Cartographers specialise in making maps, scale drawing of a location and charts. They use data from surveys, aerial pictures and satellite systems. To get into this profession, you have to go to school, qualify and get a job.
Italian Cartography Tools — Image by © Araldo de Luca/CORBIS
Know What it Takes
As a cartographer, you should be able to use analytics and a creative mind. You need to be attentive to detail and accurate in order to relay data on to a map. The skills that this job needs most are some mathematical and computer programming. A majority of the cartographers spend most of their time on a computer in an office.
Cartography has a wide scope and touches on engineering, geography, design and programming. There are cartographers who are mostly conservative and use little of programming. They mainly make maps and rely on mechanical skills and geography. There are photogrammetrists who rely on aerial surveys’ and remote sensing maps. They mostly use mathematical and programming skills.
There are also geographic information systems specialists who rely on GIS technology to make maps. They use visual digital databases for this.
What to Study
Start as early as high school to study subjects such as trigonometry, algebra, geometry, statistics and calculus. Also, any type of programming at this stage will be helpful.
In college, choose a cartographic technician program. It will take you about three years to complete these studies. It is important to pay attention to the practical skills.
You can become a cartographer with or without a bachelor’s degree. A technical program gives you a better chance when you choose to do your degree. You can also get a degree. Degrees are less technical, and have more coursework and theory.
Some of the degrees to study in college include forestry, computer science, civil engineering and geography. Choose course work that gears towards cartography, and classes that tend towards maps and data collection for maps.
Some of the best universities for cartography include UC Los Angeles, Clark University and UC Santa Barbara.You can also do certification from government bodies and professional organisations.
Work as a Cartographer
To get a job, have a portfolio of the work you have done as a student or intern. Keep practising after school through improving on old maps. At work, accept lower level positions. They will help you grow your expertise.
You can become a project cartographer or a cartographic technician. Also, apply for government, state, federal and provincial government jobs. They are the main generators of maps and need these skills. Cartographers mostly work with county assessors, city planners and public works department.
There are also jobs in the private sector in civil engineering businesses, environmental consulting and surveying firms. Software companies also need cartographers or GIS professionals. In addition, there are job openings at insurance and publishing companies.
There is projected growth in cartography as a profession. It is a prestigious profession which has an average income of $58,840 per year. The numbers of jobs in this field also keep on growing and increase the need for such skill. It is important that you develop an interest in geography and the environment before venturing into cartography.