Is Cartographer a Good Career? Exploring the Pros and Cons

Have you ever been out camping or hiking and found yourself lost in the woods without a map? Maybe you relied on your smartphone’s GPS, but what if that technology fails you? That’s where cartographers come in. Cartographers create maps, charts, and other visual representations of the Earth’s surface, making navigation and exploration possible for anyone who needs it. But is cartography a good career path?

The answer is a resounding yes. Cartography is a multidisciplinary field that involves geography, computer science, and design. It’s a career that allows you to combine technical skills with creativity. With the rise of technology and the increasing demand for accurate and detailed maps, cartography has become even more relevant. Cartographers play an essential role in industries such as urban planning, military strategy, and environmental conservation.

Not only is cartography an in-demand career, but it also has the potential for growth and innovation. As new technologies and data sources become available, cartographers can adapt and incorporate them into their work. Plus, as remote sensing and data collection become more sophisticated, the need for skilled cartographers to interpret and analyze this information will only increase. So if you’re looking for a rewarding career that combines technical expertise with creativity, consider cartography.

Requirements to become a cartographer

A career in cartography, the study and practice of making maps, can be an exciting and rewarding choice for individuals with an interest in geography, design, and technology. Becoming a cartographer, however, requires a certain level of education, skills, and experience. Below are some of the key requirements for starting a career in this field:

  • Educational qualifications: Most cartographers hold a bachelor’s degree in geography, cartography, or a related field. Some employers may require a master’s degree for more advanced positions.
  • Technical skills: Cartographers need to be proficient in using specialized software and tools for creating maps, as well as in data analysis, GIS (Geographical Information Systems), and remote sensing.
  • Communication skills: Being able to communicate effectively with clients, colleagues, and stakeholders is crucial in cartography. Being able to present complex information in a clear and concise manner is important for creating maps that are easy to understand.
  • Creative skills: Cartography is both a science and an art. Individuals with strong creative skills can create visually appealing and informative maps that serve the purposes of the client or end-user effectively.

In addition to the requirements mentioned above, relevant work experience can also help individuals interested in pursuing a career in cartography. Internships, entry-level positions, and freelance work can provide valuable experience and help build a portfolio of work that showcases skills and capabilities.

The Historical Significance of Cartography

Cartography, the art and science of mapmaking, has played an integral role in human civilization for thousands of years. Maps have been used to navigate the world, depict political boundaries, and plot the movements of armies and trade routes. Here are some of the key historical moments in cartography:

  • Ancient Egyptians and Babylonians created maps on papyrus and clay tablets respectively, dating back to 2500 BCE.
  • The Greeks created incredibly detailed maps, including Ptolemy’s Geographia in the 2nd century CE, which included latitude and longitude coordinates for over 8,000 locations.
  • During the Age of Exploration in the 15th and 16th centuries, maps became instrumental in guiding sailors around the world and depicting newly discovered lands.
  • In the 18th century, cartography became increasingly scientific with the use of accurate measurements, triangulation, and topographical surveys.

The Impact of Cartography on Society

Cartography has had a profound impact on human society throughout history. Not only has it allowed for advancements in navigation, exploration, and military strategy, but it has also shaped our understanding of the world and our place within it. Maps have been used to:

  • Plot and understand the spread of disease and geography’s impact on it.
  • Draw borders and boundaries during times of political upheaval or diplomatic negotiations.
  • Track environmental changes over time, from deforestation and urbanization to glacier retreat and sea level rise.

Innovations in Modern Cartography

The advent of digital technology has revolutionized the field of cartography, enabling the creation of interactive, high-resolution maps that can be accessed from anywhere in the world. Some of the most exciting innovations in modern cartography include:

  • Geographic Information Systems (GIS), which use layers of data to create layered, interactive maps for a variety of applications, from environmental monitoring to city planning.
  • Virtual and augmented reality, which allow users to explore and interact with maps in three dimensions, providing a more immersive and intuitive experience.


