Cartographers and Photogrammetrists
Career, Salary and Education Information
What They Do: Cartographers and photogrammetrists collect, measure, and interpret geographic information in order to create and update maps and charts for regional planning, education, and other purposes.
Work Environment: cartographers and photogrammetrists spend much of their time in offices, certain jobs require extensive travel to locations that are being mapped.
How to Become One: Most cartographers and photogrammetrists need a bachelor’s degree in cartography, geography, geomatics, or surveying.
Salary: The median annual wage for cartographers and photogrammetrists is $68,900.
Job Outlook: Employment of cartographers and photogrammetrists is projected to grow 3 percent over the next ten years, slower than the average for all occupations.
Related Careers: Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of cartographers and photogrammetrists with similar occupations.
What Cartographers and Photogrammetrists Do[About this section] [To Top]
Cartographers and photogrammetrists collect, measure, and interpret geographic information in order to create and update maps and charts for regional planning, education, and other purposes.
Duties of Cartographers and Photogrammetrists
Cartographers typically do the following:
- Collect geographic data
- Create visual representations of data, such as annual precipitation patterns
- Examine and compile data from ground surveys, reports, aerial photographs, and satellite images
- Prepare maps in digital or graphic form for environmental and educational purposes
- Update and revise existing maps and charts
Photogrammetrists typically do the following:
- Plan aerial and satellite surveys to ensure complete coverage of the area in question
- Collect and analyze spatial data, such as elevation and distance
- Develop base maps that allow Geographic Information System (GIS) data to be layered on top
Cartographers are mapmakers who design user-friendly maps. Photogrammetrists are specialized mapmakers who use various technologies to build models of the Earth's surface and its features for the purpose of creating maps.
Cartographers and photogrammetrists use information from geodetic surveys (land surveys that account for the curvature of the Earth's surface) and remote-sensing systems, including aerial cameras and satellites. Some also use light-imaging detection and ranging (LIDAR) technology. LIDAR systems use lasers attached to planes or cars to digitally map the topography of the Earth. Because LIDAR is often more accurate than traditional surveying methods, it can also be used to collect other forms of data, such as the location and density of forests.
Cartographers and photogrammetrists often develop online and mobile maps. Interactive maps are popular, and cartographers and photogrammetrists collect data and design these maps for mobile phones and navigation systems.
Cartographers and photogrammetrists also create maps and perform aerial surveys for governments, to aid in urban and regional planning. Such maps may include information on population density and demographic characteristics. Some cartographers and photogrammetrists help build maps for government agencies for work involving national security and public safety. Accurate maps help emergency responders provide assistance as quickly as possible.
Cartographers and photogrammetrists who use GIS technology to create maps are often known as geographic information specialists. GIS technology is typically used to assemble, integrate, analyze, and present spatial information in a digital format. Maps created with GIS technology combine spatial graphic features with data. These maps are used to provide support for decisions involving environmental studies, geology, engineering, land-use planning, and business marketing.
Work Environment for Cartographers and Photogrammetrists[About this section] [To Top]
Cartographers and photogrammetrists hold about 13,400 jobs. The largest employers of cartographers and photogrammetrists are as follows:
|Local government, excluding education and hospitals||34%|
|Architectural, engineering, and related services||25%|
|Management, scientific, and technical consulting services||8%|
|State government, excluding education and hospitals||4%|
Although cartographers and photogrammetrists spend much of their time in offices, certain jobs require extensive fieldwork to collect data and verify results. For example, cartographers may travel to the physical locations they are mapping to better understand the topography of the region. Similarly, photogrammetrists may conduct fieldwork to plan for aerial surveys and to validate interpretations.
Cartographer and Photogrammetrist Work Schedules
Most cartographers and photogrammetrists work full time. They may have longer workdays during fieldwork.
How to Become a Cartographer or Photogrammetrist[About this section] [To Top]
Get the education you need: Find schools for Cartographers and Photogrammetrists near you!
Most cartographers and photogrammetrists need a bachelor's degree in cartography, geography, geomatics, or surveying. Some states require cartographers and photogrammetrists to be licensed as surveyors, and some states have specific licenses for photogrammetrists.
