Like cartographers, photogrammetrists gather and analyze geographic data to create specialized maps for a variety of purposes. The job of a photogrammetrist involves a great deal of map-making, geography and aerial photography. If you're interested in becoming a photogrammetrist, knowing what the job entails and what you can earn in this profession can help you make a strategic career decision. In this article, we explain the role of a photogrammetrist and provide insight regarding the job's duties, required education, skills, salary and job outlook.
What is a photogrammetrist?
A photogrammetrist is a specialized mapmaker who uses different technologies to create models of the Earth's surface for map making. They map and measure the Earth's surface using geographic data from photographs. Like cartographers, photogrammetrists create mobile and online maps, conduct surveys and make maps for regional and urban planning.
As a photogrammetrist, you can often find jobs for an architectural or engineering service, or for a local, federal or state government. When working for government agencies, you may create maps for national security and public safety. Ensuring the accuracy of these maps helps emergency responders provide their services to the public as soon as possible.
What does a photogrammetrist do?
A photogrammetrist gathers reliable data and information about objects and the environment by studying photographic patterns and images. While the specific duties of a photogrammetrist may vary, here are their common duties:
- Gather and analyze spatial data
- Plan satellite and aerial surveys
- Analyze data from geodetic surveys and remote-sensing systems
- Update existing maps for necessary corrections and adjustments
- Create base maps that can layer Geographic Information System (GIS) data on top
- Research and study legal records to create local, national and international property boundaries
Education for a photogrammetrist
Photogrammetrists hold a bachelor's degree, often in cartography, geography or surveying. While not as popular, some photogrammetrists have a bachelor's degree in forestry, engineering or computer science. While not a requirement, completing an internship while you're in school may increase your job prospects.
Because of the job's increasing reliance on GIS technology, the role of a photogrammetrist may require courses in computer programming, engineering, surveying, geography and GIS technology. As a photogrammetrist, it's also important to have knowledge in the following technologies, along with any related software:
- Remote sensing
- Image processing
- Light-imaging detection
- Ranging technology
Skills for a photogrammetrist
Photogrammetrists require a variety of hard and soft skills to complete their duties. While the hard skills help with the technical aspects of the job, soft skills help with the way you perform your duties and can help you in other professions across the workforce. Apart from understanding remote sensing and GIS software programs, here are the common skills for a photogrammetrist:
Computer skills: As a photogrammetrist, it's important to understand computer data and coding. Computer skills also help in the creation and editing of digital maps.
Decision-making: Photogrammetrists use this skill to help make decisions regarding a map's readability and accuracy. This skill also helps you determine the information you need to meet client specifications.
Attention to detail: This skill helps photogrammetrists pay attention to important details when viewing aerial photography and remotely sensed data.
Problem-solving: This skill helps you fix any differences between aerial photographs, satellite images and land surveys.
Work environment for a photogrammetrist
Photogrammetrists spend most of their workday inside an office, though some positions require travel to physical locations. Traveling to these locations helps photogrammetrists better understand the area's topography. Photogrammetrists may also perform fieldwork to collect data, verify interpretations and plan for aerial surveys.
Salary and job outlook for a photogrammetrist
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), photogrammetrists earn a median annual wage of $68,380 as of May 2020. Keep in mind that your salary as a photogrammetrist may vary based on your expertise, employer and geographic location. Per the BLS, the lowest 10% of their reported salaries for this profession was $42,980, while the highest was $108,890.
The BLS also states that photogrammetrists can expect an employment growth of 5% from 2020 to 2030. This comes with an estimated average of 1,200 job openings for cartographers and photogrammetrists each year over this same decade. Job openings for these professions may come from current photogrammetrists transferring to a different career or leaving the workforce altogether.
Frequently asked questions about photogrammetrists
Here are some common questions about photogrammetrists:
What is the work schedule for a photogrammetrist?
Photogrammetrists often work full time, with a 40-hour workweek. They typically work normal business hours with a 9-to-5 shift. If they're conducting fieldwork, they may work longer hours.
What are some jobs similar to that of a photogrammetrist?
Here are some jobs similar to that of a photogrammetrist:
GIS specialist: These professionals use computer software and equipment to create and analyze geographic maps, data and graphs.
Surveyor: Surveyors create precise measurements for property boundaries. They also update boundary lines and prepare construction sites.
Geographer: A geographer studies the Earth's features and atmosphere. They also examine the impact human activity has on the Earth and use both maps and global positioning in their work.
Cartographer: Cartographers study, design and produce maps and charts. They also perform research and determine what to include on a map.
What are the licensing and certification requirements for photogrammetrists?
The licensing requirements for a photogrammetrist vary by state. While some states require a surveyor license, others require licensing for photogrammetry. Despite state licensing requirements, all candidates have the same educational requirements and must pass a test. In addition, some photogrammetrist licensing laws require you to work under supervision for many years in this field before taking the licensing exam.
As a photogrammetrist, you can also pursue a certification. As with a license, you're required to pass a test and meet education and experience requirements. While you're not required to earn a certification, this credential can help you impress hiring managers and demonstrate your photogrammetry knowledge and skill.