Cartography remains an essential tool for understanding the world around us, as well as for predicting and responding to changes in it. From ancient civilizations to the modern era, maps have played a critical role in guiding human progress, and they will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Year Mapmaker Significant Work
2500 BCE Ancient Egyptians Created maps on papyrus
2nd century CE Ptolemy Created the Geographia including latitude and longitude coordinates for over 8,000 locations.
15th and 16th centuries Explorers and sailors Used maps to navigate the world and chart new lands
18th century Topographers Used accurate measurements and triangulation to create more scientific maps

These key moments in cartography history are a testament to its ongoing importance in the world today.

Challenges faced by modern cartographers in the age of digital mapping

Cartography, or mapmaking, has come a long way since its inception thousands of years ago. Gone are the days of hand-drawn maps and physical printing presses. Today, cartographers use advanced software and digital tools to create accurate and detailed maps of the world. However, this also means modern cartographers face a unique set of challenges in the age of digital mapping.

  • Data overload: Cartographers today have access to a wealth of information, but sifting through it all and deciding which data is relevant can be overwhelming. In addition, different sources of data may have conflicting information, leading to confusion and inaccuracies in the final map.
  • Security concerns: With the rise of digital mapping, there are also increased security concerns. Maps can provide valuable intelligence to both friendly and enemy entities, and cartographers must be careful not to reveal sensitive information.
  • Keeping up with technology: As with any field that relies heavily on technology, cartographers must constantly stay up to date with the latest software, tools, and techniques. This means investing time and money into training, which can be a challenge for some professionals.

In addition to these challenges, modern cartographers must also grapple with the expectations of their clients and audiences. While digital mapping has made cartography more accessible and widespread, it has also raised expectations for accuracy and detail. Cartographers must balance these demands while continuing to innovate and improve their craft.

Despite these challenges, cartography remains a good career for those with a passion for geography, data analysis, and design. The field continues to evolve and provide new opportunities for cartographers to excel in their work.


The challenges faced by modern cartographers in the age of digital mapping are significant, but they are not insurmountable. With dedication, creativity, and a commitment to staying up to date with technology, cartographers can continue to produce accurate and meaningful maps that help us navigate and understand the world around us.

Pros Cons
Access to vast amounts of data Data overload can lead to confusion and inaccuracies
Opportunities for innovation and creativity Keeping up with technology can be a challenge
Increased accessibility and widespread use of maps Security concerns

Overall, cartography is a field that offers many rewards and challenges. Those who are passionate about mapping and have a knack for data analysis and design may find it to be a fulfilling and exciting career choice.

The impact of GIS technology on the profession of cartography

GIS (Geographic Information System) technology has had a significant impact on the profession of cartography in recent years. Here are a few ways in which GIS technology has changed the way cartographers work:

  • Increased Efficiency: With GIS technology, cartographers are now able to create maps and analyze data at a faster rate than ever before. This has led to increased efficiency in the field of cartography, allowing for more maps to be produced and updated with greater accuracy.
  • Improved Accuracy: One of the major benefits of GIS technology is its ability to collect and process large amounts of data. This data can be used to create more accurate maps, which is invaluable in fields such as urban planning, environmental management, and disaster response.
  • New Opportunities: The use of GIS technology has opened up new career opportunities in the field of cartography, particularly in the areas of data analysis and visualization. Cartographers can now work with a wide range of data sources, including satellite imagery, demographic data, and land use information, making it possible to create highly detailed and informative maps.

GIS technology has also led to the development of new software tools, such as ESRI’s ArcGIS suite, which provide cartographers with powerful mapping and analysis capabilities. These tools have made it possible for cartographers to work more collaboratively, sharing data and ideas across disciplines to create more comprehensive and accurate maps.

Overall, it’s clear that GIS technology has had a significant impact on the profession of cartography. While the fundamentals of map-making remain the same, the tools and techniques used by cartographers have evolved to meet the demands of the digital age.

Pros Cons
Increased efficiency The need for specialized training and software
Improved accuracy Reduced emphasis on artistic design skills
New career opportunities Increased competition for jobs

Despite the challenges associated with GIS technology, it’s clear that it has greatly expanded the scope and impact of the cartography profession, making it an exciting and dynamic field for aspiring map-makers.

Specialization areas in cartography- marine, environmental, political

Cartography is the science and art of map-making, making it an interesting career for those who have a passion for geography, design, and technology. Cartographers work with geographical data, often using software tools and specialized equipment to create maps for different purposes.

