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What Cartographers and Photogrammetrists Do

Cartographers and photogrammetrists measure, analyze, and interpret geographic information to create maps and charts for political, cultural, educational, and other purposes.

Cartographers are general mapmakers who compile data from multiple sources and then use principles of cartographic design to make maps. Photogrammetrists are specialized mapmakers who use aerial photographs, satellite images, and light-imaging detection and ranging technology (LIDAR) to build 3-D models of the Earth’s surface and its features for purposes of creating maps. 


Cartographers typically do the following:

Photogrammetrists typically do the following:

Cartographers and photogrammetrists use information from geodetic surveys and remote sensing systems, including aerial cameras, satellites, and technologies such as light-imaging detection and ranging (LIDAR).

LIDAR uses lasers attached to planes and other equipment to digitally map the topography of the Earth. LIDAR is often more accurate than traditional surveying methods and also can be used to collect other forms of data, such as the location and density of forest canopies. Data from LIDAR are used to provide spatial information to specialists in water resource engineering, geology, seismology, forestry, construction, and other fields.

A cartographic professional who creates maps using geographic information system (GIS) technology is known as a geographic information specialist. A GIS is typically used to assemble, integrate, analyze, and display spatial information in a digital format. Maps created with GIS technology link spatial graphic features with non-graphic information. These maps are useful for providing support for decisions involving environmental studies, geology, engineering, land-use planning, and business marketing.

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