Remote Sensing Technologist


Remote sensing technologists use aerial photos, imaging radar, digital image analysis, and Global Information Systems (GIS) to study the Earth's surface—without ever needing to visit the location they study. For example, a remote sensing specialist might interpret images to understand how a forest fire is moving and whether a nearby community will need to be evacuated. Remote sensing specialists work for natural resources companies, forestry consulting firms, other consulting firms, environmental organizations, and the government.

Close up of a work desk with charts and a business man working on a report

At a glance

Imagine using satellite images to build a 3-D map of the area around the magnetic north pole. First, you create a mathematical model to combine the images. Then you update the map with new images of the ice as it melts, shifts, and changes. Search-and-rescue teams have used your map because it shows where the ice has formed ridges and is impassable. Your map is also used by climate change specialists to track changes in the polar ice. The brightest areas on your maps show where the ice is thickest. The darkest areas on your maps show where light has been absorbed by very thin and slushy ice. Every day, your work is like a big, evolving puzzle.

As a remote sensing technologist, you build maps using satellite and infrared images to help scientists monitor the Earth and our impact on it. You work mostly indoors, both on your own and as part of a team. Many remote sensing specialists live in their home communities.

You find it fascinating that you are able to study the Earth’s surface without ever needing to leave your office. The information you develop is used by a variety of scientists to expand their knowledge of environmental occurrences. You feel good knowing that your interpretation of images can lead to a better understanding of current environmental issues.

Job duties

Duties vary significantly from job to job, but the following list includes typical job duties one might encounter as a remote sensing technologist:

  • Prepare images, graphic reports, maps, and charts
  • Build photo mosaics of large areas like cities and parks
  • Operate remote sensing equipment to gather airborne, ground-based, and satellite data
  • Make sure the data obtained from remote sensing systems are accurate
  • Assist with the management of natural disasters such as floods, fires, earthquakes, oil spills, and hurricanes 

Work environment

Remote sensing technologists work in a variety of locations, including, but not limited to:

In the office:

  • Do paperwork, analyze data, and prepare charts and reports
  • Develop maps
  • Create and update databases 

Where to work

  • Environmental and engineering consulting firms
  • Federal, provincial, and municipal government departments
  • Natural resource companies
  • Forestry and other natural resource consulting firms
  • Environmental organizations

Education & requirements

In most cases, the minimum educational requirement to work as a remote sensing technologist is a college technical diploma. The following post-secondary programs are most applicable for a career in this field:

  • Geographical information systems
  • Remote sensing
  • Geography
  • Geology
  • Natural resource management
  • Earth sciences

There is no certification available that is specific to remote sensing technologists.

If you are a high school student considering a career as a remote sensing technologist you should have a strong interest in:

  • Mathematics
  • Computer science
  • Social science
  • Physics
  • Geography

Salary

Remote sensing technologists in an entry-level position make an average of $34,000 per year in Canada.

A remote sensing technologist with several years of experience and education can make between $48,000 and $62,000 per year.