Science, mathematics and statistics

Career outlook for cartographer

UK Salary Ranges





Currently employed in Scotland


Salary information is provided by the "National Careers Service". "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures. Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

What's it like?

You would make the maps that people use every day to get around and find where they’re going. You could research, design and publish maps on paper and online.

You could produce maps for anything from tourist maps for walking or a road atlas for driving to maps used in satellite navigation systems. You might create maps used by industry and the armed forces. Other maps could show political boundaries, climate zones or the geology of an area. You might also design globes or maritime charts.

You’d use geographical information systems (GIS) and digital mapping techniques to record geographical information about an area and analyse it. You’d then present it as a map using desktop publishing and specialist computer software.

You would:

  • Check that maps and charts are accurate and to scale
  • Edit maps, add and remove new roads, structures or landmarks
  • Collect and analyse data from remote sensors on satellites and planes
  • Work closely with surveyors and designers
  • Use geographical information systems (GIS) to model and analyse landscape features
  • Plot the heights and positions of geographical features from aerial photographs
  • Carry out surveys of the land, the sea and coastal areas
  • Design maps for different media, like digital or paper-based maps

With experience, you could also manage mapping projects and lead a team.

Working conditions


You will usually work standard office hours, 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. You may sometimes have to work longer hours to meet deadlines for publication or when finishing a project.


You will normally be based in an office and spend most of your time working with computer technology.

UK employment status





Self employed


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  • Working with technology
  • Written communication
  • Creative
  • Designing
  • Observation
  • Researching
  • Attention to detail
  • Developing a plan
  • Analysing
  • Understanding

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Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you'll need.


You would need a degree (SCQF level 9/10) in a subject such as: 

  • Geography
  • Geographical information systems (GIS)
  • Surveying and mapping science
  • Earth sciences.

Most undergraduate courses ask for at least four Highers at B or above (SCQF level 6). Some universities may require AABB (first sitting) for entry. You may be able to gain advanced entry to the second year of some degrees with relevant Advanced Highers (SCQF level 7), Higher National Certificate (SCQF level 7) or Higher National Diploma (SCQF level 8) qualifications.

Some universities offer an Integrated Masters (SCQF 11) which combine a degree and masters course over five years. 

Some employers would also accept a Higher National Diploma (SCQF level 8) in a relevant subject such as surveying, although this is much less common. 

This is a small profession and entry is very competitive so many people have postgraduate qualifications such as a Master of Science (MSc) (SCQF level 11) or a doctoral degree (SCQF level 12) in a relevant subject.

There are also opportunities within the Royal Air Force which trains its own Air Cartographers; these positions require qualifications at National 5 level (SCQF level 5) in English and Mathematics.

Useful subjects

  • Maths (required by most courses)
  • Science subjects (required by most courses)
  • Geography (required by most courses)
  • English or English-based subjects