Discover your career path




Draw new maps, or update old ones.

What does a Cartographer do?

There’s not much world left to discover. By now, all the continents have been found. All the oceans have been traveled. Most of the mountains have been climbed. And, thanks to miracle of HDTV, even all the facelift scars on Joan Rivers’ face have been diagramed. If you think all the maps have been mapped, however: Think again. The job “Explorer” may have died when Christopher Columbus did, but its sibling, Cartographer, is still alive and well.

If you’re a Map Maker, or Cartographer, you’re the modern-day equivalent of Sir Francis Drake, Vasco da Gama and Francisco Pizarro. Instead of the New World, however, your job as a Cartographer is exploring the old one, then making detailed maps of it.

Because the world is always changing — sometimes because of Mother Nature, oftentimes because of man — you might be creating new maps, or you might be revising old ones. Either way, you’ll use aerial photographs, satellite imagery and GPS technology to study geographic areas. You’ll compile information about latitude and longitude, elevation, distance, population density and more, and then you’ll use it to create geographically accurate maps of the earth’s surface using computer-aided drafting software.

Slightly more sophisticated than the treasure maps you drew as a child, your maps may be graphic or digital, and probably won’t have any Xs marking the so-called spot. Always, however, they’ll require precise mathematical calculations, which means Cartographers have to be as comfortable with calculus as they are with geography and computer science, whether they work for governments, universities or private companies.

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