People often ask, “So you’re a cartographer? Hasn’t everything already been mapped?” No, cartographers are not explorers charting frontiers in an ancient time; we are artists, community organizers, data scientists, visual storytellers, and full-stack web developers. In an era of massive data sets and location-based apps, maps and geospatial data have never been more important, and the UW–Madison Cartography and GIS major covers the conceptual foundations and technical skills needed to harness maps and geospatial data to solve society’s most pressing problems. Courses range from graphic design and web mapping to big data analytics and mobile app development, with all courses having an important laboratory component to work with industry-standard cartography and GIS technology. So, yes, everywhere has been mapped in some form, but in a dynamic world driven by information and technology, cartographers and GIS scientists are needed more now than ever to help us understand our changing planet.

How to Get in

Exploring the field of geographic information science at UW–Madison is easy. Interested students are strongly encouraged to take introductory courses in the field. The Department of Geography offers four intro courses in geographic information science:

Students who intend to declare their major as Cartography and Geographic Information Systems need to schedule an appointment with the geography undergraduate advisor.

University General Education Requirements

All undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are required to fulfill a minimum set of common university general education requirements to ensure that every graduate acquires the essential core of an undergraduate education. This core establishes a foundation for living a productive life, being a citizen of the world, appreciating aesthetic values, and engaging in lifelong learning in a continually changing world. Various schools and colleges will have requirements in addition to the requirements listed below. Consult your advisor for assistance, as needed. For additional information, see the university Undergraduate General Education Requirements section of the Guide.

General Education
  • Breadth—Humanities/Literature/Arts: 6 credits
  • Breadth—Natural Science: 4 to 6 credits, consisting of one 4- or 5-credit course with a laboratory component; or two courses providing a total of 6 credits
  • Breadth—Social Studies: 3 credits
  • Communication Part A Part B *
  • Ethnic Studies *
  • Quantitative Reasoning Part A Part B *

* The mortarboard symbol appears before the title of any course that fulfills one of the Communication Part A or Part B, Ethnic Studies, or Quantitative Reasoning Part A or Part B requirements.

College of Letters & Science Degree Requirements: Bachelor of Science (BS)

Students pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in the College of Letters & Science must complete all of the requirements below. The College of Letters & Science allows this major to be paired with either the Bachelor of Arts or the Bachelor of Science degree requirements.

Bachelor of Science Degree Requirements

Mathematics Complete two courses of 3+ credits at the Intermediate or Advanced level in MATH, COMP SCI, or STAT subjects. A maximum of one course in each of COMP SCI and STAT subjects counts toward this requirement.
Language Complete the third unit of a language other than English.
LS Breadth Complete:
• 12 credits of Humanities, which must include at least 6 credits of Literature; and
• 12 credits of Social Science; and
• 12 credits of Natural Science, which must include 6 credits of Biological Science and 6 credits of Physical Science.
Liberal Arts and Science Coursework Complete at least 108 credits.
Depth of Intermediate/Advanced Coursework Complete at least 60 credits at the Intermediate or Advanced level.
Major Declare and complete at least one major.
Total Credits Complete at least 120 credits.
UW-Madison Experience Complete both:
• 30 credits in residence, overall, and
• 30 credits in residence after the 86th credit.
Quality of Work • 2.000 in all coursework at UW–Madison
• 2.000 in Intermediate/Advanced level coursework at UW–Madison

Non–L&S students pursuing an L&S major

Non–L&S students who have permission from their school/college to pursue an additional major within L&S only need to fulfill the major requirements. They do not need to complete the L&S Degree Requirements above.

