Cartographers and Photogrammetrists

Career, Salary and Education Information

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    Knowledge and experience with cross-platform, commercial and government exploitation tools such as ArcMap, ERDAS IMAGINE, MapInfo, Remote View, Arc

  • Cartographer - Esri - Redlands, CA

    You will create stunning new designs and publish cutting-edge online maps and layers that support a broad array of uses, ranging from online

  • Cartographer - Leidos - Springfield, VA

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Top 3 Photogrammetrist Jobs

  • Photogrammetrist - WSP USA - Charlton, MA

    Include: Compile planimetric and DTM data from stereo aerial imagery for site, transportation, municipal and utility projects Create digital

  • Photogrammetrist - Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. - Springfield, VA

    Booz Allen partners with public and private sector clients to solve their most difficult challenges through a combination of consulting, analytics

  • Photogrammetrist - Parsons Brinckerhoff - Charlotte, NC

    Dedicated to serving local communities, we are engineers, planners, technical experts, strategic advisors and construction management professionals

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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.

Cartographers are mapmakers who design user-friendly maps. Photogrammetrists are specialized mapmakers who use aerial photographs, satellite images, and light-imaging detection and ranging (LIDAR) technology to build models of the Earth’s surface and its features for the purpose of creating maps.

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 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 forest canopies.

Cartographers and photogrammetrists increasingly work on online and mobile maps. Interactive maps are growing in popularity, 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 and updated maps help emergency responders provide assistance as quickly as possible.

A cartographer who uses GIS technology to create maps is often known as a geographic information specialist. 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 nongraphic information. 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 12,300 jobs. The industries that employ the most cartographers and photogrammetrists are as follows:

Architectural, engineering, and related services 33%
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 26
Management, scientific, and technical consulting services 12

Although cartographers and photogrammetrists spend much of their time in offices, certain jobs require extensive fieldwork to acquire data and verify results. For example, cartographers may travel to the physical locations that they are mapping to better understand the topography of the region. Similarly, photogrammetrists may do fieldwork to plan ground control for an aerial survey and to validate interpretations.

Cartographer and Photogrammetrist Work Schedules

Most cartographers and photogrammetrists work full time. Those who do fieldwork may have longer workdays.

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!

A bachelor’s degree in cartography, geography, geomatics, surveying, or a related field is the most common path of entry into this occupation. Some states require cartographers and photogrammetrists to be licensed as surveyors, and some states have specific licenses for photogrammetrists.

Cartographer and Photogrammetrist Education

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.

Growing use of geographic information system (GIS) technology has resulted in cartographers and photogrammetrists needing 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.

High school students interested in becoming a cartographer or photogrammetrist should take courses in algebra, geometry, trigonometry, drafting, and computer science.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Licensing requirements for cartographers and photogrammetrists vary by state. A number of states require cartographers and photogrammetrists to be licensed as surveyors, and some states have specific licenses for photogrammetrists. Although licensing requirements vary by state, candidates must have a minimum of a high school diploma and pass a test.

Cartographers and photogrammetrists may also receive certification from the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS). Candidates must meet experience and education requirements and must pass an exam. Although certification is not required, it 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. Because maps are created digitally, 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 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 $60,930. 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 $38,610, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $97,570.

The median annual wages for cartographers and photogrammetrists in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Management, scientific, and technical consulting services $64,000
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 59,000
Architectural, engineering, and related services 58,700

Most cartographers and photogrammetrists work full time. Those who do fieldwork may have longer workdays.

Job Outlook for Cartographers and Photogrammetrists[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of cartographers and photogrammetrists is projected to grow 29 percent through 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. However, because it is a small occupation, the fast growth will result in only about 3,600 new jobs over the 10-year period.

Cartographers and photogrammetrists are likely to be in demand to ensure the reliability and accuracy of maps produced and updated. The increasing use of maps for government planning should fuel employment growth. In addition, the growing number of mobile and Web-based map products should result in new jobs for cartographers and photogrammetrists.

The management of forests, waterways, and other natural resources will require constant updating of maps. Cartographers and photogrammetrists will be needed to operate geographic information systems (GIS), which are increasingly being used to map and locate areas that are in need during natural disasters.

Photogrammetrists will be needed to manage the aerial, satellite, and light-imaging detection and ranging (LIDAR) images that are now common.

Cartographers will also be needed to visualize spatial information and design the final presentation of information for clients. Their design skills help data become more accessible to users.

Cartographers and Photogrammetrists Job Prospects

Cartographers and photogrammetrists are expected to have excellent job opportunities. There has been a large increase in the amount of GIS and mapping data available and cartographers and photogrammetrists will be needed to interpret, refine, and create mapping products using these data.

Employment projections data for Cartographers and Photogrammetrists, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Cartographers and photogrammetrists 12,300 15,900 29 3,600

*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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