Cartographer

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

Salary Range: £18,000 to £45,000

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How to become a cartographer

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • an apprenticeship
  • working towards this role
  • experience in the armed forces
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University

You can take a degree in:

  • geography
  • geographical information systems (GIS)
  • land surveying
  • earth sciences
  • oceanography

Employers may also accept degrees in other subjects like computer science, software engineering or graphic design.

A postgraduate qualification may help you to find work in a specialist field of cartography like GIS.

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree
  • a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study

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Apprenticeship

You could complete a geospatial survey technician advanced apprenticeship, or geospatial mapping degree apprenticeship.

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent, for a higher or degree apprenticeship

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Work

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

Employers may look for an apprenticeship in geospatial surveying, or A levels or equivalent, in geography, art and design, mathematics or computing.

Other routes

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.

After you leave the services, you could use your experience to find work in commercial cartography and mapping.

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Further information

You can find out more about a career in cartography from the British Cartographic Society and Ordnance Survey.

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What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You’ll need:

  • knowledge of geography
  • maths knowledge
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • analytical thinking skills
  • excellent written communication skills
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • design skills and knowledge
  • the ability to work well with others
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages confidently
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What you’ll do

Day-to-day tasks

In this role you could be :

  • 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

Working environment

You could work in an office.

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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.