The art of cartography, or mapmaking, has changed a great deal in the past few decades. Today, cartographer jobs are often computer-based, requiring mapmakers to use technology to create maps rather than draw them by hand. Most modern mapmakers use a variety of software programs to design, research, and create maps. These programs often require the use of specialized cameras, scanners, plotters, and printers. The main categories of cartography jobs include cartographers, photogrammetrists, and geographic information specialists.
A cartographer’s main function is to design detailed maps that include all the graphics, illustrations, and layouts necessary for a complete understanding of the mapped area. Cartographers may be required to identify and collect information for creating a specific map. They often accomplish this by analyzing existing maps, surveys, photographic data, satellite data, and other relevant information. They generally use this information to draw maps that show natural and man-made structures as well as political and social boundaries. For the most part, cartographic supervisors design and manage the creation of maps, while cartographic drafters implement these designs.
Other cartographer jobs include that of a photogrammetrist. These cartographers typically design and draw topographical maps by studying aerial and satellite photography. Photogrammetrists are often needed to draw maps of remote areas that cannot be reached by surveyors. They may be involved in planning the flight path of aerial photographers to acquire the best and most useful photographs, and in utilizing a digital photogrammetric workstation (DPW) to measure the resulting photography.
Another cartographer job, a geographic information specialist, has recently emerged due to the creation of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software and related databases. A GIS database usually includes spatial, survey, geographic, and demographic data that can be used by cartographers to make highly specialized maps. GIS technology also allows cartographers to create models that can help them analyze patterns and predict trends in a specified geographical area. Geographic information specialists may find cartographer jobs in a variety of organizations, such as universities, governments, and commercial industries.
Several secondary cartographer jobs also exist. These include mosaicists, stereo-plotter operators, and map editors. Mosaicists typically manipulate a series of partial photographs into a mosaic picture of an area suitable for use by photogrammetrists. Stereo-plotter operators generally operate a machine called a stereo-plotter to analyze elevations based on two photographs of an area taken from different angles. Finally, map editors check the accuracy of cartographers’ work, often according to existing map and photographic data.