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
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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
U.S. Mean Annual Wage
Min Wage
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) Decline Slowly or Moderately (-3% to -9%)
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

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