Occupations in Remote Sensing

By Amy L. Uttinger

A Report for ES 771 Remote Sensing in the Earth Science Department at Emporia State University

This image was taken from ASPRS

Table of Contents
Introduction Types of Jobs
Sectors of Employment Education & Salary
Specific Occupation Profile Specific Company Profile
Conclusions References


Before the true subject matter of this report can be fully discussed it is necessary to define the term "remote sensing". There are many formal definitions for this term, each varying to some degree in content. For the purposes of this report "remote sensing" shall be defined as a science that utilizes various methods for gathering information and observations about the Earth's surface from a distance (Aber, 2005). The focus of this report will be on occupations that gather information from aerial or space vantages.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the geospatial technology market was estimated at $5 billion in 2002 and is expected to reach $30 billion by the end of 2005. The geospatial market was divided into two categories; remote sensing and geographical information systems. Of the two, the remote sensing market is projected to earn $20 billion of the total 2005 estimate. Already, more than 170,000 people in the United States work in the geospatial information industry and with advances in aerial and satellite-based imagery, the demand for employees is increasing (Fazekas, 2005).

Types of Jobs

Remote sensed imagery can be applied to many areas of study. These areas include military planning, environmetal sciences, cartography, geology, sociology, urban planning, agriculture, hydrology, meteorolgy and resource managment (ASPRS, 2005). Because there is such a large and diverse range of occupations that accompany these fields of study, the table below covers only a few possible positions and their job descriptions.

Aerial Photographer
Takes segmented photographs of the Earth and other subject material from an aircraft. The photos are generally used for surveying or mapping purposes (Job-descriptions.org, 2005).
Aerospace Engineer
Responsible for the creation of airplanes or spacecrafts. They design, develop and test the aircrafts or spacecrafts using computer-aided design (CAD) software, robotics and lasers. They often specialize in one area of aviation (U.S. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, OOH, 2004).
GIS Analyst
This position creates graphic representations of physical land areas for analysis purposes. They are usually requried to know many ArcView Softwares as well as Java-Script and HTML. Many analysts also focus on software building for the production of complex maps and reports (WorldWideLearn, 1999-2005).
This posistion specializes in areas like seismology or magnetic geophysics. Seismologist interpret dat from seismogrpahs and other geophysical instruments for the purpose of detecting earthquakes and faults. Geomagnetists measure the Earth's magnetic field using measurements taken over centuries and devise theorietical models explaining the Earth's origin (U.S. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, OOH, 2004).
This posisiton measures and analyzes aerial photographs for the purpose of utilizing them to prepare maps and drawings. They concentrate on parcels of land that are otherwise difficult or expensive to survey another way (WorldWideLearn, 1999-2005).
This position is almost self-explanatory, but specific demands for aerial photography pilots require at least 3500 hours of flying time, a FAA commerical license, intrument rating and second class physical (PilotCrewjobs.com, 2000-2004).
Geospatial Marketing Director
This occupation directs and develops marketing campaigns usually covering a large territory, within the geospatial markets. They build awareness and generate sales of all geospatial products generally mapping software (GeoSearch, Inc., 2005).
Image Processing Analyst
This position is responsible for analyzing spatial image data as well as implementing and managing image databases, maps and other related products (GIScareers.com, 2001-2005).
This position is essentially a map maker however, they may also collect, analyze and interpret spatial data (WorldWideLearn, 1999-2005).
Geographic Information Technician
This position is responsible for preparing, revising and maintaining a variety of maps and mapping related records, documents and reports. The job entails interpretation of maps as well as manipulation and revision of spatial database records (GeoCommunity, 1999-2005).
Suveying Technician
This position collects land information in the field utilizing survey intruments and the help of other specialists. Once the information is collected this person uses computer-aided design tools to make drafts that will ater be integrated into GIS platforms (WorldWideLearn, 1999-2005).
Professionals in the field can utilize their education and experience by becoming a college instructor and help continue the expansion of GIS uses (WorldWideLearn, 1999-2005).

Image taken from University of Southhampton, School of Ocean and Earth Science

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Sectors of Employment

There are over 300 remote sensing organizations around the world with the majority in North America and Europe, but all are potential sources for employment (VTT, 1999-2005). There are remote sensing jobs available in most sectors including private, public, academic, state and federal government (ASPRS, 2005). Because government agencies are the biggest users of remote sensed data a large percentage of jobs can be found in this sector (Fazekas, 2005). State and local government agencies usually offer opportunities in agencies such as planning, environment, transportation and geology (ASPRS, 2005). Federal government agencies such as U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) offer employment in related fields (ASPRS, 2005). Academic communities mostly offer entry-level jobs and staff support for graduate students, but occasionally instructing positions become available (ASPRS, 2005).

Education & Salary

Image taken from Clay Bennett cartoon archives

Do I need an Advanced Degree?

Many community and technical colleges now offer two-year associate degrees in mapping, surveying and Geographic Information Systems, but alone this degree isn't as usefull as a bachelor's. For the most part, the minimum requiremnt for entry-level positions in the remote sensing field is a bachelors degree (WorldWideLearn, 1999-2005).

What kind of bachelor's degree should I seek?

Students who wish to pursue a career in photogrammetry, remote sensing and GIS typically acquire a degree in geography, civil engineering, forestry, geology or various physical science programs (ARSPR, 2005). Now more colleges and universities are also offering minors, certificates, and specialized professional master's degree programs in these areas (ASPRS, 2005). This way the educational preparation can help one become a specialist in the field of geospatial information science and technology or a specialist in traditional discipline with a complementary background in photogrammetry, remote sensing, and GIS (ASPRS, 2005).

Where can I find schools that offer courses or programs in this field?

There are a few good websites that provide a sampling of colleges and universities offering programs in GIS, remote sensing, or photogrammetry. Check The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) website at: http://www.abet.org/accreditasac.asp This is a standard U.S. accreditor of college and university programs in applied science, computing, engineering, and technology. Also see ESRI's Online Database of Academic GIS Programs at: http://gis.esri.com/university/onlinedb.cfm. Finally, check the GIS Jobs website at: http://www.gisjobs.com/resources.html#gis_univ for a good list of universities with GIS programs.

What kind of salary range can I expect?

Salary will vary with experience, education and job sector. In general most public entry-level positions requiring only an associate degree or technical degree have a starting salary range of $29,000 to $40,000 (U.S. Department of Labor, Employment & Training Administration, 2005). Persons with a Bachelor's Degree may also start out in the $35,000 salary range in the private or public sector. In governmental jobs, one might expect to earn as much as $57,000 a year upon hiring if they have a bachelor'sdegree, government credentials and some experience (USAJobs, 2005). Persons with a master's degree seeking employment in any sector of this field can expect a beginning salary range of $45,000 to $67,000 (U.S. Department of Labor, Employment & Training Administration, 2005).

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Specific Occupation Profile

The purpose of this profile is to give a complete definition of an occupation in the remote sensing field. Because there are a significant amount of different jobs that fall under this category I have chosen one specific occupation and am providing a complete description including education requirements, salary range and employment expectations based on a compilation of job offers for this position.

JOB - Remote Sensing Specialist

DESCRIPTION OF DUTIES - Serves as a technical authority on all aspects of remote sensing applications for various research area projects. This means the candidate will analyze and advise on appropriate data sources such as digital and analog aerial photographs, space and airbone sensors, image processing and global positioning systems (GPS). This may also include the creation of spatial distribution maps of the area being studied. Additionally, the job most-likely will require project leadership in the form of field project planning, programing and field study training. A Remote Sensing Specialist will work closely with field personnel as well as GIS technicians and be held accountable for the progress, and completion of area study projects.

EDUCATION & QUALIFICATION REQUIREMENTS - This position will require an advanced univeristy degree, preferably a PhD in GIS/Remote Sensing/Geography, Geology/Hydrology, Chemistry, Biology or significant experience pertinent to the job description. Additionally, if the position is through a governmental agency, the candidate must meet government standard qualifications for professional and scientific positions.

SALARY RANGE - Depending on experience and area of education this position can expect a salary range of $62,000 to $97,000 per year. Additionally, governmental employees may also be provided cost-of-living allowances of up to 25 percent of their annual base salary for the duration of their employment.

EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES - This is a list of at least four possible environments of employment. These four references were also used as the basis for this job description.

  • A private company called SoBran Incorporated that provides scientific, technical, engineering and support services. This company posted an advertsement for a Remote Sensing Spcecialist in 2004 which can be viewed at: http://aslo.org/employment/jobs/2004-158.html.
  • A position was available in 2004 at the Alaska Regional Office of Engineering & Aviation Management and can be viewed at: http://www.gi.alaska.edu/pipermail/nasdug-l/2004/000009.html.
  • Another Remote Sensing Specialist was sought by the University of Utah in 2003 and the advertisement can be viewed at: http://www.csiss.org/pipermail/maspace/2003-August/000104.html.
  • Finally, a position was offered in spring 2005 at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and can be viewed at: http://www.afm.ars.usda.gov/divisions/hrd/vacancy/x5e-0192.pdf#search='Remote%20Sensing%20Specialist%20vacancy%20USDA'
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    Specific Company Profile

    The purpose of this company profile is to provide a detailed example of a business in the remote sensing field and describe the possibilities of employment within it.

