How to Become a Cartographer or Photogrammetrist
Cartographers and photogrammetrists measure, analyze, and interpret geographic information to create maps and charts.
A bachelor’s degree in cartography, geography, geomatics, civil engineering, or a related field is the most common path of entry into this occupation. Some states require cartographers and photogrammetrists to be licensed as surveyors, and some states have specific licenses for photogrammetrists.
Cartographers and photogrammetrists usually have a bachelor's degree in cartography, geography, geomatics, or surveying. (Geomatics combines the science, engineering, mathematics, and art of collecting and managing geographically referenced information.) Although it is not as common, some have a bachelor’s degree in engineering, forestry, or computer science. Some people enter this occupation after working as surveying and mapping technicians.
Growing use of GIS (geographic information system) technology has resulted in cartographers and photogrammetrists needing more education and stronger technical skills—including more experience with computers—than in the past. Taking courses in computer programming, engineering, mathematics, GIS technology, surveying, and geography usually are required for those looking to become a cartographer or photogrammetrist.
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, light-imaging detection and ranging (LIDAR), and they must be knowledgeable about using the software necessary for these tools.
High school students interested in becoming a cartographer or photogrammetrist should take courses in algebra, geometry, trigonometry, drafting, and computer science.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Licensing requirements for cartographers and photogrammetrists vary by state. A number of states require cartographers and photogrammetrists to be licensed as surveyors, and some states have specific licenses for photogrammetrists. Although licensing requirements vary by state, candidates must have a minimum of a high school diploma and pass a test.
Cartographers and photogrammetrists may also receive certification from the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS). Candidates must meet experience and education requirements, and pass an exam. Although certification is not required, it can demonstrate competence and may help candidates get a job.
Many aspiring cartographers and photogrammetrists benefit from internships while in school. Internships offer an opportunity for students to learn practical skills, thus reducing time in training by employers.
Computer skills. Both cartographers and photogrammetrists must have experience working with computer datasets and coding. Because maps are created digitally, knowing how to edit them on a computer is essential.
Critical-thinking skills. Cartographers work from existing maps, surveys, and other records. To do so, they must be able to determine the thematic and positional accuracy of each feature being mapped.
Decision-making skills. Both cartographers and photogrammetrists must make decisions about the accuracy and readability of a map. They must decide what information they need in order to meet the client's needs.
Detail oriented. Cartographers must focus on details when conceiving a map and deciding on the features needed on a final map. 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 identify and resolve issues with the tools available to them.