Rohit Dubey

What is Cartography and how to become a cartographer?

by Rohit Dubey
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RE: What is Cartography and how to become a cartographer?

Surabhi Dewra
Surabhi Dewra
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From one of the most interesting and creative corners of science, cartography is a branch where research is the key. The very art of studying or practicing the making of maps is called cartography. It is not just purely science, but a combination of both science’s techniques and aesthetics which builds the base or the structure. The main aim of a cartographer is to communicate spatial details in a way that is effective and informative at the same time.


There are broadly two parts of cartography, either to study the making and history of maps and mapmaking or to make the maps with the help of tools and techniques. It is important for a cartographer to have a keen knowledge about both the aspects; the history and the latest technology that will help that get better results in mapmaking.


The fundamental issues that a traditional cartography deal with on a daily basis include the following:

Map editing using traits like physical structure or abstract, such as toponyms.

  • Handle projections for designing new maps or studying a particular map
  • Generalisation by eliminating unnecessary elements from maps and mapmaking.
  • Reducing the complexity in mapmaking or studying using its characteristics.
  • Designing the map in such a manner that it conveys the best possible message in the simplest way.



From the predictions of history of mapmaking to the latest advances, cartography is a debatable topic for many. The complexity involved in the process makes it more interesting but hard for others to decipher too. As major advances are made in context to the history of maps, the future itself becomes tricky and difficult to give a factual meaning to. Thus, choosing cartography as a career is an intriguing risk in itself.


Those who are good at map reading or have a passion towards discovering the aesthetics of maps and their formation, should probably go for this career path. Being a totally different line of science to build a career in, the job of a cartographer is not a regular one. However, the question arises, where to learn this gripping knowledge from in India? As the course is not too much popularised like other courses, not much light is thrown on the top colleges that provided good courses in cartography. As a part of geography, the course  is generally named B.A/M.A (Geography), (Geoinformatics) and also M.Tech (GIS).


Following are the colleges/institutes which offer these courses in cartography in India:


  • Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai
  • Institute of Geo-informatics and Remote Sensing
  • University of Madras
  • Jamia Millia Islamia
  • Anna University
  • MS University of Baroda – Diploma in Cartography
  • Jawaharlal Nehru Technical University
  • Annamalai University


Candidates should note that some universities may require an entrance exam to stand eligible for the course.


Career path:

As a cartographer, one has to learn the application of image processing, the knowledge of data capture, data manipulation and an insight of visual display. It is more like a professional in drawing varied types of maps. Thus, you should be good with art work too.

With an edge over other regular career paths, cartography offers a lot to learn and know about our history as well as the future. Thus, to be a cartographer, one needs to know all aspects and cannot miss on any. To get into the deep learning of cartography, one can pursue B.A (geography) for their under grad and then take up M.Sc. (Geoinformatics) or M.Tech (GIS) in post graduation degree.


Job prospects:

After attaining the degree and on completion of course, one can apply for a job at various organisation that work in this field or deal in the making of mapmaking. There are many institute that are into extensive research or study of maps. However, with the advancement of technology, nowadays companies are looking for resources that can do digital mapmaking. The data is now collected via surveys, satellite/aerial images and other digital means to be more precise and accurate in drafting the map. Thus, such jobs have most openings under government organisations that deal with military, industries or tribal territories. Under private organisations, cartography is need for traffic management, demographic mapping, infrastructural designs, crime mapping and more. Basic salaries of cartographer depends on various factors like organisation type, work location, type of job/project, work experience or university from which the degree is attained. Thus, one should always check for the placement of the colleges applied to and the job market for the concerned field too.

RE: What is Cartography and how to become a cartographer?

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