While cartographers can work in various industries, such as transportation, surveying, and urban planning, they can choose to specialize in a specific area. Here are three specialization areas in cartography:

  • Marine Cartography: This specialization area involves creating nautical charts for use in navigation on oceans, seas, and other bodies of water. Marine cartographers use a combination of satellite data, sonar readings, and traditional surveying techniques to produce accurate and detailed maps of coastlines, depths, and other features. They also work closely with government agencies, research institutions, and shipping companies to ensure the safety and efficiency of maritime transport.
  • Environmental Cartography: This specialization area deals with mapping environmental data and monitoring changes in the natural landscape. Environmental cartographers use various data sources such as satellite imagery, aerial photography, and remote sensing to create maps that show land use, vegetation cover, natural hazards, and other factors related to the environment. They also collaborate with environmental scientists and policymakers to support sustainable development and conservation efforts.
  • Political Cartography: This specialization area involves creating maps that define political boundaries, electoral districts, and other political features. Political cartographers work with government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and media outlets to produce accurate and up-to-date maps that inform decision-making and public discourse. They also use their expertise in data visualization and design to communicate complex political issues in a clear and accessible way.

Is cartographer a good career?

As with any profession, the answer to this question depends on individual interests, skills, and goals. However, there are several factors that make cartography a promising career choice:

  • Job prospects: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of cartographers and photogrammetrists is projected to grow 15% from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations. As demand for accurate mapping data increases in various fields, cartographers with specialized skills are expected to be in high demand.
  • Salary potential: The median annual wage for cartographers and photogrammetrists was $69,440 in May 2020. Experienced cartographers in specialized areas such as geospatial analysis and GIS can earn significantly higher salaries.
  • Flexibility: Cartography can be a flexible career with opportunities to work in different sectors, including government, private industry, academia, and nonprofits. As digital mapping tools and data collection techniques continue to evolve, cartographers can adapt and apply their skills in new and innovative ways.

A Note on Required Education and Skills

While formal education requirements may vary depending on the employer and the job role, cartographers typically need a bachelor’s degree in cartography, geography, surveying, or a related field. They also need to have strong technological skills, including proficiency in GIS software, data analysis, and digital mapping tools. Cartographers should also be detail-oriented, analytical thinkers with exceptional communication and collaboration abilities.

Opportunities and Job Growth for Cartographers in Various Industries

Cartographers are in demand in various industries due to their excellent mapping skills, their ability to communicate visually, and their expertise in geographic information systems (GIS) software. With the increasing demand for geographical data, the job outlook for cartographers is bright.

In this article, we will discuss the various industries where cartographers can find the best opportunities for growth and career advancement.

  • Government: The government sector offers the most opportunities for cartographers due to their need for accurate geographical data to facilitate urban planning, emergency management, and national security. As a result, working for a governmental agency such as the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), or the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) can be a great career move for a cartographer.
  • Environmental Consulting: Environmental consulting firms often hire cartographers to assist with environmental studies and mapping. With a strong understanding of GIS software, cartographers can help these firms assess the environmental impact of proposed developments and provide accurate mapping data for various environmental projects.
  • Engineering and Architectural Firms: Cartographers can also find career opportunities in engineering and architectural firms. These firms need accurate mapping data for the development of transportation systems, building structures, and infrastructure planning. A cartographer’s expertise in GIS software and their ability to create accurate maps can be incredibly valuable for these firms.
  • Education and Research: Cartographers can also pursue careers in education and research. They can work in universities and research institutions, where they can teach classes on cartography and geographic information systems or conduct research on mapping technologies and techniques.
  • Technology Companies: With the increasing importance of geographic data in technology, cartographers can also find job opportunities in innovative companies. These companies need geographical data for various applications such as navigation, logistics, and geolocation-based services. Some technology companies may also need cartographers in their research and development departments to design and test mapping software.
  • Non-profit Organizations: Non-profit organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Nature Conservancy need mapping experts to assist with conservation efforts around the world. For example, a cartographer can use GIS software to help identify areas that need conservation efforts and create accurate maps for conservation projects.

Overall, the opportunities for cartographers are vast and varied. As geographic data becomes increasingly important to various industries, cartographers can expect to see continued job growth and demand for their skills.

