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How to Become a Cartographer or Photogrammetrist

A bachelor’s degree in cartography, geography, geomatics, or a related field is the most common path of entry into this occupation. (Geomatics combines the science, engineering, mathematics, and art of collecting and managing geographically referenced information.) Some states require cartographers and photogrammetrists to be licensed as surveyors, and some states have specific licenses for photogrammetrists.


High school students interested in becoming a cartographer or photogrammetrist should take courses in algebra, geometry, trigonometry, drafting, mechanical drawing, and computer science.

Cartographers and photogrammetrists usually have a bachelor's degree in cartography, geography, geomatics, surveying, engineering, forestry, computer science, or a physical science. However, some come into this occupation after working as surveying and mapping technicians. For more information, see the profile on surveying and mapping technicians.

With the development of GIS technology, cartographers and photogrammetrists need more education and stronger technical skills—including more experience with computers—than they did in the past.

Cartographers must also be adept at Web-based mapping technologies including newer modes of compiling data that incorporate the positioning capabilities of mobile phones and in-car navigation systems.

Photogrammetrists also must be adept at remote sensing, image processing, and using the software necessary for these activities.

Important Qualities

Critical-thinking skills. Cartographers work from existing maps, surveys, and other records. To do so, they must be able to determine thematic and positional accuracy of each feature being mapped.

Decision-making skills. Both cartographers and photogrammetrists must make decisions about the accuracy and reliability of the final map. In addition, they must decide what further information they need to meet the client's needs.

Detail oriented. Cartographers must focus on details when including 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.


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 in those states requiring licensure, in general, licensing requires formal education and passing a test.


Cartographers and photogrammetrists may also receive certification from the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) based on experience, education, and passing an exam.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition