Cartography Degree Programs and College Major Information

Read about degree program requirements and courses for students majoring in cartography. Learn about some career choices, continuing education and the licensing necessary for some cartography professionals.

Essential Information

Cartography degree programs are available at both the bachelor's and master's degree levels. These programs cover geospatial analysis, computer mapping and other subjects through lectures and hands-on instruction. Programs at both levels include lecture courses and hands-on technical training in the tools of cartography. 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.

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.

Educational Prerequisites

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.

Program Coursework

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
  • Geospatial analysis
  • Aerial photo interpretation
  • Computer mapping
  • Earth science

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (, cartographers held approximately 13,800 jobs in 2010. As of May 2012, cartographers earned a median annual salary of $57,440. Employment of cartographers and similar professionals, such as photogrammetrists, was expected to grow 22% between 2010 and 2020. This growth was attributed to the expanding use of accurate and current geographic information in marketing, disaster response planning, urban design and construction.

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.

Educational Prerequisites

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.

Program Coursework

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
  • Spatial analysis
  • 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

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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