Industry Job Growth
Government 8%
Environmental Consulting 14%
Engineering and Architectural Firms 7%
Education and Research 9%
Technology Companies 15%
Non-profit Organizations 10%

The table above shows the anticipated job growth for cartographers in various industries in the next ten years. As you can see, the technology and environmental consulting industries are expected to experience the most growth in demand for cartographers.

The Future of Cartography in a World Dominated by Technology and Data Visualization

In recent years, the world has become increasingly reliant on technology, and the field of cartography is no exception. Cartographers are creating maps using sophisticated data analysis and visualization tools that help decision-makers solve complex problems. The future of cartography is evolving to be more data-driven, sophisticated, and connected than ever before.

New Skills for the Future Cartographer

  • Data Analysis: Cartographers need to be comfortable working with massive amounts of data and processing it to create meaningful insights.
  • Programming: Programming is a must-have skill for cartographers. They should be able to use programming languages, such as Python and R, to manipulate and analyze data.
  • Data Visualization: Cartographers are increasingly using data visualization tools to help communicate complex spatial data insights. Being familiar with these tools, such as Tableau and D3.js, is vital.

Integrating Cognitive Science with Cartography

The future of cartography is about creating maps that are intuitive and easy to understand. By using cognitive science principles, cartographers can better understand how people interact with their maps and design them to be more user-friendly. The use of augmented reality and virtual reality technology is also growing in cartography. These tools allow users to interact with maps in a three-dimensional space, providing a more immersive and engaging experience.

The Rise of Open Data and Collaborative Mapping

As the world becomes more connected, the use of open data and collaborative mapping is on the rise. This approach allows users to create their maps and share them online, making them accessible to anyone, anywhere. Collaborative mapping tools, such as OpenStreetMap, allow users to contribute their mapping data, creating comprehensive and up-to-date maps. The rise of open data and collaborative mapping is also pushing the field of cartography towards more open-source software and data.

Conclusion: The Future is Bright for Cartographers

– Growing demand for cartographers – The rise of automation may eliminate some traditional cartographer jobs
– Increasing use of data visualization and analysis tools – Need for new skill sets in programming and data analysis
– Integration of cognitive science principles in cartography
– Open data and collaborative mapping

The future of cartography is ripe with new opportunities. Though some traditional jobs may be replaced with automation, there is a growing demand for cartographers who can bring new skill sets and integrate cognitive science principles to the field. The increasing use of data visualization and analysis tools and the rise of open data and collaborative mapping are exciting developments in the future of cartography.

Is Cartographer a Good Career?

Q1. What does a cartographer do?
A cartographer creates and draws maps that portray specific features of an area, including natural and man-made structures. Cartographers use aerial imagery, satellite data, and other mapping technologies to create accurate and up-to-date maps.

Q2. What are the skills required to become a cartographer?
To become a cartographer, you need to have strong analytical, technical, and research skills, as well as proficiency in various mapping and geographic information systems (GIS) software. Attention to detail, spatial reasoning, and knowledge of geography are also important.

Q3. How much can a cartographer earn?
The earning potential for cartographers can vary depending on your level of education, experience, and the industry you work in. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for cartographers and photogrammetrists was $65,470 as of May 2020.

Q4. What are the education requirements for becoming a cartographer?
Most cartographers have a bachelor’s degree in geography, cartography, surveying, or a related field. Additionally, you may consider earning a master’s degree in cartography to increase your job prospects and earning potential.

Q5. What are the job prospects for cartographers?
Job prospects for cartographers are good. With the increasing demand for accurate and up-to-date maps for navigation, land-use planning, and emergency response, there will be job opportunities for cartographers in both public and private sectors.

Q6. What is the work environment like for cartographers?
Cartographers commonly work in offices and laboratories, using computers and specialized software to create and analyze maps. Fieldwork may also be required to verify and gather geographic data.

Q7. What is the career outlook for cartographers?
The career outlook for cartographers is positive. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of cartographers and photogrammetrists is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029.

Closing Thoughts

In conclusion, if you have a passion for geography, technical skills, and attention to detail, a career in cartography can be an excellent choice. With a positive job outlook, good earning potential, and the opportunity to create accurate and up-to-date maps, cartography is a fulfilling and rewarding career. Thanks for reading and visit us again for more career advice!