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Cartography Classes and Courses Overview

Through cartography classes, students learn how to analyze topography and use compasses to create accurate maps. Continue reading for an overview of common cartography courses.

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Essential Information

Cartography classes are available through associate's, bachelor's and master's degree programs in geographic information systems (GIS), geography, regional planning or cartography. Some of these programs include both campus-based and online coursework. Through instructor-led lecture sessions, and hands-on labs, students can learn how to research terrain using spatial data and aerial photographs; they also learn how to make their own maps. Many bachelor's programs include field experiences or internships, while master's programs commonly include research-intensive thesis projects.

Here are some common concepts taught in cartography courses:

  • Mapping techniques
  • Research
  • Map projections
  • Types of photography and radar systems
  • Databases and production

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List of Courses

Introduction to Cartography Course

Introductory cartography classes familiarize students with the vocabulary and symbols of map design and an overview of types of maps and map-making tools. In cartography courses, students discuss the historical development of the field and practice identifying maps by their historical period. Working with both computer cartography and geographic information systems (GIS), students learn the basic principles of geodesy, statistical mapping and graphing, as well as developing basic graphic design skills to create high-quality and accurate maps by the end of the class.

Field Studies and Data Collection Course

Students in a cartography field studies course demonstrate the correct use of topographic maps, compasses and global positioning systems (GPS) to explore a specific area. The courses include both lecture and lab portions; in the lecture portion, students study whether the topography of an area has changed and study how buildings have affected development. For labs, students go to libraries and conduct interviews to visualize how the topography looked previously.

Visualization of Cartography Course

In this cartography class, students learn how to use cartography information to create GIS, which can lead to more advanced maps and applications in GPS used in cars and for planning. After adapting the information, students gain experience verifying its accuracy. Students create maps for many purposes, using the same typography information and creating both print and digital maps. They adapt the information to show streets, trees, homes and water sources.

Aerial Photo Interpretation Course

Cartography courses in aerial photo interpretation teach skills used by assessors and surveyors to analyze aerial photography and interpret the information. Students create maps to scale using map-making tools and photographs of a scene taken from an airborne platform like a plane or helicopter. Students project the maps and integrate symbols to mark residential homes, trees, shore lines, roads, businesses.

Advanced Cartography Course

Students in these courses study advanced methods to represent spatial data, with a special focus on creating interactive and animated maps for the Internet. Students use basic HTML coding and become familiar with illustration and photo-editing software. Skills in data collection and conversion are expanded for students to create professional-quality maps. Other topics covered in advanced cartography classes include the representation of urban environments on maps and the social theory of Eurocentrism as it applies to cartography. Recommended prerequisite classes are geography classes and beginning cartography classes.

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