Master’s Student Combines Passion for Archaeology and GIS into New Career Opportunity

– Master’s Degree Becoming the Norm for Mid-level Management Positions –

AURORA, Colo. – March 17, 2014 – A glimpse into the power of geographic information systems (GIS) in 2001 was all it took to make an archaeologist decide he wanted to learn everything he could about GIS.

For the past 13 years, Chris Leatherman, an archaeologist and current GIS graduate student at American Sentinel University has taken that curiosity a step further – incorporating modern technology coupled with an advanced education to supplement his career.

Over a decade ago, Leatherman was an archaeologist with the City of Deadwood, S.D. where he cataloged archaeological materials from the town’s long forgotten Chinatown district, now a National Historic Landmark. After seeing GIS technology in use, he was intrigued.

The fact that archaeology involves the study of the spatial dimensions of human behavior over time made GIS an ideal technical skill set for an archaeologist like Leatherman to acquire and he was onboard. “I sensed right away that if I could incorporate GIS into archaeology, I would have great career advancement opportunity,” he says.

A Career Evolution

After enrolling in the M.A. in interdisciplinary studies at the University of South Dakota and taking a number of GIS courses, in 2007 he applied for a GIS specialist position with the City of Gillette, Wyo. and got the position. He currently serves as the liaison between the public works department and the GIS division building databases and information products for public works and various other departments.

“It was a pretty sharp learning curve at first, but the city is very generous in getting us whatever training we need,” says Leatherman.

In addition to taking advantage of the multitude of training opportunities, Leatherman also began taking software design and development coursework online, but ultimately, he decided that he wanted to earn a master’s degree in GIS.

Searching for the Right Program

Throughout 2011, he searched for the right GIS master’s program and says that, “American Sentinel University was exactly what I wanted.” He enrolled in the Master of Geospatial Information Systems (MGIS) the following year.

Leatherman says that the length and affordability of American Sentinel’s program was right for him. He especially liked that the program allows students to focus on an objective or idea through their final capstone project. He says that he wants to start a consulting business and that the Capstone Project is a great chance for him to explore that further.

“Earning a master’s degree in GIS would allow someone to move into a managerial position to oversee a team of GIS technicians and analysts,” says Stephen McElroy, GIS program chair at American Sentinel University. “Relevant work experience combined with an advanced degree can place an individual in a very competitive position for an internal promotion or in Chris’ case – a new opportunity in a related industry.”

Dr. McElroy points out that in a technological field such as GIS, a master’s degree is increasingly becoming the norm for mid-level management positions.

In the future, Leatherman plans to launch a consulting company that provides GIS services to private and public entities, building databases and collecting data.

“I’m very focused on learning so I can better myself in my job today and gain as much knowledge as I can for the day that I am running my own business,” he says. “I’ve been very happy with the American Sentinel GIS master’s program. I have more than six years of practical GIS experience, but I am still finding there is still so much for me to learn. To me that means my investment is worth it.”

In today’s technology-driven world, American Sentinel’s online GIS master’s program is ideal for working professionals who want to incorporate geospatial strategies and practices into their working environment. The program also helps professionals seeking continuing education to enhance their credentials and skills.

Learn more about American Sentinel University’s online Master of Geospatial Information Systems Program.

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.