Cartographers and Photogrammetrists

What Cartographers and Photogrammetrists 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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Oj7a2LmVtU

Work Environment

Although cartographers and photogrammetrists spend much of their time in offices, certain jobs require extensive travel to locations that are being mapped.

How to Become a Cartographer or Photogrammetrist

Most cartographers and photogrammetrists need a bachelor’s degree in cartography, geography, geomatics, or surveying.

Pay

The median annual wage for cartographers and photogrammetrists was $65,470 in May 2019.

Job Outlook

Employment of cartographers and photogrammetrists is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Job prospects are likely to be excellent due to the increasing use of maps in government planning.

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

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.

Cartographers and photogrammetrists held about 12,000 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of cartographers and photogrammetrists were as follows:

Local government, excluding education and hospitals 34%
Architectural, engineering, and related services 24
State government, excluding education and hospitals 6
Federal government 5
Management, scientific, and technical consulting services 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.

Work Schedules

Most cartographers and photogrammetrists work full time. They may have longer workdays during fieldwork.

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of cartographers and photogrammetrists.

Occupation Job Duties Entry-Level Education Median Annual Pay, May 2019

Civil engineers

Civil Engineers

Civil engineers design, build, and supervise infrastructure projects and systems. 

Bachelor’s degree $87,060

Environmental Scientists and Specialists

Environmental scientists and specialists use their knowledge of the natural sciences to protect the environment and human health.

Bachelor’s degree $71,360

Geographers

Geographers

Geographers study the Earth and the distribution of its land, features, and inhabitants.

Bachelor’s degree $81,540

Forest and conservation workers

Forest and Conservation Workers

Forest and conservation workers measure and improve the quality of forests.

High school diploma or equivalent $31,770

Landscape Architects

Landscape architects design parks and other outdoor spaces.

Bachelor’s degree $69,360

Surveying and Mapping Technicians

Surveying and mapping technicians collect data and make maps of the Earth’s surface.

High school diploma or equivalent $45,010

Surveyors

Surveyors make precise measurements to determine property boundaries.

Bachelor’s degree $63,420

Urban and Regional Planners

Urban and regional planners develop land use plans and programs that help create communities, accommodate population growth, and revitalize physical facilities.

Master’s degree $74,350

Geological and Petroleum Technicians

Geological and petroleum technicians provide support to scientists and engineers in exploring and extracting natural resources.

Associate’s degree $51,130

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

United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation 

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Cartographers and Photogrammetrists


Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Cartographers and Photogrammetrists,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/cartographers-and-photogrammetrists.htm (visited ).