Careers in GIS and Remote Sensing

Today every area ranging from missile and unmanned aerial vehicle technology to urban administration, e-governance, remote sensing, energy sector, and even advertising and marketing depend on geospatial data. GIS and Remote Sensing are two exciting areas of technology to work on. But, what exactly are GIS and remote sensing? How do they work? WhatHow are the career scopes in GIS and remote sensing? In this article, we will address those questions.

A geographic information system (GIS) is a framework for gathering, managing, and analyzing data. Rooted in the science of geography, GIS integrates many types of data. It analyzes spatial location and organizes layers of information into visualizations using maps and 3D scenes.

Every day, millions of decisions are being powered by Geographic Information Systems (GIS). From pinpointing new store locations… to predicting climate change… to reporting power outages… to analyzing crime patterns.

GIS and Remote Sensing Careers
Fig. 1: GIS and Remote Sensing (Source: NASA)

Introduction to Geographic Information System (GIS)

Geographic information system (GIS) is a special system which is designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage, and present all types of geographical data on earth. GIS technology is an integrated database which has all the information like population characteristics, economic development opportunities, and vegetation types, maps etc. GIS allows to link the databases and maps and create dynamic displays. It also provides tools to visualize, query, and overlay the databases which are technically not possible through spreadsheets.

Introduction to Remote Sensing

While GIS helps in explaining and predicting the events on earth, remote sensing is an art and science of measuring the earth with the help of sensors. Remote sensors generally collect the data by detecting the energy that is reflected back from Earth. These sensors are arranged on airplanes and satellites. Remote sensors collect the data in the form of images and manipulate them for analyzing and visualizing the data. GIS and Remote sensors are interrelated as these remote sensors are integrated within GIS systems to visualize and interpret the collected data.

GIS vs Remote Sensing

A geographic information system (GIS) is a computer-based tool for mapping and analyzing features and events on earth. On the other hand, remote sensing is the science of collecting data regarding an object or a phenomenon without any physical contact with the object.

You could also say that remote sensing is a specialized domain within the broad field of GIS. Read more on differences between GIS and remote sensing.

How do GIS and Remote Sensing work

Geographic science utilizes GIS technology. Remote sensors are integrated into the GIS system and this together helps in understanding the maps, weather conditions, population density and many things related to earthly conditions.

How does GIS work
Fig. 2: How does GIS work? (Source: ESRI)


Maps are the geographic representation of data layers. Remote sensors measure the distance while GIS systems extract the data extracted and share with others through apps.


The data which is extracted gets integrated into different types of data layers using spatial locations. It generally has geographic components which are linked to spreadsheets and tables.


Analysis of the data helps in evaluating, estimating, predicting, interpreting and understanding the data extracted. Analysis of the data helps in decision making.


Applications focus more on user experience. GIS visualizes the data and shares through remote sensors on mobile phones, tablets, web browsers, and on other platforms.

Applications of GIS

The automation of GIS is not only used for mapping. It is also used in various fields like

  • Petroleum- For finding petroleum refineries.
  • Telecommunications- For maintaining the network signals.
  • Transportation- To understand the traffic and mobility on roads.
  • Real Estate- To survey the land registrations.
  • Manufacturing- To identifying the mineral ores.
  • Natural & Sustainable Resources- To identify geographical resources.
  • Many other sectors like Education, Government, Health, Insurance, Public Safety, Retail, Electric and Gas Utilities etc make use of GIS systems for various purposes.

Careers in GIS and Remote Sensing

Co-authored by Parinita Gupta

What Does a GIS / Remote Sensing Specialist Do?

Remote sensing specialists support scientists by designing and conducting remote sensing data gathering efforts. For example, they determine the best techniques, equipment, spectral band, and time of day for a particular mission. They may prepare flight plans, configure sensors, apply the techniques to collect data in the field, and process the resulting data.

This data is used in a wide variety of fields, including all of the environmental sciences, agriculture, archaeology, urban planning, water management, meteorology, and even engineering and business.

