Mapmaking companies are the primary employers of cartographers. Government agencies, at the federal and the state level, also employ cartographers, as does the military, which has a need for highly specialized maps. In 2018, about 33 percent worked in local government, 23 percent in architectural, engineering, and related firms, and 7 percent worked in management, scientific, and technical consulting businesses.
Most cartographers are hired upon completion of a bachelor's degree in engineering or geography. Job openings come about as the population grows and as employees leave the profession, especially when they retire. A person who is interested in becoming a cartographic technician instead of a full-fledged cartographer may be able to secure an entry-level position after completing a specialized training program. Prospective employers may require a portfolio of completed maps during the interviewing process.
A cartographer who proves adept at drafting and designing maps and understands the other steps in mapmaking stands a good chance of becoming a supervisor or manager in the public and private sectors. However, cartographers should expect to work directly on maps throughout their careers, even when holding supervisory positions.
Since there has been a significant progressive increase in the amount of GIS and mapping data available over the last decade, cartographers and photogrammetrists will be needed to interpret, refine, and create mapping products using these data. Consequently, prospects for advancement into supervisory and managerial positions for cartographers and photgrammetrists should very favorable.
Tips for Entry
Refer to an atlas map of one or more geographic areas you are familiar with. Note how colors, symbols, abbreviations, and mile and kilometer scales are used.
Contact the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing and find out how its member organizations serve students.
Contact the National Society of Professional Surveyors and investigate how to go about applying to be a surveyor's helper.
Consult the U.S. Department of Labor State Apprenticeship Web site for specific apprenticeship opportunities. Cartographic Drafter and Geospatial Specialist are two specialties for which apprenticeships may be available.