Spinal cord segmentation is a developing area of research intended to aid the processing and interpretation of advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). For example, high resolution three-dimensional volumes can be segmented to provide a measurement of spinal cord atrophy. Spinal cord segmentation is difficult due to the variety of MRI contrasts and the variation in human anatomy. In this study we propose a new method of spinal cord segmentation based on one-dimensional template matching and provide several metrics that can be used to compare with other segmentation methods. A set of ground-truth data from 10 subjects was manually-segmented by two different raters. These ground truth data formed the basis of the segmentation algorithm. A user was required to manually initialize the spinal cord center-line on new images, taking less than one minute. Template matching was used to segment the new cord and a refined center line was calculated based on multiple centroids within the segmentation. Arc distances down the spinal cord and cross-sectional areas were calculated. Inter-rater validation was performed by comparing two manual raters (n = 10). Semi-automatic validation was performed by comparing the two manual raters to the semi-automatic method (n = 10). Comparing the semi-automatic method to one of the raters yielded a Dice coefficient of 0.91 +/- 0.02 for ten subjects, a mean distance between spinal cord center lines of 0.32 +/- 0.08 mm, and a Hausdorff distance of 1.82 +/- 0.33 mm. The absolute variation in cross-sectional area was comparable for the semi-automatic method versus manual segmentation when compared to inter-rater manual segmentation. The results demonstrate that this novel segmentation method performs as well as a manual rater for most segmentation metrics. It offers a new approach to study spinal cord disease and to quantitatively track changes within the spinal cord in an individual case and across cohorts of subjects.