Career Scopes in GIS and Remote Sensing

Remote sensing is increasingly used by private companies that sell imagery and data to Google, Bing, the federal government, scientists, academic and research libraries, and others. Specialists may also find employment at consulting firms, software development firms, and scientific laboratories, where they are expected to improve technologies, software, or data analysis techniques.

Some specialists become professors or research staff in academia. These positions require at least a master’s degree, while tenured faculty has doctoral degrees.

Most specialists in this highly computerized field spend much if not all of their time in office environments. However, collecting or verifying data in the field may be required on occasion.

Career Path

There are many opportunities open for a GIS and Remote sensing graduate. A person can join both the Government and private sectors. A person can become a

  • Remote Sensing Tech Lead
  • Project Fellow/Project Assistant,
  • Assistant Professor
  • Technical Associate, Regional Manager
  • GIS Executive
  • Research Associate
  • Remote Sensing & GIS Software Analyst
  • Remote Sensing & GIS Technical Program Manager
  • Remote Sensing / GIS specialist

You can even join the Government sectors like –

  • Central Ground Water Board
  • Defense Terrain Research Laboratory
  • All India Soil and Land Use Survey
  • Atomic Mineral Division, Geological Survey of India,
  • National Bureau of Soil Survey and Land use planning Town and Country Planning,
  • Remote Sensing Laboratories of various Universities Companies engaged in GIS and its application studies.

Public Sector Organisations

• Indian Space Research Organization
• National Remote Sensing Center
• National Spatial Data Infrastructure
• Indian Institute of Remote Sensing
• Forest Survey of India
• Geological Survey of India
• Survey of India
• Department of Science and Technology
• Ministry of Defence
• Ministry of Environment
• National Informatics Centre
• North Eastern Space Applications Center
• Indian Agricultural Research Institute
• Agricultural Department and Irrigation Department
• Meteorological Department
• Mining, Soil Conservation, Land Degradation, and Ground Water Management
• Natural Resource Management
• Indian Council of Agriculture Research
• Space Application Centers and Aviation
• Urban Development Authorities and Municipalities
• Watershed and Wetland Management

Required Education and Skills in GIS and Remote Sensing

Required Education

Educational qualification matters a lot. Any graduate preferably with Bachelor’s degree in geography or environmental science with has many chances in getting better job opportunities in the job market. Masters in GIS and Remote sensing in a specific field will get appointed as a GIS/remote sensing specialist. Few colleges provide Post Graduation Diploma (P.G. DIPLOMA) in GIS and Remote Sensing which is equivalent to the bachelor’s degree.

Required Skills

Major Skills required- Most of the job roles include technology and statistics to analyze the data. There are some major skills which are important to get placed in any role related to GIS and Remote sensing.  Programming languages like R, MATLAB, Python, IDL, C++, FORTRAN are important programming languages in GIS systems. The entire systems run on these programs so these are important to learn. ArcGIS, MATLAB, Python, C++, R, ERDAS, Ecognition, ENVI, PostgreSQL/PostGIS, QGIS, Photoshop, GRASS, PCI Geomatica, IDRISI, MapInfo, FORTRAN are the basic and additional skills required to make a career in GIS and Remote Sensing Field.

In-Demand Skills in GIS
Fig. 3: Most Required Skills in GIS (Source: Earth Observation Directory)

Top Universities for GIS and Remote Sensing in India and Abroad

Top Institutes in India (PG) for GIS and Remote Sensing

1. Indian Institute of Remote Sensing, Dehradun – M.Tech in Remote Sensing and GIS
2. Indian Institute of Technology Bombay – M.Tech in Remote Sensing
3. Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur, Kanpur, and Roorkee – Department of Geoinformatics
4. Institute of Remote Sensing, Anna University, Chennai – M.Tech in Remote Sensing, B.E & M.E in Geoinformatics
5. Symbiosis Institute of Geoinformatics, Pune – M.Sc. in Geoinformatics and M.Tech in Geoinformatics and Surveying Technology
6. Bharathidasan University, Tiruchirappalli, – M.Tech in Geoinformatics and M. Tech in Geological Remote Sensing and Geoinformatics
7. Jamia Millia Islamia, (A Central University), New Delhi – PG Diploma in Remote Sensing and GIS Application.
8. Birla Institute of Technology, Ranchi – M.Sc., and M.Tech in Remote Sensing
9. The National Power Training Institute, Faridabad
10. School of Oceanographic Studies, Jadavpur University, Kolkata – Post Graduate Diploma in GIS and Remote Sensing.
11. Environmental Systems Research Institute
12. University of Allahabad – PG Diploma in Remote Sensing and GIS

