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Geographic Information Systems (GIS) - Cartography and Geovisualization

Combine your interests in art, design, science and technology.

A woman wearing glasses works at a computer station and examines GIS data.
Start Date:
Typical Length:
1 Year

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In this program you'll create professional, dynamic visualizations and maps using the latest geospatial technologies in GIS, data analytics and graphics applications to support industry decisions. You'll learn to visually communicate a story by researching, preparing and applying cartographic design practices to a variety of datasets. Throughout the program you'll connect with industry partners, clients and professional associations.

You learn how to:

  • Create and construct engaging data geovisualizations
  • Develop 3D visualizations and interactive maps for online and mobile applications
  • Use cartographic design, typography and symbolization
  • Design map and visualization projects for both print and digital platforms

NSCC students have been recognized by the Canadian Cartographic Association, CaGIS, Canadian Geographic, NACIS and National Geographic for excellence in cartography.

This program is offered online through the Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS), Canada's largest geomatics-focused learning environment, and prepares you for a career in the global geomatics sector.

Work experience

  • Field experience is a mandatory credit course, providing the opportunity to apply your knowledge and skills outside the classroom.
    • Opportunities are typically unpaid and last approximately 5 weeks.
  • Transportation, accommodations and other costs related to work experience courses are your responsibility.
  • For more information, visit work experience opportunities.

Choose NSCC

  • NSCC's Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS) provides a focused approach to geomatics training. COGS has earned a strong reputation among employers and geomatics professionals for the quality of the programs, hands-on training and practical learning provided to students.
  • Small class sizes provide you with lots of opportunities for one-on-one interaction and support.
  • You use the most up-to-date equipment and software and get the hands-on training that makes COGS graduates the preferred choice of employers.
  • You are supported by expert faculty who bring strong industry connections and years of experience to the classroom.

Other info

  • Important abilities and skills – good colour and stereoscopic vision are physical requirements of a successful cartographer. Weaknesses in either may restrict your opportunities in this line of work.
  • Many employers in this industry require a current, official criminal record check as part of the hiring process. A conviction on your criminal record may impact your ability to secure employment.

September 2024

Campus Full time/part time Delivery Availability
Annapolis Valley Campus
Full time Synchronous online
Delivered fully online with both non-scheduled and scheduled classes.
Seats available

Admission requirements

Program requirements

  • Portfolio development – As part of your studies at NSCC, you develop a portfolio of your work; the portfolio captures your achievements and profiles your skills to employers.


Tuition amounts are for the 2023-24 academic year. Program costs and fees (textbooks, supplies, etc.) are additional.

Tuition (Domestic):
Tuition (International):

Tuition, fees and program costs

In addition to annual tuition, there are program costs (books, tools, etc.) and student fees for College services, health and dental plans, your student association and parking.

View detailed program fees page(s). Please note that amounts on these pages are meant for planning purposes only. They don't represent final amounts owing.

Career options

  • You're qualified to work in any sector that requires work with Geographic Information Systems and a has need for data visualizations, including environment, energy and mines, agriculture, forestry, fisheries, health, transportation, tourism, recreation, real estate, journalism, IT, graphic design, academia, publishing, research, municipal, provincial and federal government offices.
  • Our graduates work in Nova Scotia and around the world in a variety of mapping industries. A significant number of graduates have gone on to find successful careers as independent consultants.

Courses may include

These are some of the courses offered in this program. It is not a complete list and courses are subject to change in advance of the academic year.

Recognizing prior learning / transfer credits
If you have previous learning (course, employment, etc...) that's relevant to your program, you may be able to apply to earn credit. Not all programs are eligible. Learn about our recognizing prior learning (RPL) process.

COMP 1131 - Spatial Databases
This course teaches cartographers to manage data for mapping and geovisualization projects. Students design, build and populate a database to support a mapping project. This database is then connected to a Geographic Information System (GIS) application to create a geovisualization. Lessons are guided by current practices in integrating data and building Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI). By the end of this course, students are able to better manage data for their mapping projects and ensure data integrity in their data management.

CRTY 1001 - Spatial Fundamentals
Coordinate reference systems and map scale are foundational in representing spatial data on any map. Choosing the correct spatial reference and scale impacts how map users interpret or calculate data. Students will learn how to determine which coordinate reference system is best for their application and why scale is important when representing spatial data.

CRTY 1002 - Fundamentals of GIS
This course teaches students the power of GIS as a cartographer’s tool . Students use GIS applications to answer geospatial questions and to solve problems. They learn how to efficiently create, edit and store geospatial data. Answers to geospatial problems are generated and presented in an aesthetically pleasing cartographic product.