    Company Name - ORBIMAGE INC.

    Company Description - This company is a global provider of geospatial imagery products and services. They operate the OrbView-3 high-resolution imaging satellite as well as the OrbView-2 ocean and land imaging satellite. They provide high and low-resolution imagery as well as image processing services like geopositioning, radiometric balancing and digital elevation. Additionally the company has a customer support department.

    Current Available Occupations - Geospatial Analyst, Principal Geodetic Engineer, Senior Remote Sensing Technical Support Representatives, Digital Imagery Specialist, IT Systems Engineer, Senior Space & Ground Segment Controller and Marine Systems Integration Manager. Visit the company website at: http://www.orbimage.com.


    The remote sensing field is a rapidly growing area of technology that provides many opportunities for employment. Persons interested in a professional or technical career in this environment must acquire an advanced education from an accreditable university or college. Many colleges and universities now provide a program specific to the field of remote sensing and geographic information systems. Most remote sensing occupations are above average salary positions and include many sectors of employment. The field has a variety of applications and with the continuation of advancement in this area, will probably produce an even larger variety of occupations in the future.

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    Aber, James, 2005. Introduction to Remote Sensing. Retrieved 11/29/05 from: http://academic.emporia.edu/aberjame/remote/lectures/lec01.htm

    ABET Inc., 1998-2005. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Retrieved 12/02/05 from http://www.abet.org/accreditasac.asp

    Alaska Regional Office of Engineering & Aviation Management, 2004. Retrieved 12/05/05 from http://www.gi.alaska.edu/pipermail/nasdug-l/2004/000009.html

    ASPRS, 2005. American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing. Retrieved 12/2/05 from: http://www.asprs.org/career/index.html

    Clay Bennett, nd. http://www.claybennett.com/pages/tuition.html

    ESRI, 2005. GIS and Mapping Software. Retrieved on 12/05/05 from http://gis.esri.com/university/onlinedb.cfm.

    Fazekas, Andrew, 2005. Science, August 19th, 2005 Issue. Careers in Geoscience and Remote Sensing. Retrieved 12/04/05 from http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_development/issue/articles/3640/careers_in_geoscience_and_remote_sensing/

    GeoCommunity, 1999-2005. Retrieved 12/02/05 from http://careers.geocomm.com/jobs/detail.php?id=10130

    GeoSearch, Inc., 2005. Retreived 12/05/05 from http://www.geosearch.com/candidates/gis-job-fields.asp?category=21

    GIScareers.com, 2001-2005. Retrieved 12/04/05 from http://giscareers.com/GC-VSTMHSW.html

    Job-Descriptions.org, 2005. Retrieved 12/04/05 from http://www.job-descriptions.org/aerial-photographer.html

    Orbimage, 2005. Retrived 12/05/05 from http://www.orbimage.com.

    PilotCrewjobs.com, 2000-2004. Retrieved 12/05/05 from http://www.pilotcrewjobs.com/pilotjoblistings.shtml

    SoBran, 2002, 2003, 2004. Taken 12/03/05 from American Society of LImnology and Oceanography at: http://aslo.org/employment/jobs/2004-158.html

    United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 2005. Retrieved 12/05/05 from http://www.afm.ars.usda.gov/divisions/hrd/vacancy/x5e-0192.pdf#search='Remote%20Sensing%20Specialist%20vacancy%20USDA'

    U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2004. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Retrieved 12/04/05 from http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos050.htm and http://stats.bls.gov/oco/ocos028.htm

    U.S. Department of Labor, Employment & Training Administration, 2005). Retrieved 12/04/05 from http://www.doleta.gov/BRG/IndProf/geooo.cfm

    USAJobs, 2005. Retreived 12/05/05 from http://jobsearch.usajobs.opm.gov/jobsearch.asp?q=GIS&salmin=&salmax=&paygrademin=&paygrademax=&FedEmp=N&sort=rv&vw=d&brd=3876&ss=0&FedPub=Y&SUBMIT1.x=0&SUBMIT1.y=0

    University of Southhampton, Scool of Ocean and Earth Science, 2005. Retreived 12/04/05 from http://www.soes.soton.ac.uk/MSc/ORS/

    University of Utah, 2003. Retrieved 12/05/05 from http://www.csiss.org/pipermail/maspace/2003-August/000104.html

    VTT, 1999-2005. Retrieved 12/02/05 from http://www.vtt.fi/tte/research/tte1/tte14/virtual/

    WorldWideLearn, 1999-2005. "The World's Largest Online Directory of Education". Retrieved 12/01/05 from: http://www.worldwidelearn.com/online-education-guide/science/gis-major.htm

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