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Geographer (GS-0150) and Cartographer (GS-1370) Career Paths (USGS Part 3)

In the first part of this series we featured the USGS history, programs, and the economist (GS-0110) careers. In part 2 the ecologist (GS-0408) and chemist (GS-1320) careers were featured. In the final part of this series we will discuss the geographer (GS-0150) and cartographer (GS-1370) career paths.

Geographer (GS-0150) Career Path

This series includes positions the duties of which involve professional work in the field of geography, including the compilation, synthesis, analysis, interpretation and presentation of information regarding the location, distribution, and interrelationships of and processes of change affecting such natural and human phenomena as the physical features of the earth, climate, plant and animal life, and man’s settlements and institutions.


Geographer USGS Career Brochure Photo
Geographer USGS Career Brochure Photo

The federal government employs 1,481 in this occupation. You can review the geographer Job Series Definition for additional occupational information and to discover the largest employers of this group with links to geographer job vacancies.

Roger Sayre, is a GS-15 ecosystems geographer at the USGS in Reston, VA. He maps the distribution of terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecosystems globally. Sayre indicates that “ecosystems geography is knowing the types, distributions, and condition of the ecosystems that are on the landscape and the seascape because ecosystems give humans the goods and services that are critical for our survival.” Sayre states, “I would rather hire an employee with a science background. The science background is more important than proficiency in using tools such as GIS and remote sensing. It is easier to train GIS specialists with a science background than without.”

Geography is an interdisciplinary study of the spatial aspects of the surface of the Earth. The work of geographers encompasses a number of the sciences including climate and land-use changes, geology, meteorology, soil sciences, hydrology, biology, and much more.

USGS geographers collect and analyze spatial and hydrologic data, plan and develop geospatial and geographic information databases to facilitate scientific analysis, and enhance communications of results through reports and maps.


The duties include:

  • Performing data reconciliation between GIS (systems) and organizational or other data storage systems.
  • Creating symbology comprehensive map products (e.g. disaster assessment maps, jurisdictional mapbooks, utility mapbooks by commodity) to support organizational initiatives.
  • Performing geospatial analysis to identify inconsistent information.

Experience and Education

The qualifications are based on education and experience that will vary for each of the different grade levels. A bachelor’s degree or higher in geography or a related physical or social science such as geology, meteorology, economics, statistics, sociology, anthropology, political science, history, cartography, computer science, urban studies, or planning that include at least 24 semester hours in geography or related fields. You will need to have worked at least 1 year at the next lowest grade level. You must a U.S. citizen to apply.

A GS-0150-9/11 can earn $48,403.00 to $80,427.00 per year or more depending on the Locality Pay Area you work in.

Cartographer (GS-1370) Career Path

This series includes positions requiring the application of professional knowledge and skills in mapping and related sciences, and relevant mathematics and statistics to plan, design, research, develop, construct, evaluate, and modify mapping and charting systems, products, and technology.


Cartographer USGS Career Brochure Photo
Cartographer USGS Career Brochure Photo

The federal government employs 620 in this occupation. Review the cartographer Job Series Definition for additional occupational information and to discover the largest employers of this group with links to cartographer job vacancies.

Kari Craun is aGS-1370-15 supervisory cartographer at Rolla, MO. She has also held physical scientist and geographer positions. Craun leads a national center that acquires, processes, manages, and distributes all kinds of geospatial data to a variety of users, including the public. They create topographic maps and other cartographic products, and provides other related services. Craun relates, “there is an interdisciplinary aspect that is inherent to cartography. You need to know something about the subject you are portraying. This includes topography, population demographics, biological such as habitat, geology, transportation, etc. Maps are one of the most effective ways to communicate a large amount of information.” Craun recommends “that you take computer classes and the basic cartography classes. This will help you understand the science behind projections, geoids, and coordinates.”

Combining both science and art, today’s cartographers design and produce maps using geographic information systems, incorporating satellite data, aerial reconnaissance, and field surveys to produce datasets used by both scientists and everyday people.

Besides map design, today’s cartographers are working with geographic information systems, incorporating satellite data, aerial reconnaissance, and field surveys to produce datasets used by both scientists and everyday people. Cartographers create both paper and digital products that help define our surroundings, enabling us to gain a more accurate view of the world—past, present, and future.


The duties include:

  • Use of Computer Aided Design and Drafting (CAD) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software in developing maps.
  • Perform complex cartographic computations.
  • Analyze real estate plat records, electronic data files from federal agencies to develop project-reporting tools.
  • Review engineering documents and drawings, such as design memoranda, construction plans, and specs to determine real estate and location requirements for projects.
  • They may provide legal testimony relevant to boundary determination, Real Estate mapping procedures and land area calculations.
  • Serve as a technical point of contact for cartographic and GIS interests.

Education and Experience

Basic qualifications include a Bachelor’s degree with at least 30 semester hours of cartography, related physical science, computer science, or physical geography.

You will be required to have 1 year of specialized experience that is equivalent to the next lowest grade level. Some of the specialized experience can include:

  • Prepare and compile cartographic products using GIS, surveying, CAD mapping techniques and remote sensing.
  • Developing geospatial digital databases and other products
  • Experience reading, interpreting, reviewing, and preparing legal land descriptions.

You must be a U.S. citizen to apply for this career path. The salary range for a GS-11 is $58,562.00 to $76,131.00 per year or more depending on the Locality Pay Area you work in.

The USGS has remarkable career paths. Go and explore the great opportunities that the USGS has to offer.


  • Diane Noserale, USGS Public Affairs Officer, Reston, VA
  • Photos are from the USGS website and career brochures
  • USGS Web Site: http://www.usgs.gov

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About The Author

A Pennsylvania native, Betty Boyd moved to the Tennessee Valley in 1994. She retired in early 2012 after 30 years of Government service. Boyd was an Acquisition Manager/IT Manager/ Project Manager during her 30-year career. Boyd also served as a supervisor and team leader during her career. In 2012 Boyd founded a consulting firm, Boyd Consulting Services, which offers writing services to clients and companies. For more information about these writing services see the following website: http://www.BettyBoydWriting.com/. Betty attended Athens State University, Athens, AL and received a B.B.A. in Management of Technology in 2000. She received her Masters of Science degree from Syracuse University with a concentration in Information Management in 2007. Boyd is a certified Level III contracting professional and she received a Masters level certificate in Project Management from the National Defense University in 2008.