How to Convert Decimal Degrees Into Degrees, Minutes, Seconds

(Photo by Nanette Hoogslag Premi / Getty Images)

You'll sometimes find degrees given in decimal degrees (121.135 degrees) instead of the more common degrees, minutes and seconds (121 degrees 8 minutes and 6 seconds). However, it's easy to convert from a decimal to the sexagesimal system if, for example, you need to combine data from maps that are calculated in two different systems. GPS systems, for example when geocaching, should be able to switch between the different coordinate systems. 

Here's How

  1. The whole units of degrees will remain the same (i.e., in 121.135 degrees longitude, start with 121 degrees).
  2. Multiply the decimal by 60 (i.e., .135 * 60 = 8.1).
  3. The whole number becomes the minutes (8).
  4. Take the remaining decimal that was just rounded and multiply by 60 (i.e., .1 * 60 = 6).
  5. The resulting number becomes the seconds (6 seconds). Seconds can remain as a decimal, if needed.
  6. Take your three sets of numbers and put them together, (i.e., 121°8'6" longitude).


  1. After you have degrees, minutes, and seconds, it's often easier to find your location on most maps (especially topographic maps).
  2. Though there are 360 degrees in a circle, each degree is divided into sixty minutes, and each minute is divided into sixty seconds.
  3. A degree is 70 miles (113 km), a minute 1.2 miles (1.9 km) and a second at .02 miles, or 106 feet (32 m).