Making a Career in Geointelligence

Sangeeta Deogawanka


The turn of the century has brought to the fore a new era of crisis situations like the global war against terror, fight against the spread of Ebola and the Syrian refugee crisis.

The common thread running through these situations trending through 2015, has been the analysis of location and geographical spread. At every moment of these crises, GIS has provided the framework for a real time situational awareness and problem resolution.

In the face of global situations that call for analysis of visual imagery, application of geospatial technologies and the craft of intelligence, Geointelligence emerges as the critical link.

Today, career opportunities in Geointelligence are growing rapidly, not just in the United States and the U.K., but the world over. So if you have an analytical bent of mind and are predisposed to everything ‘geo’, perhaps you could explore Geointelligence as a career option?

What is Geointelligence?

Geointelligence (GEOINT) is a mashup of technology, critical information and analytical rigor for a decision advantage in humanitarian response, strategic defense, security or investigative analysis.

Recognizing the special needs of crisis situations plaguing the world, the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation’s (USGIF) has become the trailblazer of Geointelligence as the profession most equipped to tackle these global problems.

Over the years, USGIF has made efforts at accreditation and support of academic programs to create standardization throughout the GEOINT community and the GEOINT profession.

What are the requirements of the GEOINT profession?

The GEOINT profession calls for a unique blending of skill sets and expertise that go far beyond data analysis and technology use. It applies established principles, tools and techniques to study and analyze changing patterns of human activity and real-world problems. The objective being prediction of future outcomes and location based decisions.

Soft Skills

Passion for geography, liking for numbers, visualization skills, people skills, networking skills, grit to undertake highly sensitive missions, analytical thinking, and so on.


In addition to expertise in GIS or Geospatial technology, domain based proficiency is required in at least one or more of the following:

  • technologies in use (RS, UAV, IT, and so on)
  • geography – human, physical, environmental
  • database design/ data management/ data security /software implementation
  • military / defense background
  • homeland security / police /other law enforcement agency background
  • business strategy, disaster management, crisis response
  • analytics – video analytics, data analytics, social media analytics
  • specialized skillsets – imagery analysis /cyber forensics / ethical hacking/ cryptography / deep web data mining / criminology /intelligence tradecraft / expertise in regional sociology

Geointelligence calls for high levels of proficiency across various domains, to enable intelligent and swift analysis. More the expertise areas, better is the scope for analysis. So continuing education of GEOINT practitioners also forms the essence of GEOINT proficiency.

Pursuing the GEOINT profession

GIS Practitioners /Analysts, Geography Researchers, Engineers (IT, Earth Science, Geoinformatics, Civil, Avionics, Remote Science), Servicemen / ex-servicemen, members of law enforcement agencies, imagery analysts, and so on.

How to transition your career to Geointelligence?

Geointelligence or GEOINT involves competency based learning that is in the process of being standardized. The Universal GEOINT EBK(Essential Body of Knowledge) put into place by the USGIF, identifies the knowledge, skills and abilities considered critical to the GEOINT profession. It outlines six essential knowledge areas and 200 plus proficiency topics. A good idea would be to look up the EBK and plan your credential trajectory based on your current degree, professional experience, interest areas, proposed time horizon and fund availability.

The GEOINT career trail from academics to expertise
The GEOINT career trail from academics to expertise.

Professional Certifications offered by various accredited universities (12) and the USGIF driven UGC (Universal GEOINT Certification) are the ultimate credentials for a GEOINT professional.

Courses and Scholarships

Collegiate Programs – Collegiate Geospatial Intelligence Certificates are awarded by accredited colleges and universities.

A list of 12 currently approved universities offering GEOINT programs:

Fayetteville State University, George Mason University, Northeastern University, Penn State University, The University of Texas at Dallas, The University of Utah, University of Missouri, University of Redlands, University of South Carolina, University of Southern California, West Point U.S. Military Academy, U.S. Air Force Academy,

Online Programs 


  • USGIF will shortly be offering the first Universal GEOINT Certification (UGC) for U.S. and international GEOINT practitioners.
  • National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) is also working to introduce a Professional Certification program to proficiency levels (PL) defined in Intelligence Community directives. This is intended for those serving GEOINT analyst jobs in various military, defense and intelligence agencies in the U.S.

Scholarships – USGIF’s annual scholarship program has been awarding scholarships since 2004 to aid and advance the Geointelligence profession. Most universities like Penn State offer grants and scholarship for military and veterans. NGA also offers student internships and scholarship opportunities for research.

 Who hires a Geointelligence professional?

  • National Security and Defense organizations
  • National Policymakers (National Security Council, Prime Minister’s Office of any government)
  • Military, Navy, Defense Agencies
  • Intelligence Agencies
  • Homeland Security / Law enforcement agencies
  • Global Humanitarian Agencies
  • Emergency response systems, First Responders
  • Investigative & Forensic Analysis Consulting firms
  • Security Consulting firms, or agencies


  • Blog featuring posts connected with GEOINT – Spatial Networks
  • Geointelligence – Empowering Geospatial with Intelligence – GIS Lounge
  • The Official USGIF magazine – Trajectory

See Also

  • How GIS Supports the Fight Against Terrorism
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About the author
Sangeeta Deogawanka

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