A bachelor’s degree in cartography, geography, geomatics, or a related field is the most common path of entry into this occupation. (Geomatics combines the science, engineering, mathematics, and art of collecting and managing geographically referenced information.) High school students interested in becoming a cartographer should take courses in algebra, geometry, trigonometry, drafting, mechanical drawing, and computer science.
Cartographers usually have a bachelor's degree in cartography, geography, geomatics, surveying, engineering, forestry, computer science, or a physical science. However, some come into this occupation after working as surveying and mapping technicians. With the development of GIS technology, cartographers need more education and stronger technical skills—including more experience with computers—than they did in the past. Cartographers must also be adept at Web-based mapping technologies including newer modes of compiling data that incorporate the positioning capabilities of mobile phones and in-car navigation systems.
Cartographers also work from existing maps, surveys, and other records. To do so, they must be able to determine thematic and positional accuracy of each feature being mapped.
Cartographers must make decisions about the accuracy and reliability of the final map. In addition, they must decide what further information they need to meet the client's needs. They must focus on details when including features needed on a final map. They also must be able to identify and resolve issues with the tools available to them.