27% is the projected growth in employment for cartographers and photogrammetrists nationwide between 2008 and 2018, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
" Google Maps is not cartography; it’s a tool that people use [when] they need to get around."—Michael Scisco, Santa Fe cartographer
In the midst of a recession, cartography is a bright spot. Mapmaking and “photo-grammetry”—using aerial photographs to survey and measure landmarks—is projected to grow at nearly three times the rate of total US employment.
That growth will be driven by the “increasing demand for fast, accurate and complete geographic information,” according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But while quick-and-easy mapping tools proliferate online, Santa Fe cartographer Michael Scisco cautions against the loss of mapmaking’s true origins.
“Cartography is a mixture between science and art,” Scisco says. “The science is how you make a map so it conveys information to the reader that’s easy to understand, informative and has scientific backing.”
The art, he says, comes in the map’s design.
Scisco is one of only 100 mapmakers in New Mexico, according to the BLS. He runs BioGeoCreations, a Santa Fe company that customizes maps for businesses and nonprofits.
He says the advent of online mapping tools has brought more attention to the cartography business—“but it’s also hurt it a little bit because you’ve lost that novelty and romance of looking at a map that’s custom made, interesting to look at [and] that has some good graphic design qualities.”
Perhaps because cartographers are a select group, their salaries have been rising (see chart). But when asked whether the $50 an hour he earns mapmaking is enough to live on, Scisco laughs.
“I don’t make anywhere near enough to support myself,” Scisco says. “I work for a land trust here in New Mexico and, in my free time, I do my mapping business on the side.”