Cartographer | Youth Central

Andrew, 30s

How did you become a cartographer?

According to Andrew, cartography is a great career if you want to meld the creative with the technical.

As a student, Andrew recalls that he always enjoyed drawing maps for school projects, and he was interested in graphics, industrial design, geography and maths.

Currently, Andrew works at the University of Melbourne and says that cartography turned out to be "just the right thing" for him.

What does a cartographer do?

While his job involves generating maps to accompany book chapters, journal articles or conference papers, you won't often find him sitting at a desk with a pencil or technical pen in his hand.

These days, cartographers rely heavily on computer technology, such as Autocad or desktop mapping software. "There are not too many maps these days made by hand. The role of a cartographer isn't what it once was," Andrew says.

The proliferation of computers also means that there are a lot more opportunities for cartographers, now that maps are needed for websites, CD-ROMs and all sorts of media that weren't available a few years ago.

Andrew studied cartography at RMIT and says that because the course is so broad and graduates are multi-skilled, there are a lot of pathways open to you upon completion.

"People often assume you work for Melways [street directory] when they find out you're a cartographer," says Andrew, "but there are lots of different directions you can go in once you're qualified." You could work with GIS (Geographic Information Systems) databases, as a surveyor, or even in multimedia."

What are some of the pros and cons of the job?

While Andrew enjoys his job, especially with a bit of background music playing, sometimes the work can be a bit repetitive.

He adds that in his current position, he is limited in terms of career progression. Also, he doesn't get to go outdoors much: "It's not the case that you actually go out and measure things," he says. "If you want to work outside, consider becoming a surveyor."

What sort of skills and qualities do you need?

In terms of the abilities you might need to become a cartographer, Andrew says, "Good attention to detail is really important and you need to be reasonably methodical. I also believe that some people have a natural affinity for using maps, a natural aptitude". He adds, "If you have to turn your street directory upside-down when driving south... forget it!"

"Cartography isn't exactly what people imagine," Andrew says. "There are a lot of careers you can go into and you develop skills that make you very employable."

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