– Undergraduate Degree in GIS Gives Candidate a Competitive Edge in the Job Market –
AURORA, Colo. – October 30, 2013 – After working as a geographic information systems (GIS) analyst for 27 years, Joe Lettrick sought a bachelor’s degree program that would offer him a deeper education in enterprise GIS.
After earning his associate degree in mechanical design and drafting, he gained experience as a GIS and computer-aided drafting (CAD) project manager and as a GIS analyst and supervisor for a city’s information systems division.
Lettrick moved between private companies, cities and a national laboratory and was responsible for designing, developing, managing and supporting enterprise GIS systems, but wanted to earn the education to match his experience level and knew it was time to go back to school to earn a bachelor’s degree.
Stephen McElroy, GIS program chair at American Sentinel University says that an undergraduate degree in GIS gives a candidate a competitive edge in the job market because it establishes that a student has the requisite skills to work with geographic information and to apply critical thinking skills, analytical tools and techniques and multidisciplinary theories and methods in unique and creative ways to answer specific geospatial challenges.
“I was looking for a very specific program that would match what I’d been doing for my entire career and American Sentinel University’s GIS program was exactly what I wanted,” says Lettrick. “The curriculum, the fact that the program was online, the flexible hours and the student interaction: it was a great fit overall.”
Earning the Education to Match His Experience
Over the next three years, Lettrick continued to work full time while taking three or four classes each term. He graduated cum laude in 2011, and not long thereafter, a job opportunity became available at Montana-Dakota Utilities (MDU), where Lettrick would have the chance to supervise regional GIS staff and support GIS services associated with MDU’s enterprise wide GIS environment in eight states.
“They really liked my enterprise experience, but the truth is that without a bachelor’s degree, I wouldn’t have even gotten an interview,” he says.
He was hired in October 2012.
“Although work experience is extremely valuable, it is often viewed in the context of building upon the foundation of a formal education. Earning a BSGIS degree demonstrates the completion of a standardized curriculum in the discipline,” says Dr. McElroy. “In the case of students with significant work experience, it provides the opportunity to link theory to practice. In Joe’s circumstance, the BSGIS degree served as the educational credential he needed to advance up the career ladder.”
A New Opportunity
His boss, Dennis Hammer, enterprise GIS manager for MDU, says that it didn’t take long to realize that Lettrick’s education had paid off.
“Joe brought excellent knowledge and skills to MDU,” says Hammer, who had the opportunity to meet American Sentinel’s GIS program chair when he and Lettrick attended the 2013 Esri International User Conference in July. “I believe that he received a high-quality education, by virtue of the knowledge he has. It is apparent to me that he made a good educational choice in American Sentinel.”
Equipped with his new degree, Lettrick’s new job responsibilities include managing people – as well as technology. He is currently leading a major project, upgrading the GIS software and processes for four of MDU’s utility companies that serve more than 1 million customers.
“It is literally the biggest project I’ve ever undertaken,” he says. “But I feel confident that I can do it. The great thing about this field is that it always changes. And I find that exciting.”
A Plan for Further Education
One of Lettrick’s next big goals is earning a master’s degree in GIS, as he hopes to become an educator after his career.
“At some point, I would love to teach enterprise GIS and maybe be that person to encourage people to check out this great field with so much opportunity,” he says.
After a great undergraduate experience, Lettrick has his sights set on American Sentinel’s Master of Geospatial Information Systems.
“American Sentinel has a strong GIS program. I wouldn’t be where I am now in my career without my degree.”
Learn more about American Sentinel University’s GIS degrees at http://www.americansentinel.edu/information-technology/a-s-geographic-information-systems.
About American Sentinel University
American Sentinel University delivers the competitive advantages of accredited associate, bachelor's and master's online degree programs focused on the needs of high-growth sectors, including information technology, computer science, GIS masters programs, online GIS certificates, computer information systems and business intelligence degrees. The university is accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC), which is listed by the U.S. Department of Education as a nationally recognized accrediting agency and is a recognized member of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
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