Few Other Notable Universities for GIS and Remote Sensing in India

  • Atal Bihari Vajpayee Hindi Vishwavidyalaya
  • CMJ University
  • Jiwaji University
  • Kuvempu University
  • Jnanasahyadri, Shankaraghatta Shimoga, Karnataka
  • Maharshi Dayanand Saraswati University
  • Mahatma Gandhi Chitrakoot Gramoday Vishwavidyalaya – MGCGV
  • Sant Gadge Baba Amravati University
  • Swami Vivekanand Institute of Information Technology – SVIIT
  • The Global Open University
  • University of Jammu

Top Universities Abroad

  • University of Zurich
  • ETH Zurich
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • University of Edinburgh
  • Michigan Technological University
  • University of Manchester
  • Utrecht University
  • Stockholm University
  • Lund University
  • Free University of Berlin
  • Georgia Tech
  • University of Twente
  • Kingston University
  • TU Munich
  • WWU Munster
  • UT Dallas
  • Aberystwyth University
  • University of Tasmania (UTAS)
  • Loughborough University
  • Florida Institute of Technology
  • University of Southampton
  • The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
  • University of Lethbridge
  • Charles Sturt University
  • University College London (UCL)
  • Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM)
  • Université de Sherbrooke

Jobs and Salaries in GIS and Remote Sensing


GIS Jobs
Fig. 4: Number of Jobs Per Country in 2013 – 14 (Source: Earth Observation Directory)

Major Sub-domains and Job Profiles within GIS are:

  • Cartographers create maps. Actually, the origin of the job title comes from charta which means “tablet or leaf of paper” and graph ”to draw”. Read more about cartography careers.
  • Database managers store and extract information from structured sets of geographic data.
  • Programmers write code and to automate redundant GIS processes. For example, GIS programming languages include Python, SQL, C++, Visual Basic, and JavaScript.
  • Remote sensing analysts use satellite or aerial imagery to map the Earth.
  • Spatial analysts manipulate, extract, locate and analyze geographic data.
  • Land surveyors measure the 3-dimensional coordinates on the land.
Fig. 5: Source: Type of Jobs for GIS and Remote Sensing Graduates (Source: Earth Observation Directory)

As mentioned there are many job opportunities specially opened GIS and Remote sensing graduates.

Most of the job opportunities are offered in Europe. About 57% of graduates get placed in European countries. While 21% in North America, 21% USA and UK, 11% in Germany and 7% in the Netherlands.

Figure 5 shows the type of job roles and percentage of hiring criteria of graduates, post graduates, diploma graduates, and interns.

Please be advised that this data is from 2013 – 14.

GIS and Remote Sensing Jobs and Salaries
Fig. 6: Sectors of Employment (Source: Earth Observation Directory)

In India, most of the graduates get placed in Government sector while in abroad both public and private sector companies place the graduates for a high apposition and with a good salary package.

Figure 6 shows the percentage of opportunities available in various sectors. This data is also from 2013 – 14.


GIS and Remote Sensing Careers and Jobs
Fig. 7: GIS Salaries (Source: GIS Geography)

Salaries in GIS and remote sensing field fluctuates based on the position, and the country they work in. Based on the BLS report, the average salary will be something about  $74,260 per annum. The salary range starts with a minimum amount of $62,202 to a maximum amount $150-200K per annum.

In addition to the salary other benefits are also provided to the GIS and Remote sensing graduates. A graduate can start his career with $1400 salary but it will go up to $3266 by his mid-career and later something more than $6500 per month. As the position goes up the salary package also get hiked up.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.

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