Cartographers are professionals who have studied the designing, producing, and distribution of digital and conventional charts, maps, diagrams, and spreadsheets for both commercial customers and the public sector.
What does a cartographer do?
Cartographers as professionals deals with every aspect of map-making from the scientific, technological to the artistic aspect. They are expected to:
- Research, collect, store, retrieve, evaluate and manipulate data.
- Design maps
- Check and confirm the accuracy of maps
- Liaise with the information providers, clients and external contacts
- Access and use aerial photographs and satellite images
The advancement in the Information technology industry also has played an essential role within this profession, as it has dramatically changed the nature of this job role.
So the traditional method of scribing, tracing, and lettering map-making have totally been replaced with computerized mapping, remote sensing, and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) packages.
Now data is collated, stored, and transferred electronically, as well as computers have been used as the main tool for designing, creating, and producing maps.
Typically employers of cartographers
Cartographers are typically employed by government organizations like Ordnance Survey, the MET Office, and the Hydrographic Office. Other likely employers are:
- Local authorities
- Utilities companies
- Private consultancies
- Commercial map publishers
- Service agencies, such as The AA
Qualifications and training required
Becoming a cartographer means that you would be needing a degree in any relevant subject, although school dropouts can gain entrance into this profession by obtaining experience in the Royal Air Force (RAF) or the Army.
But for graduates, various degree subjects are accepted for entry into this profession. Some of the acceptable degree subjects include earth sciences, geology, civil/structural engineering, geography, surveying, geophysics/geochemistry, oceanography, marine sciences, computer science and software engineering.
But any graduate who possesses a postgraduate degree qualification in subjects like GIS, photogrammetry, cartography, surveying, or remote sensing would typically be at an advantage.
Key skills for cartographers
Prospective cartographers ought to be able to show a genuine and immense interest in the work, and ought to also have a keen sense of attention to detail coupled with great IT and design skills.
Salary of cartographers
The annual average entry salaries for cartographers typically range from £18,000 to £22,000. But with more experience, cartographers can earn significantly higher between £20,000 and £30,000. cartographers who make it to senior levels, typically earn around £30,000 to £47,000 annually.
Experienced cartographers who work on a consultancy basis usually negotiate their fees with clients based on their experience and reputation.
The above Income figures are solely intended as a guide.
A typical cartographer usually works normal office hours of 9am to 5pm, from Monday through Friday. However, you may be called upon to work longer hours when publications or project completion deadlines need to be met.
The training of cartographers usually takes place in-house while on the job. They are taught to focus on developing their practical skills in areas like:
- Compiling maps
- Map design and layout
- Map production using lots of different software packages.
If you’re working for a big company, you’re more likely to have the opportunity to rotate through various departments and consequently develop your skills in specialist areas like photogrammetry, GIS, and digital mapping. You may also get trained by external tutors in certain software packages.
For those who would be working for a not-so-big company, you would quickly find out there is not so much money allocated for training, although there most likely would be more varied projects to take on which would, in turn, help you build up your skills.
As a Cartographer, your career progression would be dependent on the size, structure, and nature of the organization you work for to a certain extent, and also your own qualities and motivation.
For those who would end up working in the public sector, they would be more likely to have a structured promotion route. And with a better experience, comes progression through the already established grades giving them greater responsibility for projects and decision-making, and also for more junior staff. There is also the chance of transferring to other parts of the business.
For those who would work for a not-so-big company, they may require geographical flexibility to advance. However, they may find out that the work would be more varied and interesting. As a good number of commercial cartography companies are a part of a larger organization, they may find opportunities in other aspects of the organization.
There is also the chance for experienced cartographers to gravitate into self-employment, into supplying specialist products or services to various cartographic companies or publishers.