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.
Aerial Photogrammetrist, Cartographer, Cartographic Designer, Digital Cartographer, Mapper, Photogrammetric Technician, Photogrammetrist, Stereo Compiler, Stereoplotter Operator
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.
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.
- Local government, excluding education and hospitals
- Architectural, engineering, and related services
- Federal government
- State government, excluding education and hospitals
- Management, scientific, and technical consulting services
Cartographers and photogrammetrists typically need a bachelor’s degree in cartography, geography, geomatics, or surveying. (Geomatics combines a variety of disciplines, such as engineering, natural resources, and mathematics.)
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.