Tips for Transitioning Military GIS to Civilian GIS

Tips for Transitioning Military GIS to Civilian GIS

Transitioning from the military world to a GIS technology career can be tough. Let’s face it: Civilians have longer hair and don’t always stand at parade rest when talking to superiors. That takes some getting used to. Aside from the cultural differences, the civilian life can be exciting for a former military GIS professional.

Here are some tips for preparing for the civilian GIS career you’ve worked so hard to deserve.

Pursue an online GIS degree

In general, it’s a good idea to pursue an education. According to a 2011 Census Bureau report, the median income for those with a bachelor’s degree is $42,783 compared to $21,569 of high school diploma holders.

Even while you’re on active duty, you can pursue an online GIS degree. American Sentinel University offers an Associates and Bachelors degree in GIS as well as a masters in Information Systems. U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Gregg Kimbell is currently enrolled while also serving. Kimbell says the online classes are flexible and can be implemented into his current job. All veterans, of course, can use the Tuition Assistance or GI Bill to pursue an education with American Sentinel University and take advantage of the lower tuition rates for military members. This is a very military-friendly education institution.

Give yourself some credit

If you were an enlisted GIS solider, you likely worked on highly classified information. It’s probably not a good idea to talk about those accomplishments, but you can talk about all the maps and missions you helped accomplish. The average GIS serviceman works on ESRI Arcmap, ESRI ArcGIS, Talonview/Falcon view, Erdas Imagine, GeoTrans, TopScene / TerraExplorer, GoogleEarth software and all sorts of Open Platform. On your resume, talk about how you used these programs. There’s no need to give specifics on the jobs, because sometimes you just can’t talk about it, but show how the military made you flexible with using different software programs. That’s a highly touted skill no matter who your former employer was.

Fix civilian problems with military-minded solutions

As detailed in this American Sentinel University blog post, civilian companies are aggressively recruiting former military. In your military career, you no doubt encountered challenges that were unique to the military. But, the civilian world faces similar challenges. Instead of mapping enemy fire, you’re mapping competitor stronghold positions. This same mentality could also help you find a job that best suits your skills. According to the jobs translator, there are more than 800 civilian job openings for the equivalent of the Army 35G, Imagery Analyst. A former specialist or sergeant with the MOS 35G, could be eligible for jobs in Electronic Data Security, Intelligence Analysis, Message Traffic Analysis, Photographic Techniques & Processes and Surveillance.

Use your military manners

Civilians appreciate respect. There’s no need for saluting your boss, but the same military courtesy you used to climb the military GIS ladder could go a long way in your civilian job.