Requirements for the Major


3 courses, 1 each from these areas:

Human Geography (1 course)3
Introduction to Human Geography
Introduction to Human Geography
Making the American Landscape
Weird Geographies
Revolutions and Social Change
Economic Geography: Locational Behavior
Introduction to the City
International Migration, Health, and Human Rights
Latinx Feminisms: Women's Lives, Work, and Activism
The Global Game: Soccer, Politics, and Identity
Universal Basic Income: The Politics Behind a Global Movement
Introduction to Geopolitics
World Regions in Global Context
Geography of Wisconsin
Africa, South of the Sahara
Human Geography of Southeast Asia
Critical Indigenous Ecological Knowledges
Space and Place: A Geography of Experience
Researching the City: Qualitative Strategies
Feminist Geography: Theoretical Approaches
Urban Spatial Patterns and Theories
Waste Geographies: Politics, People, and Infrastructures
Economic Geography
Critical Social Theory
Feminist Geography: Methodological Approaches
Power, Place, Identity
History of Geographic Thought
People-Environment (1 course)3
Global Environmental Issues
Making the American Landscape
People, Land and Food: Comparative Study of Agriculture Systems
Global Warming: Science and Impacts
Green Urbanism
Nature, Power and Society
Environmental Biogeography
Environmental Conservation
World Regions in Global Context
Changing Landscapes of the American West
Caring for Nature in Native North America
Australia: Environment and Society
Critical Indigenous Ecological Knowledges
People, Wildlife and Landscapes
US Environmental Policy and Regulation
American Environmental History
Human Transformations of Earth Surface Processes
Environmental Governance: Markets, States and Nature
Culture and Environment
The Humid Tropics: Ecology, Subsistence, and Development
Development and Environment in Southeast Asia
Physical Geography (1 course)3
Introduction to the Earth System
Physical Systems of the Environment
Polar Regions and Their Importance in the Global Environment
Landforms and Landscapes of North America
Global Warming: Science and Impacts
Climatic Environments of the Past
Environmental Biogeography
Geography of Wisconsin
Changing Landscapes of the American West
Glacial and Pleistocene Geology
Advanced Paleoecology: Species Responses to Past Environmental Change
Soil Geomorphology
Human Transformations of Earth Surface Processes
Total Credits9

Skills, Techniques & Methodology

Core Cartography/GIS
GEOG 370 Introduction to Cartography4
GEOG/​ENVIR ST/​F&W ECOL/​G L E/​GEOSCI/​LAND ARC  371 Introduction to Environmental Remote Sensing3
or GEOG 379 Geospatial Technologies: Drones, Sensors, and Applications
GEOG/​CIV ENGR/​ENVIR ST  377 An Introduction to Geographic Information Systems4
GEOG 378 Introduction to Geocomputing4
Quantitative Methods (1 course)3-4
Advanced Quantitative Methods
Introduction to Statistical Methods
Introductory Applied Statistics for Engineers
Introductory Applied Statistics for the Life Sciences
Mathematics Proficiency6
Complete one of the following by Placement or by completing the course
and Trigonometry
Algebra and Trigonometry
Total Credits24-25


Two courses7-8
Applications of Geographic Information Systems in Planning
Graphic Design in Cartography
Advanced Geocomputing and Geospatial Big Data Analytics
Geospatial Database Design and Development
Interactive Cartography & Geovisualization
Geospatial Web and Mobile Programming
GIS Applications
GIS and Spatial Analysis
Total Credits7-8


Complete one of:3-6
Colloquium for Undergraduate Majors
Senior Honors Thesis
and Senior Honors Thesis
Senior Thesis
and Senior Thesis
Total Credits3-6

Residence and Quality of Work

  • 2.000 GPA in GEOG and major courses
  • 2.000 GPA on 15 upper-level credits, taken in residence 2
  • 15 credits in GEOG, taken on the UW–Madison campus

 GEOG courses designated Intermediate/Advanced are upper level in this major.

Honors in the Major

Students may declare Honors in the Cartography and GIS Major in consultation with the Geography undergraduate advisor.

Honors in the Cartography and Geographic Information Systems Major Requirements

To earn Honors in the Major in Cartography and Geographic Information Systems, students must satisfy both the requirements for the major (above) and the following additional requirements:

  • Earn a 3.300 overall university GPA
  • Earn a 3.300 GPA for all GEOG courses, and all courses accepted in the major
  • Complete GEOG 578: GIS Applications with a grade of B or better
  • Complete at least one advanced-level course OR 6 credits of honors credits in the major at the 300 level or above
  • Complete a two-semester Senior Honors Thesis in GEOG 681 Senior Honors Thesis and GEOG 682 Senior Honors Thesis, a piece of original research composition, for a total of 6 credits.

University Degree Requirements

Total Degree To receive a bachelor's degree from UW–Madison, students must earn a minimum of 120 degree credits. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 degree credits. Students should consult with their college or department advisor for information on specific credit requirements.
Residency Degree candidates are required to earn a minimum of 30 credits in residence at UW–Madison. "In residence" means on the UW–Madison campus with an undergraduate degree classification. “In residence” credit also includes UW–Madison courses offered in distance or online formats and credits earned in UW–Madison Study Abroad/Study Away programs.
Quality of Work Undergraduate students must maintain the minimum grade point average specified by the school, college, or academic program to remain in good academic standing. Students whose academic performance drops below these minimum thresholds will be placed on academic probation.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Apply cartographic design principles and visual storytelling to transform geospatial data into actionable insights.
  2. Apply appropriate technologies and methods, including geographic information systems (GIS) and informed geodatabase design, to analyze qualitative and quantitative geospatial data.
  3. Use appropriate geographic concepts, methods, and technologies to interpret the dynamic interactions among human and natural characteristics of place and space.
  4. Combine geospatial theories, methodologies, and project management strategies to design and conduct ethical cartographic and geographic research and development.
  5. Utilize appropriate GIS-based spatial decision tools to inform discussions of social, economic, and environmental issues that confront policymakers and citizens.
  6. Discuss complex geospatial data, concepts, and technologies using written, oral, and visual forms of communication appropriate for technical, non-technical, and community-based audiences.

Four-Year Plan

This Four-Year Plan is only one way a student may complete an L&S degree with this major. Many factors can affect student degree planning, including placement scores, credit for transferred courses, credits earned by examination, and individual scholarly interests. In addition, many students have commitments (e.g., athletics, honors, research, student organizations, study abroad, work and volunteer experiences) that necessitate they adjust their plans accordingly. Informed students engage in their own unique Wisconsin Experience by consulting their academic advisors, Guide, DARS, and Course Search & Enroll for assistance making and adjusting their plan.

First Year
MATH 1123MATH 1133
Communication A3Ethnic Studies4
Foreign Language4Foreign Language4
Humanities Breadth3Literature Breadth3
 15 14
Second Year
GEOG 3704Communication B4
INTER-LS 2101Biological Science Breadth3
Literature Breadth3Elective4
 15 15
Third Year
GEOG 3784500-level Cartography/GIS Elective4
Major course: Human Geography3-4Biological Science Breadth3
Electives9Humanities Breadth3
 Major course: People-Environment Geography3-4
 16 14
Fourth Year
GEOG/​ENVIR ST/​F&W ECOL/​G L E/​GEOSCI/​LAND ARC  3713500-level Cartography/GIS Elective4
Major course: Physical Geography4Electives12
GEOG 5653 
 15 16
Total Credits 120

Advising and Careers


Students with questions about the major, courses, and careers are encouraged to contact the geography undergraduate advisor, Joel Gruley, at jgruley@wisc.edu.


Cartography and GIS is a booming profession, but remains one of the biggest secrets on campus because of the limited treatment of geography in K-12 education. The Department of Labor reported that there were 425,000 U.S. residents working in the geospatial industry in 2010, and the National Research Council estimates this could exceed 2 million by 2020. Cartography and GIS recently was rated the #1 profession in engineering, in part due to its extremely low unemployment rate (less than 1% of students with degrees!), strong future growth of the job market, and relatively low stress rating. Our alumni work in local, national, and international government positions, as well as in private industry, including firms such as Apple, Google, Facebook, and Uber, and media outlets such as National Geographic, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal.

L&S Career Resources

Every L&S major opens a world of possibilities.  SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science helps students turn the academic skills learned in their major, certificates, and other coursework into fulfilling lives after graduation, whether that means jobs, public service, graduate school or other career pursuits.

In addition to providing basic support like resume reviews and interview practice, SuccessWorks offers ways to explore interests and build career skills from their very first semester/term at UW all the way through graduation and beyond.

Students can explore careers in one-on-one advising, try out different career paths, complete internships, prepare for the job search and/or graduate school applications, and connect with supportive alumni and even employers in the fields that inspire them.


Geography Faculty and Staff