CRTY 1003 - Map Design and Geovisualization I
Maps are a means of communication and this course introduces students to the vital map-making processes that occurs from the time a map is conceptualized to the final visualization or map product. Students study how maps function as visual abstractions of selected aspects of reality. Topics include familiarization with the roles of cartographers and their clients, map user groups with specific map needs, map scale, and selection of appropriate map technologies. The relationship between qualitative and quantitative data types and use of appropriate map symbols is explored. Emphasis is placed on cartographic parameters including layout, map typography and visual hierarchy. Colour and the function of aesthetics in map design are introduced as a method to maintain reader interest without sacrificing data communication.

CRTY 1012 - GIS Workflows for Cartography
This course introduces students to concepts that are integral to any map production project. Students gain experience in practical map production using an advanced set of techniques to create high quality cartographic products using Geographic Information System (GIS) software. This course is designed to provide students with the skills to research, design, analyze and produce digital maps by going beyond the defaults and using GIS tools to save time. Production planning and strategic workflows are discussed to maximize efficiency and cost effectiveness of a cartographic project.

CRTY 1013 - Map Design and Geovisualization II
The first step in making a great thematic map is understanding your data. This course teaches students to categorize data to ensure the clarity of messages portrayed on a map. Students aggregate and classify data to display interesting trends. They then display patterns in the data by applying statistical mapping and charting techniques. Effective symbolization practices are covered while bringing the entire learning together in a visualization.

CRTY 1023 - Map Design and Visualization Techniques
Building on previous learning in map design, students create thematic maps used in modern media. Students implement various visualization techniques to create realistic products related to objects or patterns true to the real-world. Some study in this course is based on the cartographic craft used for centuries and other techniques will represent current and emerging solutions.

CRTY 1030 - Applied Thematic Project
Thematic Cartography uses a combination of tools and applications to achieve a highly artistic view of geographic data. This course explores technologies that meet standards of publishing in the cartographic industry. Students apply cartographic theory and explore trending design practices to create a thematic map.

CRTY 1033 - Web Mapping
Web mapping applications are integrated with a stack of technologies on both the client and server side providing rich experience on the user’s end. This course builds on the basics of web programming with a focus on web cartography. Students expand their cartographic skills to creating maps for online by exploring static to interactive visualizations. They build client-side scripting skills by creating interactive web pages and applying web mapping libraries commonly used in geovisualizations.

CRTY 1035 - Advanced Geovisualization
Creating geovisualizations requires exploratory data analysis and design theory. Students apply lessons gained from the program to create user friendly visualizations of more complex data. They explore more advanced thematic mapping techniques used to map time data and to display change analysis. Through this process they share graphics online and learn how to create interactive maps.

CRTY 1043 - Map Publishing
Using current technologies for map publishing, students design and implement a cartographic project while exploring contemporary topics not covered in other portions of the program such as using page layout software to prepare work for printing and publishing or planning a multi-scale online mapping project.

CRTY 2000 - Cartography Lab
Cartography Lab is an applied learning experience where students have the opportunity to apply their learning experiences from the program. Students work directly with clients to deliver creative mapping solutions for their geospatial projects. It is intended that this is a creative work environment with expectations that students will collaborate with colleagues, mentors and subject matter experts on a cartographic project. This course may consist of a combination of work experience and directed studies, industry projects or applied research and will take place in the final five weeks of the program.

ENTR 2020 - Entrepreneurial Skills for Cartographers
This course develops fundamental skills associated with entrepreneurial awareness and approaches in cartography. It exposes learners to resources and tools available to support self-employment and better understand common business practices. Students research trends in job markets, learn about standards outlined by GIS professionals and legalities associated with their work. In conjunction with the Thematic Mapping Project course, students practice skills to manage a cartographic project. These project management skills are key to being successful in a traditional employment model or while performing freelance project work.

PROG 1041 - Introduction to Programming for Cartography and Geovisualization
This course is intended for those with minimal or no prior programming experience and exposes the learner to programming logic. Students are introduced to basic programming concepts and techniques that focus on designing and developing efficient programmatic solutions, eventually transitioning into using web mapping libraries and APIs to visualize spatial data at an introductory level. This course is the foundation for web mapping and automating cartographic workflows as students progress through the program.

PROG 1130 - Programming for Cartography and Geovisualization
In this course, students build on basic programming skills by using code in their cartographic projects. Using scripting and expression languages they learn how to improve efficiencies and automate cartographic workflows and tasks commonly used by the industry. Students develop vital skills to save time with tasks like data processing and geoprocessing, updating mapping profiles, complicated labelling and symbology, and creating or making information easier to understand for the user.

SAFE 1000 - Introduction to WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information Systems)
This course offers learners basic overview of WHMIS principles and establishes a solid foundation to support workplace-specific training on the safe storage and handling of controlled/hazardous products. Upon successful completion of the course, students receive basic WHMIS certification.

SAFE 1001 - Introduction to NS OH&S Act
This course offers students an introduction to the Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S) Act of Nova Scotia, which is required by any person employed in a Nova Scotia workplace. This is a generic, introductory course that provides basic knowledge of the Act for students and is considered to be the basis from which more specific training can be given.

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