Cartography programs teach people to make maps. Students learn to use math and computers to aid them in reading and designing maps. They also learn to interpret geographic information from photos.
When you think about maps, you probably think of the kind you keep folded up in the car. However, maps can be used to show rainfall patterns, the layout of a city's sewers, and the location of mountains and valleys. Some maps are created from photographs taken by satellites. These maps show information ranging from climate changes to spy activity.
Cartographers are the people who make maps. They are part artist, part computer guru, and part world traveler. As a cartographer, you can work in many areas, including geology, education, and public policy. You can work for businesses, the government, or schools. Cartographers often combine mapmaking with jobs as statisticians, historians, and librarians.
In a cartography program, you take courses in statistics, politics, biology, and geology. For example, you take geography courses about how landscapes change and populations grow. One of the most important courses you take is the one that teaches you GIS. This is Geographic Information System, a mapmaking computer system. You also learn how to use scanners and different types of cameras.
Usually you study cartography as part of a geography program. Most four-year colleges and universities offer bachelor's degrees in geography. A smaller number offer bachelor's degrees specifically in cartography, about 15. Some two-year schools offer cartography programs that focus on mapmaking technology. Most two-year cartography degrees can be transferred to a four-year program.
A handful of schools offer graduate degree programs in cartography. These programs take from two to five years after you finish your bachelor's degree. Most people who get graduate degrees in cartography become professors or scientists.