Online Cartography Courses and Degrees

Online cartography courses are often available through master's degree or certificate programs in geographic information science. Learn about these programs and careers in the field. Schools offering Culture & Media Studies degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What You Need to Know

Online certificates and master's programs in geographic information science or similar fields can help students learn about cartography. Many of these programs aren't offered completely online, though, so students should ensure they understand all program requirements prior to enrollment.

Online Partially available online, with internships or in-person course attendance sometimes required
Programs Graduate certificate or master's degree in geographic information science
Courses Cartography, geophysical environments, positioning systems, advanced remote sensing, environmental resource allocation, database management, map interpretation, spatial thinking, aerial photography

What Online Cartography Programs Are Available to Me?

If you are interested in cartography, consider an online graduate certificate or master's degree program in geographic information science (GISc). GISc is the use of global positioning systems, remote sensing satellites, aerial photography and other geographic information systems (GIS) technologies to gather and analyze data used in map making.

A 1-year or 2-year online graduate certificate program can familiarize you with the cartographic theory and GIS technology you will need to create topographical maps, erosion assessments or other geospatial models. You may also be able to transfer certificate courses into a GISc master's degree program.

Online master's degree programs may be offered as a Master of Science in Geographic Information Science, a Master of Geographic Information Systems or a Master of Geospatial Information Science and Technology. These 2-year programs focus on analyzing geospatial data or creating applications for GIS technologies, such as databases. You may also map and record data to support a capstone thesis or independent study project.

What Will I Learn in Online Courses?

In an online GISc certificate program, introductory cartography courses will teach you how to record information about the earth's physical environment, including its water, soil, vegetation, atmosphere and landforms. Courses also show how GIS technologies use hardware and software to evaluate and display geographic information.

In a GISc master's degree program you'll take on more advanced topics, such as how GIS equipment can be customized to make survey projects more efficient. You may also learn how to create interactive maps for the Internet or develop GIS applications for environmental resource allocation or emergency management. Typical courses may include the following:

  • Advanced remote sensing
  • Aerial photography
  • Database management
  • Map interpretation
  • Spatial thinking

Can I Complete All Coursework Online?

Most of these programs require some face-to-face meetings with your instructors, through on-campus labs or off-campus field trips. GISc certificate programs may also require an internship of ten weeks or more. If you already work in the field, internship requirements can be completed at your place of business. If you're looking for a new career, the program may find a nearby internship opportunity for you.

Some master's degree programs require that you attend week-long training excursions, where you will gather geospatial data and apply it to GIS technologies. If this is the case, you must ensure you can be at the designated location to complete coursework.

How Will Online Programs Differ from Those On Campus?

Many online degree and certificate programs offer the same curriculum as on-campus programs and are often taught by the same faculty. The main difference is that on-line courses allow you to complete assignments or access course materials at your own pace.

What Can I Do with this Degree?

If you have a bachelor's degree in a related field, such as geography, a graduate certificate in GISc can provide you with the technical skills you will need for a job as a cartographer or surveyor. These mapping professionals most commonly work for architectural firms and government agencies, such as urban planning or land management departments, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( You may also want to consider a certificate program if you already work in the field and need to update your skills.

Once you graduate from a GISc master's degree program, you can seek careers in public planning and design or geospatial project management. Graduates often find work in any field that relies on geospatial data to solve problems, such as business, environmental science or public health.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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