Remote Sensing Scientists and Technologists
Remote sensing scientists and technologists use aerial and satellite photography to analyze data and solve problems.
Remote sensing scientists and technologists use aerial photography, satellite images, GPS, and GIS to gather information. They do this to determine the features of an area, what kind of resources it may have, or its general size and shape.
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Education & Training:
|Bachelor's degree is common.|
On the Job:
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Job Title Examples:
Remote Sensing Program Manager,
Remote Sensing Technologist,
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Wages & Outlook
Wage information is not available specifically for remote sensing scientists and technologists. However, they are part of the larger group of "physical scientists, all other."
Wages vary by employer and area of the country. The individual's specialty and level of experience and responsibility also affect wages. Those who have supervisory duties usually earn higher wages.
Remote sensing scientists and technologists who work full time usually receive benefits. Typical benefits include sick leave, paid vacation, and health insurance. Some employers also provide a retirement plan. Self-employed remote sensing scientists and technologists must provide their own insurance.
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About 12 percent of all physical scientists are self-employed.
- Consulting firms
- Local, state, and federal government agencies
Much of the job growth for remote sensing scientists and technologists will be due to the growing green sector of the economy. Remote sensing will be used as part of energy consulting and research into developing new environmentally friendly technologies and ideas. Opportunities will be best for scientists and technologists with strong technical, computing, and communication skills.
The use of advanced technologies, such as GPS, GIS, and remote sensing, will continue to increase both the accuracy and productivity of these workers. This will limit job growth to some extent. However, job openings will continue to arise from the need to replace workers who leave this occupation.
On the Job
Remote sensing scientists and technologists use aerial photography, satellite images, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to analyze data and solve problems.
In the past, people climbed trees or mountains to get a good view of their surroundings. Now, remote sensing scientists and technologists can get an even better view from airplanes -- or from satellites in orbit around the Earth.By using pictures taken from airplanes and satellites, remote sensing scientists and technologists gather information. They do this to find the features of an area, to see its resources, or to measure its size and shape. They review the data with GIS software. Remote sensing is important. It can give a very accurate picture of an area. It can collect data from places that humans cannot go to, like space or the bottom of the ocean. It can also collect hidden data, such as surface temperatures.
There are many uses for this data including mapping and surveying. Remote sensing scientists and technologists also work in agriculture and environmental science. Some might create computer models that show the movement of pollution in lakes and rivers. Others might test how forests show the effects of climate change. Because remote sensing technology is so complex and sophisticated, employers need workers who specialize in this field.
Remote sensing scientists and technologists must have good skills in math, science (including physics), and computer programming. They use math and science skills to analyze data. They use their computing skills to gather, test and sort data. Then, they must input data, retrieve it, and determine the results. Then, they may write a report about the results or make recommendations on what action to take.
The green sector of the economy is making more use of remote sensing. For example, consulting firms and research institutions use remote sensing in renewable energy projects and to develop new green technology. The demand for workers with these skills will most likely increase in the future.
The following list of occupational tasks is specific to this career.
- Test data acquired from aircraft, satellites, or sensors on the ground using computers.
- Test and sort data obtained from remote sensing systems.
- Work with aerial and satellite pictures to create products such as maps that show the effects of climate change on forests.
- Develop and build databases for remote sensing and related geospatial project information.
- Decide if changes are needed by checking the quality of remote sensing data.
- Attend meetings or seminars and read current literature to maintain knowledge of developments in the field of remote sensing.
- Write and present reports that show data gathered from projects.
- Create and study ways to make better use of remote sensing technology.
- Talk about project goals, equipment, and methods with colleagues and team members.
- Integrate other geospatial data sources into projects.
People in this career perform the following list of tasks, but the tasks are common to many occupations.
- Use computers.
- Analyze data or information.
- Process information.
- Update and use job-related knowledge.
- Identify objects, actions, and events.
- Get information needed to do the job.
- Organize, plan, and prioritize work.
- Make decisions and solve problems.
- Communicate with supervisors, peers, or subordinates.
- Document and record information.
- Think creatively.
- Explain the meaning of information to others.
- Communicate with people from outside the organization.
- Estimate sizes, quantities, time, cost, or materials needed.
- Establish and maintain relationships.
- Provide advice and consultation to others.
- Teach others.
- Coordinate the work and activities of others.
- Evaluate information against standards.
- Schedule work and activities.
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Have a low level of social interaction.
- Usually communicate via phone, e-mail, or in-person conversations.
- Have limited responsibility for the work done by others.
- Often work as part of a project team.
- Work mostly indoors, but occasionally work outdoors.
- Must be very exact and accurate when interpreting images and data.
- Usually do not consult a supervisor before making a decision or setting tasks and goals.
- Meet strict daily and weekly deadlines. This makes the work atmosphere somewhat competitive.
- Often make decisions that strongly impact coworkers and their company.
- Repeat the same physical and mental activities.
- Usually work a standard work week.
Physical Work Conditions
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Sit for long periods of time.
- See details of objects that are less than a few feet away.
- Speak clearly so listeners can understand.
- Understand the speech of another person.
- Use fingers to grasp, move, or assemble very small objects.
- See differences between colors, shades, and brightness.
- Hold the arm and hand in one position or hold the hand steady while moving the arm.
- Use one or two hands to grasp, move, or assemble objects.
- Hear sounds and recognize the difference between them.
- Make quick, precise adjustments to machine controls.
