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Cartographer  What They Do

Just the Facts


Collects, analyzes and interprets geographic information provided by geodetic surveys, aerial photographs, and satellite data. Researches, studies and prepares maps and other spatial data in digital or graphic form for legal, social, political, educational, and design purposes. May work with Geographic Information Systems (GIS). May design and evaluate algorithms, data structures, and user interfaces for GIS and mapping systems.

This career is part of the Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources cluster Natural Resources pathway.


A person in this career:

  • Determines map content and layout, as well as production specifications such as scale, size, projection, and colors, and directs production to ensure that specifications are followed.
  • Inspects final compositions to ensure completeness and accuracy.
  • Revises existing maps and charts, making all necessary corrections and adjustments.
  • Compiles data required for map preparation, including aerial photographs, survey notes, records, reports, and original maps.
  • Prepares and alters trace maps, charts, tables, detailed drawings, and three-dimensional optical models of terrain using stereoscopic plotting and computer graphics equipment.
  • Delineates aerial photographic detail, such as control points, hydrography, topography, and cultural features, using precision stereoplotting apparatus or drafting instruments.
  • Builds and updates digital databases.
  • Examines and analyzes data from ground surveys, reports, aerial photographs, and satellite images to prepare topographic maps, aerial-photograph mosaics, and related charts.
  • Identifies, scales, and orients geodetic points, elevations, and other planimetric or topographic features, applying standard mathematical formulas.
  • Determines guidelines that specify which source material is acceptable for use.

Working Conditions and Physical Demands

People who do this job report that:

  • You would sit most of the time. There's some walking and standing. You may have to lift and carry things like books, papers or tools weighing 10 lbs. or less.
  • Work in this occupation involves using your hands to hold, control, and feel objects more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation requires being inside most of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves making repetitive motions more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves sitting more than one-third of the time

Working in this career involves (physical activities):

  • Seeing clearly at a distance
  • Seeing clearly up close
  • Speaking clearly enough to be able to be understood by others
  • Identifying and understanding the speech of another person

Work Hours and Travel

  • Regular working hours and limited travel

Specialty and Similar Careers

Careers that are more detailed or close to this career:

  • Geographic Information Systems Technician (GIS Technician) -- Assists scientists, technologists, or related professionals in building, maintaining, modifying, or using GIS databases.
  • Geospatial Specialist -- Researches or develops geospatial technologies. May produce databases, perform applications programming, or coordinate projects.
  • Surveyor -- Researches and provides data about the location, elevation, shape, contour, or gravitation of land or land features on or near the earth's surface for engineering, mapmaking, mining, construction, and other purposes.
  • Aerial Photogrammetrist --
  • Cadastral Mapper --
  • Digital Cartographer --
  • LIDAR Technician (Light Detection and Ranging Technician) --