What Is a Cartographic Technician?

Cartographic technicians work in engineering, environmental and governmental agencies.
i David Hiller/Photodisc/Getty Images
Cartographic technicians work in engineering, environmental and governmental agencies.

Although the title sounds like some kind of crazy cart-toting graphic novelist assistant, cartographic technicians are actually the cogs of the giant mapmaking wheelm and assist many large data corporations, such as Google and Yahoo Maps, in keeping all of their map facts straight. Some of these mapmaking heroes tromp through the deep forest to get the most accurate data, while others valiantly fight from their computers to ensure maps everywhere get you where you want to go.


Some cartographic technicians operate surveying equipment and use surveying technology to collect accurate data for mapmakers to use when creating maps. This is definitely not an inside job; these folks traverse heavily wooded or sloped forests or busy roadways to take electronic measurements of distances and grades of different landforms. They collect primary data, including describing land boundaries and small, unique landmarks.

Map Data

Once primary data is collected, someone needs to gather that information and wrangle it into a useable form for the mapmakers. This usually falls to a cartographic technician who specializes in working with geographic information systems; the data collected is verified and then entered so that each piece of data is tied to a specific place on a map. It sounds like data entry and, to a point, it is. It goes a step beyond data entry in that the technician must ascertain accuracy, and is responsible for the integrity of the data, so it can be used confidently by mapmaker. It is definitely a job for a detail-oriented person committed to quality data.

Industries and Training

Cartographic technicians either sound like they are highly specialized and are out walking around a forest or are locked away in a far-off mapmaking haven, but in reality they work in a variety of industries throughout the world. Engineering firms, environmental entities, and governments all hire cartographic technicians to support their efforts. Training for this field is sometimes on-the-job, but more often the techs have at least some training in surveying or GIS.

Occupational Outlook and Career Growth

This job isn’t going away anytime soon. Those working in the engineering field tend to earn more than others, but never fear if engineering isn’t your thing. No matter which subfield you choose, the Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates that positions will grow 16 percent by 2020. The pay isn’t too shabby either; the lowest-paying positions start at $23,000, while the best-paid jobs top $60,000.

2016 Salary Information for Surveying and Mapping Technicians

Surveying and mapping technicians earned a median annual salary of $42,450 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, surveying and mapping technicians earned a 25th percentile salary of $32,860, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $55,690, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 60,200 people were employed in the U.S. as surveying and mapping technicians.

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