University of Wisconsin–Madison

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


The University of Wisconsin–Madison Department of Geography has had a distinguished Master’s of Science in Cartography/GIS for decades.

Until recently, earning your master’s at UW–Madison took two years —one year taking courses and another conducting research and writing a thesis.

Those days are over! Earn your Master of Science in Cartography/GIS in as little as one year! Bonus? Pure competency building; no thesis writing!


The 30-32 credit Accelerated / Non-Thesis Master’s degree teaches exactly what you need to become a rock star at GIS and spatial visualization.

In as little as one year you can go from GIS newbie to technology expert!

Outside of the core, required courses, our program allows you to achieve GIS skills relevant to your career goals. Select from a cornucopia of electives in topics as diverse as:

• Spatial app creation
• Web map development
• Big data visualization
• UX/UI design
• Mobile GIS tool creation, and
• Map design

Attend classes in person and online to learn from the most decorated GIS professors in the world.

Do your homework in the renowned UW Cart Lab or the Robinson Map Library.

With your Master’s from UW—Madison, not only will you earn a degree of distinction, you’ll be sought after by companies that immediately recognize the caliber of your knowledge.


Ready to join us?




• An undergraduate degree

• 3.0+ GPA

• 1 Statistics/Quantitative Methods course


• First Consideration: April 1

• International Students: April 1

• Final Deadline: June 1


• First Consideration: August 1

• International Students: August 1

• Final Deadline: October 1






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 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.


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 in the GIS Development and Accelerated/Non-Thesis named options are not permitted to accept graduate assistantships or other appointments that would result in a tuition waiver and 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 andrequirements.


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

What is an Accelerated/Non-Thesis Master's?

What Does Accelerated Mean?

Our Accelerated Master’s is a GIS curriculum on steroids.

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.


Questions? Of course you have some. Please don’t hesitate to ask us.