Education for Cartographers and Photogrammetrists
Cartographers and photogrammetrists usually have a bachelor's degree in cartography, geography, geomatics, or surveying. (Geomatics combines the science, engineering, math, and art of collecting and managing geographically referenced information.) Although it is not as common, some have a bachelor's degree in engineering, forestry, or computer science.
The growing use of Geographic Information System (GIS) technology has resulted in cartographers and photogrammetrists requiring more courses in computer programming, engineering, math, GIS technology, surveying, and geography.
Cartographers must also be familiar with Web-based mapping technologies, including newer modes of compiling data that incorporate the positioning capabilities of mobile phones and in-car navigation systems.
Photogrammetrists must be familiar with remote sensing, image processing, and light-imaging detection and ranging (LIDAR) technology, and they must be knowledgeable about using the software that is necessary with these tools.
Many aspiring cartographers and photogrammetrists benefit from internships while in school.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations for Cartographers and Photogrammetrists
Licensing requirements for cartographers and photogrammetrists vary by state. Some states require cartographers and photogrammetrists to be licensed as surveyors, and some states have specific licenses for photogrammetry and remote sensing. Although licensing requirements vary by state, candidates must meet educational requirements and pass a test.
Cartographers and photogrammetrists may also receive certification from the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS). The United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation offers certifications for GIS professionals. Candidates must meet experience and education requirements and must pass an exam. Although certifications are not required, they can demonstrate competence and may help candidates get a job.
Important Qualities for Cartographers and Photogrammetrists
Computer skills. Both cartographers and photogrammetrists must have experience working with computer data and coding. Maps are created digitally, so knowing how to edit them on a computer is essential.
Critical-thinking skills. Cartographers may work from existing maps, surveys, and other records, and they must be able to determine the accuracy of each feature being mapped.
Decisionmaking skills. Both cartographers and photogrammetrists must make decisions about the accuracy and readability of a map. They must decide what information they require in order to meet the client's needs.
Detail oriented. Cartographers must focus on details when conceiving a map and deciding what features to include. Photogrammetrists must pay close attention to detail when interpreting aerial photographs and remotely sensed data.
Problem-solving skills. Cartographers and photogrammetrists must be able to reconcile differences between aerial photographs, land surveys, and satellite images.
Cartographer and Photogrammetrist Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]
The median annual wage for cartographers and photogrammetrists is $68,900. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $47,230, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $103,450.
The median annual wages for cartographers and photogrammetrists in the top industries in which they work are as follows:
|Local government, excluding education and hospitals||$71,750|
|Architectural, engineering, and related services||$62,410|
|Management, scientific, and technical consulting services||$60,980|
|State government, excluding education and hospitals||$60,910|
Most cartographers and photogrammetrists work full time. They may have longer workdays during fieldwork.
Job Outlook for Cartographers and Photogrammetrists[About this section] [To Top]
Employment of cartographers and photogrammetrists is projected to grow 5 percent over the next ten years, slower than the average for all occupations.
Despite limited employment growth, about 1,000 openings for cartographers and photogrammetrists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Most of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
Employment of Cartographers and Photogrammetrists
The use of maps for government planning should lead to some employment growth. Cartographers and photogrammetrists also will be needed to map and locate areas that require help during natural disasters, often using Geographic Information Systems (GIS). However, GIS-related technology increases these workers’ productivity, which may reduce employment growth in this occupation.
|Occupational Title||Employment, 2021||Projected Employment, 2031||Change, 2021-31|
|Cartographers and photogrammetrists||13,400||13,700||3||300|
More Cartographer and Photogrammetrist Information[About this section] [To Top]
For more information about cartographers and photogrammetrists, visit
Cartography and Geographic Information Society
For more information about photogrammetrists, photogrammetric technicians, remote-sensing scientists, image-based cartographers, or GIS specialists’ careers, visit
American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing
For information about careers in remote sensing, photogrammetry, surveying, GIS analysis, and other geography-related disciplines, visit
Association of American Geographers
For information related to GIS certification, visit
A portion of the information on this page is used by permission of the U.S. Department of Labor.