographers and photogrammetrists

Source:*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements for Cartographers

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), notes that since cartographers work in the technical field of geospatial information, they usually require sophisticated computer skills and complete degree programs. Cartography programs teach students to compile geographical data and to use computer applications to map geographical surfaces.

Undergraduate Degrees

Students interested in cartography generally earn a bachelor's degree with a major in a physical science, cartography, geography or surveying. Cartography coursework in these programs includes computer-assisted design (CAD), satellite navigation, computer-assisted mapping (CAM), computer-assisted cartography (CAC), database design and visual data mining. Other appropriate course topics may cover spatial thinking and visualization, cartographic theory, map production and the cultural aspects of maps.

Master's Programs

A master's degree in geospatial or geographic information can generally be completed in two years and may require approximately 36 hours. Programs are offered with thesis and non-thesis options, though non-thesis options may require a comprehensive exam. These programs may include such advanced course topics as foundations of geographic theory, map design, geographical computer applications, Internet-based geographical information systems (GIS) and remote-sensing technology. Other courses may look at issues including land use, urban planning, and the environmental impact of certain human activities, such as tourism.

Job Duties

To make maps, cartographers often look at a wide variety of data, including elevations, distances and longitude, the impact of weather on the land and human factors such as population and demographics. These maps may be in the form of digitalized images or printed work. Although most of a cartographer's job is performed in an office, some projects require fieldwork.

Cartographers may also be called geographic information specialists, geographical information systems (GIS) specialists, or mapping technicians. These professionals often collaborate and work closely with photogrammetrists, who specialize in extracting measurement data from photos.

Career Information

According to the BLS, cartography and photogrammetry jobs are concentrated in natural gas distribution industry, which encompass 21% of all positions. The BLS reports that job opportunities for cartographers and photogrammetrists are growing at a faster than average pace with a projected employment increase of 15% from 2018-2028. In May, 2018, the median annual salary for cartographers and photogrammetrists was $64,430.

A career as a cartographer requires at least a bachelor's degree. There are also master's degree programs that can help you prepare for a career in this field. Cartographers make maps, and this field is rapidly growing at an above average pace.

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