Which GIS Program Should I Take?

American Sentinel University has announced its new advanced GIS programs. The Geospatial Information Systems Graduate Certificate and the Masters in Geospatial Information Systems programs help people further their studies and professional goals in this important field.

They have related but distinct curricula and focuses, which raises the question of which option is best for you. Both the graduate certificate and the master’s programs assume that students have some degree of pre-existing practical GIS knowledge. They may not be experts, but have had previous exposure to the technologies and tools. Those without any exposure to GIS might consider American Sentinel’s Bachelor of Science or Associate of Science in GIS programs. These have more of a purely technical focus and are good basic introductions to the subject.

The graduate certificate and master’s programs are for more advanced applications as well as the knowledge of how to integrate GIS into a managerial frame of mind. You should have some existing knowledge of GIS and want to learn how to apply the tools and theory in a more strategic way. Those that opt for the graduate certificate program do not need to be GIS experts, but have more knowledge of the subject than most people. They could come from any of a number of economic sectors.

The graduate certificate program offers an accelerated education in the real-world use of geospatial information in a way that is applicable across a broad spectrum of economic sectors and industries. The certificate helps students to simultaneously apply GIS concepts across many disciplines — for example, supply chain and logistics, demographic analysis, and global communications — in such industries as health and human services, environmental, business, government and public sector, defense and public safety, and natural resources and energy.

The master’s program is ideal for leaders seeking to expand their workplace skills to apply geospatial technologies and visualization strategies into real-world systems and problem solving. Students learn new approaches in implementing, integrating and leveraging geospatial tools, resources, policies and procedures to maximize the use of visual, spatial, temporal, social, and contextual information. They can apply this new perspective to strategic decision making within organizations to effectively understand and solve complex problems.

Within the master’s program, there are two options a student can choose from: the project track and the course track. The project track will be attractive to many potential students because it incorporates the development of an extensive and sophisticated application, which can be designed for an area of personal interest, but can also be a stepping stone to helping their organization. The course track is intended more for a generalist who wants exposure to many uses of GIS and not necessarily an intense focus on one specific application in a particular industry. It’s similar to an MBA in the sense of developing a broad background in a field of study. There is no right or wrong answer, only seeing where your interests lie and finding the program and option that offers the best match.

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