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Cartographer are mapmakers. They gather, evaluate, and visualize geographic information and analyze geographical data to create charts and reports. They combine creativity with technical aptitude to produce, for example, topological maps, aeronautical charts, natural resource maps, or nautical charts and other hydrographic maps. In addition, they may work on demographic maps such as population characteristics, economic maps such as land use, or social maps such as crime rates and poverty.
At a glanceImagine you are sitting in a quiet, brightly lit room with a huge drawing table, a couple big computer screens, and stacks of maps and photos. You stare intently at a series of photos of a river in the northern part of the province. Last month, heavy storms caused the river to flood its banks. When the water receded, the river had noticeably changed course. As a cartographer, you will update old maps of the area, redrawing the river's new course. This river is an important part of a large watershed, so accurate maps are critical to local watershed managers and land-use planners.You start by comparing aerial photos and old maps to get a sense of where the river has moved and how much it has changed. In the weeks since the river receded, teams of surveyors have been taking measurements and re-surveying the river's course. You will use their data, as well as data from geological surveys and elevation maps, to construct your map. You use sophisticated cartography software to redraw the maps. But the software isn't a perfect substitute for a pencil and a ruler and can't replace your technical and artistic skills. Once you have your computer-generated map, you will continue to revise it to make it as accurate as possible. Finally, you'll add the legend and scale, and the updated map will be ready for use.
Job dutiesDuties vary significantly from job to job, but the following list includes typical job duties one might encounter as a cartographer:
- Study ground surveys, old maps, aerial photos, reports, and engineering plans.
- Define production specifications and standards, for example projection, scale, size, and colours of new or revised map products according to client needs.
- Supervise and coordinate the work of cartographic technicians and other production team members.
- Revise existing maps and charts and correct maps in various stages of completion.
- Create detailed drawings using sophisticated mapping, remote sensing, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software.
- Analyze survey data, source maps, photographs, satellite data, and other records, as well as search existing databases to determine location and names of features.
- Manage database information and verify the accuracy of information by visiting the map area.
Work environmentCartographers work in a variety of locations, including, but not limited to:In the office:
- Entering and analyzing data, and generating maps on a computer
- Reviewing maps, photos, surveys, and other data
- Updating and correcting maps manually
- Managing databases
- Recording data and surveying areas
- Verifying survey data and map information
Where to workThere are a number of places cartographers can find employment. They include:
- Federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal government departments
- Surveying, hydrographic, and computer-mapping companies
- Planning and economic development agencies
- Environmental, petroleum, and engineering consulting companies
- Commercial map publishers and GIS/geomatics firms
- Marketing, statistical, and census firms
Education & requirementsIf you are a high school student considering a career as a cartographer, you should have strong marks or an interest in:
- Geographic Information Systems
- Geological Engineering