KISM started as a Survey Training School situated at Ngong town to train European troops stationed in Kenya. In 1952, the Training School was relocated to Survey of Kenya Field Headquarters – Ruaraka. The School was training Occupational Test courses in Surveying, Cartography, Survey Records, and Map Reproduction.
In early 1990s, the demand for training of technicians and craftsmen in surveying, mapping and printing courses had increased and this made it necessary for the Government to expand the Training School. Consequently, the Government through technical support from the Government of Japan embarked on the development of the Kenya Institute of Surveying and Mapping.
Between 1991 and 1994, a model course was mounted to upgrade skills of serving officers at technician level in view of emerging technical trends. In 1996 KISM embarked on training of Secondary School leavers for the open market in the following programs:
- Diploma and higher diploma in Land Surveying.
- Diploma and higher diploma in Cartography.
- Diploma in Map Reproduction.
- Diploma and higher diploma in Photogrammetry & Remote Sensing.
In 2017 the institute introduced certificate courses in land Surveying and Printing.
Since its inception KISM has enrolled 2,644 diploma students, 437 higher diploma students and 142 for the craft certificate. A further 2,205 trainees have been trained in various short-term courses offered in the institute.
From a humble beginning KISM has become a leader in surveying and mapping in East and Central Africa.