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Remote Sensing Scientists and Technologists

Overview | Specific Work Activities | Common Work Activities | Related Occupations | Skills and Abilities | Working Conditions | Physical Demands | Knowledge | Interests | Wages | Current Employment | Outlook | Helpful High School Courses | Preparation | Related Educational Programs | Hiring Practices | Licensing/Certification/Designation/Registration | Advancement Opportunities | Additional Sources of Information | Back to Green Careers

At a Glance

  • Use Geographic Information Systems (GIS), aerial photography, and satellite images
  • Most have a bachelor's degree
  • Work in a variety of fields
  • Sit for a long period of time
  • Earn $74,070 per year (Hawaii median)


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.

Remote sensing scientists and technologists use aerial photography (taking photos from an airplane) and satellite photography 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. This data is often analyzed using GIS software. Remote sensing is important because it is extremely accurate and allows data and images to be collected from places that can't be reached any other way. It can also detect information that the human eye can’t see, such as surface temperatures.

There are many uses for this data, especially in mapping and surveying. Beyond this, remote sensing technologists and scientists work in the fields of agriculture, geography, hydrology, and oceanography. They also work in applied mathematics, meteorology, and environmental science. Because remote sensing technology is so complex and sophisticated, employers need technicians and scientists who concentrate on this alone.

To work in this field, you must be very good at math, science (including physics), and computer programming. Math and science skills are needed to analyze data and apply it to a particular situation or project. Computing skills are essential because most remote sensing uses statistical software and GIS. Remote sensing scientists and technologists must be able to input data, retrieve it, determine the results, and recommend what to do based on the data.

Remote sensing is used extensively by the green sector of the economy. Consulting firms and research institutions use remote sensing in renewable energy projects and to develop new environmentally friendly technologies. As a result, there will likely be increased demand in the green sector for remote sensing scientists and technologists in the future.


Specific Work Activities

The following list of occupational tasks is specific to remote sensing scientists and technologists.
  • Analyze data acquired from aircraft, satellites, or ground-based equipment using statistical analysis software, image analysis software, or Geographic Information Systems (GIS).
  • Analyze and organize data obtained from remote sensing systems.
  • Process aerial and satellite imagery to create products such as landcover maps.
  • Develop and build databases for remote sensing and related geospatial project information.
  • Monitor quality of remote sensing data collection to see if changes are necessary.
  • Attend meetings or seminars and read current literature to maintain knowledge of developments in the field of remote sensing.
  • Prepare and deliver reports and presentations of geospatial project information.
  • Conduct research into the application and enhancement of remote sensing technology.
  • Discuss project goals, equipment requirements, and methodologies with colleagues and team members.
  • Integrate other geospatial data sources into projects.


Common Work Activities

Remote sensing scientists and technologists 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.


Related Occupations

Occupational Clusters:

  • Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics

Related Occupations:

Hawaii Career Pathways:

  • Industrial & Engineering Technology

Related O*NET Specialties:


Skills and Abilities

Remote sensing scientists and technologists need to:


  • Understand written and spoken information.
  • Express ideas clearly when speaking or writing.

Reason and Problem Solve

  • 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.

Use Math and Science

  • Choose a mathematical method or formula to solve problems.

Perceive and Visualize

  • 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.


Working Conditions

In a typical work setting, remote sensing scientists and technologists:

Interpersonal Relationships

    • 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.

Physical Work Conditions

    • Work mostly indoors, but occasionally work outdoors.

Work Performance

  • Must be very exact and accurate when interpreting images and data.
  • Usually do not consult a supervisor before making a decisions 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.

Hours / Travel

  • Usually work a standard work week.


Physical Demands

Remote sensing scientists and technologists frequently:

  • Sit for long periods of time.

It is important for remote sensing scientists and technologiststo be able to:

  • 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.

It is not as important, but still necessary, for remote sensing scientists and technologiststo be able to:

  • 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.



Remote sensing scientists and technologists 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.



Remote sensing scientists and technologists 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.

Occupational Interest Codes:

  • RI



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.

Hawaii Hourly


United States Hourly


Current Employment

Specific information about the number of remote sensing scientists and technologistsin Hawaii and nationally is not available.

Major employers:

  • Consulting firms
  • Local, state, and federal government agencies



In Hawaii, outlook information is not available specifically for remote sensing scientists and technologists. However, they are part of a larger group of "physical scientists, all other." Little change in employment is expected for workers in this group through 2018.

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.

Nationally, employment of workers in this group is expected to grow as fast as the average through 2018.

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this occupation in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Employment Change


Helpful High School Courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from our state's graduation requirements. Click here for public school graduation requirements for students graduating in 2011 or 2012. Click here for public school graduation requirements for students graduating in 2013 or later. If you attend a private school, check with your school counselor for 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
  • Economics
  • Geography
  • Keyboarding

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. Click here for examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.



To work as a remote sensing technologist, you must:
  • have a high school diploma or GED;
  • complete at least an associate degree in a related field;
  • have related work experience;
  • have strong math skills;
  • have a good eye for detail; and
  • have good communication skills.

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.

Scientists in this field typically 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.

Work experience

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.

On-the-job training

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 Educational Programs:

  • Construction Trades
  • Engineering
  • Engineering Technologies
  • Geography
  • Natural Resources and Conservation
  • Public Health


Hiring Practices

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.

Most employers require managers to have several years of direct, related work experience in regulatory affairs. In many cases, companies hire their own employees who have worked first as specialists. A master's degree is also becoming more common.


Advancement Opportunities

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.


Additional Sources of Information

Library References

  • "Occupational Outlook Handbook" (Free on the Internet or $23.00 paper cover/$39.00 hard cover to purchase; p. 138)
    Bulletin 2800
    Publication Date: 2010-2011
    Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information Available on the Internet


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Labor Market Information

Data Sources
Occupational Wage Rates: Hawaii Dept. of Labor and Industrial Relations, Research and Statistics Office, OES BLS (State & Hon) and LEWIS (Other Counties)
The median wage is the estimated 50th percentile; 50 percent of workers in an occupation earn less than the median wage, and 50 percent earn more than the median wage. Entry level and Experienced wage rates represent the means of the lower 1/3 and upper 2/3 of the wage distribution, respectively. Data is from an annual survey.
Top Occupations Advertised Online: Online advertised jobs data