Education and Training Requirements

High School

To prepare for a career in cartography, high school students should study mathematics, geography, mechanical drawing, and computer science. English classes will help hone research and communication skills that students will need to pursue this career. Foreign languages may be helpful in working on maps of other countries.

Postsecondary Training

Mapmaking companies and government agencies generally prefer that their cartographers hold at least a bachelor's degree, though some cartographers enter the field after working as surveying and mapping technicians. Frequently, cartographers have degrees in geography, civil engineering, forestry, computer science, or a branch of the physical sciences. In addition, some cartographers have master's degrees in fields such as geography, cartography, and civil engineering.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

A number of states now require that cartographers be licensed as surveyors, so check with the state where you plan to practice to determine its specific requirements. Organizations such as the National Society of Professional Surveyors ( offer information about licensing. In general, licensing requires a formal education and passage of a test. Many community colleges and professional organizations offer certification in cartography or one of its specialties.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

In addition to the experience acquired in obtaining a degree in cartography or a related field, cartographers require a skill set that includes these four critical-thinking skills: comparing and contrasting to determine whether each feature being mapped is thematically and positionally accurate; decision-making to determine if the map is reliable and what further information, if any, is needed to meet the customer's needs; training to focus closely on details when including features on a final map; and judgment in identifying and resolving issues in mapmaking with the tools available. In addition, cartographers must be able to see details within a few feet and possess finger dexterity in order to make precisely coordinated movements to hold, manipulate, or assemble very small objects.

Professional cartographers and photogrammetrists should be comfortable with computers and with learning new analytical and scientific software programs. Specifically, they should be skilled in utilizing computer aided design (CAD) software, graphics and photo imaging software, informational retrieval or search software, and map creation software.

Personality traits that are advantageous in cartographers and photogrammetrists include a cooperative nature, integrity in moral and ethical matters, independence in getting things done, and persistence in spite of obstacles. Attention to detail is an obvious requirement for those working in the field of cartography. Patience and painstaking effort are further requirements. In addition, cartographers should be adept at visualizing objects and distances.