A mapping technician wearing a backpack and hardhat reads a map while walking outside

A mapping technician could...


Take exact measurements of a landslide to help engineers assess damaged roads. Ground and asphalt missing from the side of a road Convert paper maps to digital maps for more convenient searching and use. Three paper maps overlaid onto each other
Collect GPS (Global Positioning System) field data for use in making a mining operations map. Two surveyors use measuring equipment outside Create a map of a new subdivision using aerial photographs. Aerial photo of neighborhoods built in a subdivision
Find out more...

Key Facts & Information

Overview Essential members of any construction team include mapping and surveying technicians—the "instrument people"—who set up and operate special equipment that measures distances, curves, elevations, and angles between points on Earth's surface. These technicians then take the data gathered by the instruments and create maps and charts on a computer. About half of their work is spent in hands-on, high-technology data collection in the field, while the other half is spent in an office—they get to experience both worlds and create documents that define, in great detail, places on Earth.
Key Requirements Precise, detail-oriented, analytical, a team player, should be in good physical condition, as well as have an interest in both outdoor and computer work
Minimum Degree Associate's degree
Subjects to Study in High School Physics, algebra, geometry, algebra II, pre-calculus (trigonometry), English; if available, computer science, applied technology, physical education, drafting
Median Salary
Mapping Technician
  $42,450
U.S. Mean Annual Wage
  $49,630
Min Wage
  $15,080
$0
$10,000
$20,000
$30,000
$40,000
$50,000
$60,000
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) Decline Slowly or Moderately (-3% to -9%)
Interview
Related Occupations
  • Appraisers, real estate
  • Cartographers and photogrammetrists
  • Surveyors
  • Mining and geological engineers, including mining safety engineers
  • Civil drafters
  • Surveying technicians
  • Range managers
  • City and regional planning aides
Source: O*Net

Education and Training

Most employers prefer to hire applicants with an associate's or bachelor's degree in surveying or engineering technology where they have received training in drafting, surveying, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), cartography, and computer science. New hires train with more experienced technicians.

Other Qualifications

Mapping technicians, also known as surveying technicians, should be able to visualize objects, distances, sizes, and abstract forms. They must work with precision and accuracy because mistakes can be costly.

Mapping technicians must be in good physical condition because they work outdoors and often carry equipment over difficult terrain. They need good eyesight, coordination, and hearing to communicate verbally and by using hand signals. Surveying is a cooperative operation, so good interpersonal skills and the ability to work as part of a team is important. Good computer skills also are essential because technicians must be able to prepare maps and charts from the data they collect.

Nature of the Work

Mapping technicians, who may also be known as surveying technicians, perform surveying and mapping duties, usually under the direction of a surveyor, cartographer, or photogrammetrist, to obtain data used for construction, map making, boundary location, mining, or other purposes. They may calculate map making information and create maps from source data, such as surveying notes, aerial photography, satellite data, or other maps, to show topographical features, political boundaries, and other features. They may also verify the accuracy and completeness of topographical maps.

>Watch this video to see to see how new GIS mapping technology helps people see wildfire risks, win elections, fight wars, reveal genocides, and predict the impact of global warming.

Work Environment

Mapping technicians, also known as surveying technicians, usually work an 8-hour day, five days a week and may spend a lot of time outdoors. Sometimes, they work longer hours during the summer, when weather and light conditions are most suitable for fieldwork. Construction-related work may be limited during times of inclement weather.

Mapping technicians engage in active, sometimes strenuous, work. They often stand for long periods of time, walk considerable distances, and climb hills with heavy packs of instruments and other equipment. They also can be exposed to all types of weather. Traveling is sometimes part of the job, and surveying and mapping technicians may commute long distances, be away from home overnight, or temporarily relocate near a survey site. Mapping technicians also work indoors while analyzing data and when preparing reports and maps.

