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What You Need to Know to Become a Cartographer

Neha B Deshpande
Simply put, a cartographer is a person who makes maps. Cartography involves the use of geographic information to design maps for political and educational purposes. This story tells you about everything you need to know to become a cartographer.
"When you're a cartographer, having to make maps sort of comes with the territory."
― Jarod Kintz, A Zebra is the Piano of the Animal Kingdom
Maps help us identify locations, give directions, are a useful tool in surveying, and are of immense help in developmental planning. They are the result of a cartographer's effort. It's a cartographer who meticulously charts geographical information and plots it accurately on a map.
Today, the field of cartography is not limited to the traditional map-making process. It involves the use of technology and a deep study of geographical information system.
It involves the collection of geographical information through surveys and field work which can be further used for locating places and planning infrastructural development. Here, we take you through the things you need to know in order to become a cartographer.

What Does a Cartographer's Work Involve?

He collects information through various modes - through field work, databases, maps, photographs and other available sources.
They're required in various sectors such as planning and development, geography, real estate, business, etc. Maps vary depending on the purpose they are designed for.
It is a cartographer's responsibility to design maps based on the requirement of the sector for which they are being designed. A simple example is of the difference between a political and physical map of a country. While the former denotes the political boundaries of the regions in that country like states and their capitals, the latter denotes the geographical features like mountains, rivers, etc.
A cartographer's primary responsibility is to understand the varying needs and design maps accordingly.

Importance of GIS (Geographic Information Systems) in Cartography

Today, a cartographer's profession is not limited to making maps. GIS has brought a revolutionary change in the field. It is a technology that has been designed to store, analyze, gather spatial data for various industrial requirements. You can now choose to become a GIS Specialist.
The field of GIS offers many job positions like those of a coordinator, analyst, engineer, specialist, etc.

Educational Requirements

You'll require a bachelor's degree in a field like geomatics, cartography, geography, civil engineering, computer science, any other branch of engineering, etc.


With the growing demand for GIS professionals, it is important for a cartographer to be conversant with GIS.
Along with computer skills, he should possess visualizing skills, have a power of imagination, and be good in mathematics and computing.
Having taken subjects like geometry, trigonometry, calculus, graphic designing, geography, earth sciences, etc., during high school will prove to be an added advantage.


The licensing requirements for every state are different and some states require the cartographer to have a license. The certification for cartographers can be obtained from the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing.
Currently, for a career in GIS, it is not compulsory to have a certificate. However, the truth is that certified professionals earn higher. This certificate is furnished by the GIS Certification Institute.

Salary Range

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, the median annual salary of a cartographer reported as of April 2020 is USD 64,000.


Anaximander is one of the earliest known cartographers in the world. He is reputed for his attempt at making the World Map, for the very first time.
Be it because you were inspired by names like these or because you always had an interest in the field, if you have decided to be a cartographer, be that. What is primarily needed to be happy in this profession, is a deep interest in cartography.
Good if you are willing to work outdoors, as there is a lot of field work involved. And even better, if you keep yourself abreast with the latest in technology. As that might open doors to diversification; how about venturing into something like designing fantasy maps for games!
We leave you with this thought while wishing you luck in your pursuit of becoming a successful cartographer.