Cartographers and Photogrammetrists Overview

About 7 out of 10 cartographer and photogrammetrists worked in engineering, architectural and related services. Overall, employment in the field is expected to grow faster than average. A bachelor’s degree and strong technical skills will lead to the best job opportunities.

Nature of the Work for Cartographers and Photogrammetrists

Cartographers and Photogrammetrists

Cartographer and photogrammetrists measure and map the Earth’s surface. Using data from photographs and surveys, they collect, analyze, map and interpret geographic information.

The duties of a cartographer and photogrammetrists range from producing maps to performing geographic research and recording data. These workers collect, analyze and interpret data. Both spatial data including distance, elevation, longitude and latitude, as well as nonspatial data such as demographic characteristics, land-use patterns, population density and annual precipitation levels are covered by cartographer and photogrammetrists. Both social and physical characteristics of land can be shown in their maps. Maps may be prepared either in graphic or digital form with information from satellites, light-imaging detection and ranging (LIDAR), aerial cameras and other geodetic surveys and remote sensing systems.

LIDAR digitally maps the topography of the Earth using lasers attached to planes and other equipment. These methods are typically more accurate that traditional surveying methods. Other forms of data can also be collected using LIDAR including the location and density of forests. Cartographer and photogrammetrists can use LIDAR data to help specialist in geology, forestry, construction, seismology and other fields.

Another important tool for a cartographer and photogrammetrists is Geographic Information Systems (GIS), which can be used to analyze, display, integrate and assemble data about a location digitally. GIS can also help these workers compile information from a variety of sources. Typically, GIS are used to make informational maps often used in engineering, geology, business marketing, planning, environmental studies and other fields. As more systems are being developed, mapping specialists are often referred to as geographic information specialists.

Cartographer and photogrammetrists typically work in offices using computers. Some workers however must acquire data and verify results via fieldwork.

Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Cartographers and Photogrammetrists

Most cartographer and photogrammetrists earn a bachelor's degree in cartography or a similar field such as surveying, geography, engineering, computer science, forestry or a physical science. Occasionally these workers start out as technicians and later become cartographer and photogrammetrists. Strong skills, including computer skills, and more education is required than in the past for these positions due to the development of GIS.

In addition, most cartographer and photogrammetrists technicians have a specialized postsecondary education. Those interested in cartography and surveying at the high school level can begin to prepare for the career by taking classes in drafting, mechanical drawing, geometry, trigonometry, algebra and computer science.

All 50 states require surveyors to be licensed and a number of those states also require cartographer and photogrammetrists to hold a surveyors license. Some states have a specific license for photogrammetrists as well.

The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) gives a series of written exams to surveyor license candidates. They must first pass the Fundamentals of Surveying exam and work under an experienced surveyor for 4 years before moving onto the second exam, the Principles and Practice of Surveying. Often, surveyors must also pass a written exam prepared by the state licensing board. Many states also require continuing education.

Cartographer and photogrammetrists can benefit from other skills such as the ability to visualize sizes, objects and distances in abstract forms. Mistakes can be costly so precision and accuracy is important. Good interpersonal skills will prove useful as much of the job duties require working as part of a team.

A voluntary certification program for technicians and professional cartographer and photogrammetrists is available through the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS). Having this certification and thus professional recognition can help workers advance in the field.

Top 10 Most Popular Cartography Schools

1. Greenville Technical College (Greenville, South Carolina)
2. Texas State University (San Marcos, Texas)
3. The University of Texas at Dallas (Richardson, Texas)
4. Lone Star College System (Spring, Texas)
5. Texas A & M University, Corpus Christi (Corpus Christi, Texas)
6. Western Kentucky University (Bowling Green, Kentucky)
7. Roane State Community College (Harriman, Tennessee)
8. University of Wisconsin, Madison (Madison, Wisconsin)
9. University of Maryland, Baltimore County (Baltimore, Maryland)
10. Kennesaw State University (Kennesaw, Georgia)

See All Cartography Schools

Employment and Job Outlook for Cartographers and Photogrammetrists

Number of People in Profession


Changing Employment (2008-2018)

Employment is projected to grow faster than average (increase 14 - 19%).

Cartographer and photogrammetrists hold about 11,750 jobs. About 7 out of 10 of these jobs are held in architectural, engineering and related services, which include firms that provide mapping and surveying services on a contract basis to other industries. About 15 percent of the jobs are in Federal, state and local government agencies. The US Geological Survey (USGS), the US Forest Service, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were the major Federal government employers in the field. Utility companies also employ cartographer and photogrammetrists.

Faster than average job growth is expected for cartographer and photogrammetrists due to an increasing demand for geographic information that’s accurate, complete and fast. Candidates with a bachelor’s degree and strong technical skills should find the best opportunities. More and more companies are seeking geographic information and its applications. Through GIS, cartographer and photogrammetrists can create information and maps that can be used in many applications including urban planning, security, emergency planning, natural resource exploration, construction and marketing. Consumers are also creating a larger demand for current and accurate digital information as GPS devices and online interactive mapping systems have grown in popularity.

Another reason for job growth for cartographer and photogrammetrists is workers who leave the career for a number of reasons, including the many workers who are nearing retirement age. Strong technical skills along with a bachlor’s degree should open doors to favorable job prospects.

Most jobs for cartographer and photogrammetrists will be found in drafting services, surveying, engineering, building inspection and mapping services firms. While traditional surveying services are decreasing in popularity, there is an increasing demand for professionals who can create geographic data using digital mapmaking and GIS, as well as for those who are involved in the development of those technologies.

Earnings and Salary for Cartographers and Photogrammetrists

For cartographer and photogrammetrists, median annual salaries are $53,050. The highest 10 percent earn above $90,410, the lowest 10 percent earn under $32,520 and the middle 50 percent earn from $41,050 to $71,030.

Annual Salary for Cartographers and Photogrammetrists

On average, Cartographers and Photogrammetrists earn $53,050 per year.

10% 25% 75% 90% $32,520/yr $41,050/yr $71,030/yr $90,410/yr

Hourly Wage for Cartographers and Photogrammetrists

On average, Cartographers and Photogrammetrists earn $25.50 per hour.

10% 25% 75% 90% $15.64 $19.74 $34.15 $43.47

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook