Accelerated / Non-Thesis Master’s in Cartography & GIS

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Application Requirements:
• An undergraduate degree
• 3.0+ GPA
• 1 Statistics/Quantitative Methods course


The Accelerated Master’s begins by covering the core competencies needed by GIS professionals. Required courses in the program include three intro course in GIS, cartography, and programming.

Note: these three courses are also available via our Online GIS Fundamentals Capstone.

The only other required course is the 4-credit Practicum (Geog 778) that you take last. All other courses (15-16 credits) you may choose from our expansive list of electives.

The Practicum provides you an opportunity to develop, implement, and complete a unique GIS or cartography project by yourself under the guidance of a professional or academic mentor.

Note: Course availability is subject to semester offerings, which change year-to-year. Online courses may be required to complete the program in one year.

Core courses (16 credits):

  • Geog 370: Intro to Cartography, 4cr. (Every semester) 
  • Geog 377: Intro to GIS, 4cr. (Every semester) 
  • Geog 378: Intro to Geocomputing, 4cr. (Fall only) 
  • Geog 778: Practicum in GIS Development, 4cr. (Every semester) 

Electives (15-16 credits):

  • Geog 560: Advanced Quantitative Methods, 3cr. (Spring only) 
  • Geog 572: Graphic Design in Cartography , 4cr. (Fall only) 
  • Geog 573: Advanced Geocomputing and Geospatial Big Data Analytics, 4cr.  
  • Geog 574: Spatial Databases, 4cr. (Fall only) 
  • Geog 575: Interactive Cartography & Geovisualization, 4cr. (Spring only) 
    • Prerequisite: Geog 370
  • Geog 576: Spatial Web & Mobile Programming, 4cr. (Spring only) 
    • Prerequisite: Geog 378
  • Geog 578: GIS Applications, 4 cr. (Spring only) 
  • Geog 579: GIS & Spatial Analysis, 4cr. (Fall only) 

Visit our Curriculum page for course descriptions.


Please visit our Financial Information page to learn more about tuition and financial aid for this program.

Credit Transfers

• Already have a course in GIS or cartography under your belt? No problem! At the discretion of the program, students may transfer up to 7 credits of UW-Madison undergraduate GIS coursework into this program.
• Already completed a capstone certificate at UW–Madison? No problem! University Special Students may transfer up to 15 credits of UW–Madison Capstone credits toward this degree. Please note that this option may require additional tuition charges.

Program Policies

  • Half of degree coursework (e.g., 15 credits out of 30 total credits) must be completed in graduate-level coursework.
  • Students who are enrolled in the Accelerated/Non-thesis Cartography/GIS MS program are eligible to accept graduate assistantships or other appointments in geography or across the university. However, these opportunities do not come with tuition remission and students cannot enroll in other graduate programs nor take courses outside the prescribed curriculum.
  • Visit the Graduate Guide for more detail regarding credit transfers and program policies and requirements.
  • Per Graduate School policy, any prior coursework must have been rigorous and meet the expectations of a graduate work for the program. Coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master’s degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.


For two semesters you’ll immerse yourself in courses that complement one another. It will all culminate in a final (third) semester with your GIS Practicum, where you’ll create a state-of-the-art project from scratch — capping off your, by then, already impressive portfolio.

This is an accelerated graduate degree meaning it is intense and requires full-time participation. Graduate degrees are not only more advanced than undergraduate degrees, they require a much firmer commitment to studying. Taking 12-15 credits a semester, you can expect to spend 40-50 hours a week in class, working on projects, and doing extra-curricular learning activities. Additionally, in-house course offerings can be limited; therefore, some courses may be taken online if they are not available in-house.

You will not be lonely! You will be working with and beside a cohort of future GIS experts. You will be mentored by Friends and Alumni of GIS Professional Programs. You will be, in a word, with family.


Application Deadlines:

*Letters of Recommendation should be received by the final deadline.

• First Consideration: April 1
• International Students: April 1
• Final Deadline: June 1

• First Consideration: August 1
• International Students: August 1
• Final Deadline: October 1

Required Documents:

Resume – Include relevant work experience, education, professional training in GIS, cartography, or programming skills, and other pertinent information. International students: please provide the breakdown of your TOEFL score so we can determine your reading and writing scores separately from the overall score.

Unofficial Transcripts – From any previously completed undergraduate and graduate degrees. Unofficial (e.g., scanned, downloaded) transcripts are fine at this point. Only after you’re accepted into the program will the Grad School require official copies. (Note: official copies will only be needed from your final, degree-granting institution.)

Contact Information for Two Professional or Academic References – You need the following info for each contact: Name, Mailing Address, Email, and Phone. Your contact will automatically be sent an email from the Grad School website when you complete your application.

Statement of Interest – This 1-2 page document please tell us about your educational/professional background, GIS interests, career goals, and why you chose our program here at UW-Madison.

Application Fee – Please have a Visa/Mastercard Credit or Debit Card ready to pay the $75 application fee. International students are assessed an additional small fee, so the cost is closer to $85 USD.

International Students – If you are a non-native English speaker, you must take the TOEFL exam and submit your scores during the application process. Minimum acceptable TOEFL scores by the UW Graduate School are 92 for internet based test (IBT) and 580 for paper test. More information can be found here.

Online Application:

Online Graduate School Application
• Please make sure you select the following program: Cartography & Geographic Information Systems MS – Accelerated/Non-Thesis. (There are three Cartography & Geographic Information Systems MS Programs. Accelerated/Non-Thesis is the in-residence Master’s.)

Application Fee Grants/Waivers:

We are excited that you are considering GIS Professional Programs at UW-Madison! We offer two different application fee grant opportunities for prospective students from underrepresented communities.

  1. The Graduate School offers a limited number of application fee grants for prospective students who participated in selected pipeline programs designed to prepare students for graduate studies or who grew up in a low-income family. These grants are currently available to U.S. citizens, permanent resident applicants, and students with DACA status who can document eligibility. A completed application (including any needed verification) must be submitted at least five business days prior to the earliest application deadline to ensure there is enough time to process the request. More details can be found on the UW-Madison Graduate School Applying for a Fee Grant page.
  2. GISPP also offers a limited number of application fee waivers for prospective students who are from historically underrepresented communities but are not eligible for or are denied a Graduate School application fee grant. Please contact to confirm your eligibility. A request for an application waiver requires submission of the draft letter of interest, CV/resume, and unofficial transcripts for pre-screening by the GIS Professional Programs. Requests for an application waiver must be submitted at least three weeks before the targeted application deadline to allow for processing by GISPP staff.