How to become a Cartographer

Cartographers produce maps, charts and plans. From interactive maps to driving directions, they might be used by individuals, businesses, or specific industries (e.g. oceanographers or military). Although it might sound like a career from centuries gone by, cartographers are more in demand now than ever, and jobs are expected to increase over the coming years.

If you love maps and geography, you’re great at researching with good technical skills and design abilities, then a career as a Cartographer could suit you down to the ground.


About you:


  • Knowledge of geography, environment and maths
  • Reliably thorough, accurate, and neat, with great attention to detail
  • Analytical thinking and tech skills
  • Excellent communication skills – verbal, written and report writing
  • Outstanding graphic and design skills and knowledge
  • The ability to work well with others
  • Normal colour vision


The job:


  • Researching, collecting, storing, retrieving, evaluating and manipulating data to create political, physical, topographic, climatic, economic, resource, and road maps, as well as maritime charts and others
  • Using geographical information systems (GIS) to replicate and study geographical landscapes and features
  • Collating and analysing new data from satellites, planes etc. to plot heights and positions of geographical features
  • Doing topographic land surveys and hydrographic surveys of the sea and coastal areas
  • Using desktop publishing and specialist technical and mapping software to design maps for different media (e.g. digital, interactive, or paper-based)
  • Ensuring details are accurate and to scale
  • Editing older versions of maps, updating them to include or remove roads, structures and landmarks
  • Managing mapping projects and overseeing staff


Lifestyle Impact: Low


  • Part Time opportunities: Low – around 26% of Cartographers work part-time (source:
  • Average hours for full-time workers: 40 hours a week, which is below average (source:
  • Cartographers’ salary (average) $100,000* per year (source: *Salaries vary depending on your skills and experience.
  • Future career growth: Stable (source:
  • You will be doing work in a variety of environments, both indoors and outdoors.
  • More than half of workers regularly work overtime or extra hours.


Cartographers are most in demand in these locations:


This is a very small occupation, with only around 430 people working as Cartographers in Australia in 2016 (source: A majority of Cartographers are employed in Western Australia and the ACT. Most Cartographers work in the Public Administration and Safety, and Professional, Scientific and Technical Services industries.


How to become a Cartographer in Australia


Completing a VET qualification is usually required to be employed as a Cartographer in Australia.


Step 1 – Complete Year 12 with a focus on English, Maths, and Design.


Step 2 – Consider completing a relevant VET qualification, such as:


Step 3 – You might like to upskill with an undergraduate qualification, such as a Bachelor of Spatial Science. Other relevant degrees include computer science, geography, surveying, and geospatial sciences.


Step 4 – Look for graduate and cadetship opportunities in government and defence.


Step 5 – Once you have lots of experience, consider starting your own business and employing others.


Find out more here –


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Find out more about alternative careers.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


What options are there for career progression?


You will start out as an apprentice, before becoming a fully qualified Electrician. With lots of experience and knowledge, you might like to start your own business. There are also lots of specialisations you can look into.


Do I need to go to university to become a Cartographer?


Not necessarily, but having a university-level qualification could fast-track your career and open more doors.


Where do Cartographers work?


Cartographers work both indoors, in offices and studios on computers, and outdoors, performing surveying work.


What are 3 things I can do right now to help me become a Cartographer?


If you’re in high school and you’d like to find out if a career as a Cartographer is right for you, here’s a few things you could do right now:

  1. Start taking short courses and workshops to build on your maths and design skills. You might even like to look into VET options you can complete while still at school.
  2. See if you can find work experience with a local business. This will help you see if you might enjoy the work, and can help you start building important contacts for the future.
  3. Talk to a Cartographer to see what a day in their life is like. If you don’t know anyone, see if you can watch videos or documentaries about a career in cartography or surveying.

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