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Cartographer

Cartographers collect information about the geography of an area to design and produce maps, charts and pictures.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £18,000 to £45,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 37 per week

1. Entry requirements

You’ll usually need a degree in a related subject, like:

  • earth sciences
  • geographical information systems (GIS)
  • geography
  • geomatics
  • topographic science
  • land surveying
Employers may also accept degrees in other subjects like computer science, software engineering, or graphic design.

An MSc may help you find work in a specialist field of cartography like GIS.

You may also be able to get into this role by starting out as a trainee technician and working your way up.

If you want to work as a cartographer in the armed forces, you can apply to the British army as a geographic technician, or the Royal Air Force as an air cartographer.

The British Cartographic Society and Ordnance Survey have more information on internships, graduate schemes and becoming a cartographer.

2. Skills required

You'll need:

  • excellent IT and maths skills
  • design skills
  • the ability to analyse information from different sources
  • a logical approach
  • a high level of accuracy and attention to detail

3. What you'll do

You’ll work on different kinds of maps, like:

  • climate maps
  • geological maps
  • globes
  • maritime charts
  • political maps
  • road atlases
  • satellite navigation or satnav maps
  • tourist maps 

Your day-to-day duties might include:

  • using desktop publishing and specialist computer software
  • designing digital or paper based maps
  • checking maps and charts are accurate and to scale
  • editing maps, adding and removing new roads, structures or landmarks
  • collecting and analysing data from remote sensors on satellites and planes
  • using GIS to model and analyse landscape features
  • plotting the heights and positions of geographical features from aerial photographs
  • carrying out topographic surveys of the land and hydrographic surveys of the sea and coastal areas

4. Salary

Starter: £18,000 to £22,000

Experienced: £30,000

Highly Experienced: £45,000

If you’re freelance, you’ll set your own rates.

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You’ll usually work 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. You may have to work longer to meet deadlines for publication, or when finishing a project.

You’ll usually be based in an office and spend most of your time working with computers.

6. Career path and progression

With experience you could become a senior cartographer and manage mapping projects and staff. 

If you specialise in working with GIS, you could apply for Chartered Geographer (GIS) status

You could also work on a freelance basis, but you’ll need your own mapping equipment.

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Last updated: 13 December 2016