Question: Cartography as Career?

One question I’ve received more than once (and that I know nothing about) is about maps as a career. According to last spring’s survey, most of us are amateurs rather than professionals: 68.3 per cent of you identified yourselves as having no professional status. Having said that, we all like maps (if not, what are you doing here?), so it’s no surprise that some of us wonder about mapping as a career. A couple of recent questions on this subject:

Looking at possibly going to school to become a cartographer, I was wondering how easy it is to find a job, what kind of money does one make, and will it involve lots of relocating?


I love maps. Was wondering what jobs are out there for us map lovers? Do they pay well? What kind of training/skills are needed? Is there any growth potential in this industry?

Some answers to these questions can be found in a recent thread on the Geographie Tribe on

One question I have in this context is whether “cartography” in the original sense is no longer a career option, having been displaced by GIS. I remember reading a profile of an artist diagnosed with MS a few months back; I didn’t link to it then, but the following passage stuck with me, and it seems appropriate to mention it here:

About the same time she was diagnosed with MS, in 1992, cartography was beginning to be pushed out as an art form, in favour of computer mapping.
“Growing up, the game plan was always to be an artist. Making maps was a beautiful art. Now, it’s a dead art,” said Ms Kertzer, a graduate of the University of Waterloo’s fine arts and geography programs.

If so, does that mean that GIS is now the only career track for those interested in maps?

If you’re a mapping professional, we’d love to hear your take on this subject. (Of the survey’s respondents, 10 per cent identified as GIS professionals, 6.7 per cent as academics or students, 2.5 per cent were in surveying, and a couple of you each identified as non-academic cartographers and map librarians.) What’s the field like nowadays?