People in this career frequently:
It is important for people in this career to be able to:
It is not as important, but still necessary, for people in this career to be able to:
Source: Minnesota Department of Education.
Education & Training
To work as a remote sensing technologist, you typically need to:
- have a high school diploma or GED;
- have at least an associate degree in a related field; and
- have related work experience.
To work as a remote sensing scientist, you typically need to:
- have a high school diploma or GED; and
- have at least a bachelor's degree in a related field.
Education after high school
Almost all remote sensing scientists and technologists have a bachelor's degree in geography, civil engineering, environmental engineering, planning, surveying and mapping, or a related physical science. Computer science courses are a good addition to a student's preparation for this job. In addition, more colleges and universities are offering certificates in remote sensing, GIS, photogrammetry, or a related field.
Technologists can study for this field by gaining an associate degree in geography or a related field and working their way into this occupation through experience. However, the standard education level is a bachelor's degree.
Many scientists in this field have a master's degree in geography or a related field. You need a doctoral (Ph.D.) degree to teach remote sensing and geospatial information at a college. Many colleges and universities offer advanced degrees in geography.
Working as a research assistant for a geographer is good experience for this field. Look for this kind of work when you are a college student. Some students complete an internship while in school. This is important work experience for finding a job.
Depending on your employer, you may receive training on your first job. The length of training varies by employer, but may last up to one year.
Related Programs (Current training programs available)
Fields of Study (What to study to prepare for this career)
Click on any of the Fields of Study listed below to find out more about preparing for this career.
- Civil Engineering
- Natural Resources Policy and Management
- Surveying Technology
Helpful High School Courses
In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from your state's graduation requirements. Remote sensing scientists and technologists need a strong background in math and science. Try to take math classes through Trigonometry and science classes through Physics.
You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.
Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this occupation include:
- Computer Applications
- Computer Programming
- Computer Science
Many remote sensing scientists and technologists are self-employed. To help you monitor your finances and taxes, you should consider taking these courses as well:
- Introduction to Business
The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.
You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.
Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career.
Source: Minnesota Department of Education.
People in this career need to:
- Understand spoken and written information.
- Express ideas clearly when speaking or writing.
- Combine several pieces of information and draw conclusions.
- Notice when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong.
- Use reasoning to discover answers to problems.
- Develop rules or follow guidelines when arranging items in a certain order.
- Think of new ideas or original and creative ways to solve problems.
- Concentrate and not be distracted while performing a task.
- Choose a mathematical method or formula to solve problems.
- Identify a pattern (a figure, object, word, or sound) that is hidden in distracting material.
- Quickly and accurately compare letters, numbers, objects, pictures, or patterns.
- Imagine how something will look if it is moved around or its parts are rearranged.
Reason and Problem Solve
Use Math and Science
Perceive and Visualize
People in this career need knowledge in the following areas:
- Geography: Knowledge of land, sea, and air masses. Also includes knowledge of how to describe their location, features, and relationships.
- Computers and Electronics: Knowledge of computer hardware and software.
- Mathematics: Knowledge of the rules and uses of numbers. Areas of knowledge include arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and statistics.
- English Language: Knowledge of the meaning, spelling, and use of the English language.
- Engineering and Technology: Knowledge of how to build machines, buildings, and other things. Also includes knowledge of how to use computers, machines, and tools to do work more usefully.
- Physics: Knowledge of the features and rules of matter and energy. Areas of knowledge include air, water, light, heat, weather, and other natural events.
People in this career are people who tend to:
- Consider achievement important. They like to see the results of their work and to use their strongest abilities. They like to get a feeling of accomplishment from their work.
- Consider recognition important. They like to work in jobs which have opportunities for them to advance, be recognized for their work, and direct and instruct others. They usually prefer jobs in which they are looked up to by others.
- Consider independence important. They like to make decisions and try out ideas on their own. They prefer jobs where they can plan their work with little supervision.
- Consider good working conditions important. They like jobs offering steady employment and good pay. They want employment that fits their individual work style. They may prefer doing a variety of tasks, working alone, or being busy all the time.
- Consider support from their employer important. They like to be treated fairly and have supervisors who will back them up. They prefer jobs where they are trained well.
- Have realistic interests. They like work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They like to work with plants, animals, and physical materials such as wood, tools, and machinery. They often prefer to work outside.
- Have investigative interests. They like work activities that have to do with ideas and thinking. They like to search for facts and figure out solutions to problems mentally.
Source: Minnesota Department of Education.
Licensing / Certification
Certifications are examinations that test or enhance your knowledge, experience or skills in an occupation or profession.
There are 1 certifications related to this career.
No State of Minnesota license requirements are found for this career.
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Employers look for scientists who have earned at least a bachelor's degree in geography, civil engineering, or a related field. Technologists need to have a two-year degree to gain work.
Employers look for workers who know how to use computers and mapping software. Remote sensing scientists and technologists also need good written and oral communication skills.
Experienced scientists may advance to jobs that require higher levels of skill and competency. This includes jobs in research, administration, and environmental planning. You usually need several years of experience and at least a master's degree to advance.
Technologists usually begin performing more basic tasks and advance through experience. Those with aptitude and leadership ability may move into lead technologist or supervisory roles. They typically must gain at least a bachelor's degree to move into more advanced positions.
Remote Sensing Program Manager, Remote Sensing Technologist, Sensor Specialist, Geospatial Intelligence Analyst, Remote Sensing Analyst, Remote Sensing Scientist
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