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Working for Ordnance Survey

Example of an OS mapOrdnance Survey is one of the world’s biggest mapping companies and is Great Britain’s national mapping agency. Find out about working for them here.

What is Ordnance Survey?

Most people have used or seen an Ordnance Survey (OS) map at some point. Their paper maps, used for many outdoor activities like hillwalking, are the most familiar part of Ordnance Survey’s work.

However, OS’s work is much broader than this. More than 90% of their business is electronic mapping, including the OS MasterMap, a single electronic map covering the whole of Great Britain.

OS maps are used in lots of different ways:

  • The emergency services use them to respond to calls more quickly
  • Transport companies use them to plan routes
  • The government uses OS data for everything from spotting crime hotspots to working out the risks from floods

Ordnance Survey does not cover Northern Ireland, which has a different mapping agency called Ordnance Survey Northern Ireland. However, the two organisations are very similar.

What jobs are available?

  • Data gathering: somebody needs to go out and collect the information used to make OS maps! Some of this will be done directly by surveyors, but it could also involve working with other companies who supply data for OS to use.
  • Product development: once the data is in place, it has to be made into a usable form. This doesn’t just mean paper maps, but also maps which can be displayed electronically and data which can be interpreted automatically by computers.
  • Sales and customer service: The finished product has to get to the people who want it. Although this role might seem less directly related to mapping and geography, it’s still very important to have a thorough understanding of the subject for this work.

How do I apply?

Any vacancies at Ordnance Survey are advertised on their website. The process will differ depending on the job: you will probably have to go to a face-to-face interview, but you might also be asked to attend a day-long assessment with other applicants. Lots more information about the process is available on the OS website.

OS also run a work experience programme for 14- and 15-year-olds. If you are interested in this, talk to your school careers advisor about it.

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