On the Job

  • Check all layers of maps to ensure accuracy, identifying and marking errors and making corrections.
  • Determine scales, line sizes, and colors to be used for hard copies of computerized maps, using plotters.
  • Monitor mapping work and the updating of maps to ensure accuracy, the inclusion of new or changed information, and compliance with rules and regulations.
  • Identify and compile database information to create maps in response to requests.
  • Produce and update overlay maps to show information boundaries, water locations, and topographic features on various base maps and at different scales.
  • Trace contours and topographic details to generate maps that denote specific land and property locations and geographic attributes.
  • Lay out and match aerial photographs in sequences in which they were taken, and identify any areas missing from photographs.
  • Compare topographical features and contour lines with images from aerial photographs, old maps, and other reference materials to verify the accuracy of their identification.
  • Compute and measure scaled distances between reference points to establish relative positions of adjoining prints and enable the creation of photographic mosaics.
  • Research resources such as survey maps and legal descriptions to verify property lines and to obtain information needed for mapping.

Source: BLS

Companies That Hire Mapping Technicians

Explore what you might do on the job with one of these projects...

Science Fair Project Idea
Measurements are very important for scientists. It is especially important that the measurements be accurate. Think about how important accuracy is when you want to know if you are taller than a friend of yours, every inch counts! In this experiment, you will investigate how different objects can be measured with accuracy. Are small or large objects more difficult to measure? Who in your family is the best at measuring? Maybe it will be you! Read more
Science Fair Project Idea
The Milky Way is the edgewise view of our home galaxy, a disk made up of billions of stars. The Sun resides on one of the spiral arms of the disk, 30,000 light-years from the thick hub of the galaxy. The actual center, with a black hole 3-4 million times the Sun's mass, is hidden by dust clouds in space. In this astronomy science fair project, you will use astronomical data to locate the center of this galaxy. Read more
Science Fair Project Idea
The word rabid often makes people think of an animal that is extremely violent, crazy, and maybe even foaming at the mouth. But not all animals infected with the rabies disease fit that description. Nevertheless, it is important to avoid animals that have rabies so that you don't get infected. So which wild animals are likely to carry rabies? This science fair project will help you discover the answer! Read more
Science Fair Project Idea
We rely heavily on our senses to tell us about our environment. But in addition to the senses of touch, smell, taste, hearing, and sight, some animals are able to sense Earth's magnetic field. Migratory turtles and birds use this sense to guide them on long journeys. Homing pigeons use it to find their way home. New research suggests that large mammals, such as cows and deer, may also have the ability to sense the direction of magnetic north. In this animal behavior science project, you will… Read more
Science Fair Project Idea
Have you ever gone camping, looked up at the stars, and found the Big Dipper? Two stars in the dipper part of this constellation point to Polaris, the north star, which people have used for thousands of years to help them find their way. In this plant biology science fair project, you'll investigate whether plants, like moss, can help you find your way, too. Read more
Science Fair Project Idea
Have you ever wondered how fast a seismic wave from an earthquake travels? In this geology science project you can figure this out using historical seismograph data that you can collect from the comfort of your own computer. You will use a web interface to a network of seismometers run by the Northern California Earthquake Data Center, at the University of California, Berkeley. From the seismograms you make, you will be able to measure the time it took for the seismic waves to travel from the… Read more
Science Fair Project Idea
When an earthquake occurs, seismic shock waves travel out through the earth from the source of the event. The shock waves travel through the earth or along the Earth's surface, and can be recorded at remote monitoring stations. Some of the waves that travel through the earth are blocked or refracted by the Earth's liquid core, which means that monitoring stations located certain distances from the earthquake do not detect these waves. This creates a "seismic shadow" that you can use to… Read more
Science Fair Project Idea
What do knots, maps, mazes, driving directions, and doughnuts have in common? The answer is topology, a branch of mathematics that studies the spatial properties and connections of an object. Topology has sometimes been called rubber-sheet geometry because it does not distinguish between a circle and a square (a circle made out of a rubber band can be stretched into a square) but does distinguish between a circle and a figure eight (you cannot stretch a figure eight into a circle without… Read more

Ask Questions

Do you have a specific question about a career as a Mapping Technician that isn't answered on this page? Post your question on the Science Buddies Ask an Expert Forum.

Additional Information

Sources

Additional Support

We'd like to acknowledge the additional support of:

  • Chevron
Free science fair projects.