Cartography Degree Programs and College Major Information

Bachelor's and master's programs in cartography cover geospatial analysis, computer mapping and other subjects. Programs at both levels include lecture courses and hands-on technical training in the tools of cartography.

Essential Information

Cartography degree programs are available at both the bachelor's and master's degree levels. Master's programs are usually more specialized, and concentrations may be available in geographic information systems or human geography. Applicants to master's programs without an undergraduate cartography background may need to complete some prerequisite coursework before enrolling.

  • Program Levels in Cartography: Bachelor's degree in cartography; master's degree in cartography.
  • Prerequisites: A high school diploma or its equivalent is required for the bachelor's program; a bachelor's degree is required for the master's program.
  • Program Length: The bachelor's program typically takes four years; the master's program typically takes two years.
  • Other Requirements: Cartographers are often required to be certified as surveyors upon entering the work force.
  • Online Availability: Some courses may be available online.

Bachelor's Degree in Cartography

Students interested in cartography either major in cartography or pursue a degree in geography or surveying. These programs incorporate extensive hands-on laboratory experience with lecture-based classroom courses. Cartography programs provide technical training using tools employed by government and private sector cartographers. Students learn about remote sensing, spatial graphics software and global positioning systems.

Cartography programs are usually available through 4-year colleges and universities. A high school diploma or the equivalent is required for admission. No specific high school coursework is necessary. Most programs require the submission of ACT or SAT scores.

In cartography bachelor's degree programs, students take classroom and laboratory-based courses covering career-focused skills for data analysis and mapmaking. These include:

  • Introduction to cartography
  • Foundational geography
  • Remote sensing
  • Human geography
  • Computer mapping
  • Earth science

Master's Degree in Cartography

In cartography master's degree programs, students are trained to compile, display and analyze data through research and practical experience. Some programs offer a specialization, such as human geography, physical geography and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Cartography master's degree programs typically require two years of study to complete.

Although applicants to master's degree programs in cartography are required to possess a bachelor's degree, previous study in the field isn't required. Some programs require applicants from other disciplines to take foundational coursework prior to graduate studies. The submission of Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores is often required.

Coursework provides students with a foundational understanding of the tools and methods used in the field and opportunities for specialized study. Common courses include the following:

  • History of cartography
  • Advanced geography
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Remote sensing
  • Graphic design in cartography
  • GIS Modeling

Popular Career Options

Graduates of master's degree programs in cartography are prepared for many careers. In addition to becoming a cartographer, popular career options include:

  • Land surveyor
  • Civil engineer
  • Demographer
  • Real estate appraiser
  • Zoning inspector

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), cartographers held approximately 12,100 jobs in 2012. As of May 2014, cartographers earned a median annual salary of $60,930. Employment of cartographers and similar professionals, such as photogrammetrists, is expected to grow 20% between 2012 and 2022. This projected growth is attributable to the expanding use of accurate and current geographic information in marketing, disaster response planning, urban design and construction.

Continuing Education and Certification Information

Only a bachelor's or master's degree is required for most jobs in cartography. Those interested in teaching, research or further education can pursue a Ph.D. in a related field, such as geography. Many states require cartographers to be licensed as surveyors. Licensure requires passing a series of written exams administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES).

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