Six Earth observation satellites that make up the A-train satellite constellation as of 2014Credit: NASA/JPL
Six Earth observation satellites that make up the A-train satellite constellation as of 2014

Job Profile

Earth Observation Scientist

Earth Observation Scientists use remote sensing to gather images and data about the Earth which can then be used to learn more about the natural and built environment and the changes that are taking place.

Earth Observation Scientists use images and data, often gathered by satellites, to gain more information on the changes taking place over the globe, whether that be observing the effects of deforestation on a region or the changing sea temperatures. 

Remote sensing gives Earth observation scientists the opportunity to observe areas that are difficult to access either due to their remoteness or inaccessibility due to a natural disaster. It also allows scientists to work with large amounts of data about either a particular area, or even the entire planet, over a given period of time. 

The data that is collected and used by Earth observation scientists is hugely important for environmental studies as it allows regions to be mapped and the changes in land usage and  natural resources to be monitored. It also improves the monitoring of and response to natural disasters.

With the increasing sophistication of technology, the field of earth observation science is ever growing as the capabilities of what can be tracked increases, with technological advances increasingly allowing for near real-time observations.

Skills of a Earth Observation Scientist

As an Earth Observation Scientist a huge part of your job will be analysing and processing data so it is essential that you are comfortable working with a computer.

It is also important that you are:

  • Methodical
  • Observant
  • Persistent
  • Logical

Programming computers and processing data can be challenging and often time consuming. Being able to spot small details and patterns is key and being able to process vast amounts of data in a methodical pattern is essential.

Routes into Earth Observation Science

It is important that you have a key interest in how the Earth works meaning some academic background in geography is useful. Earth Observation requires a lot of computer processing and data analysis so a high level of competence or an academic background in maths, physics or computer science would be an advantage. You will need a degree in one of these areas and often a Master’s degree that specialises in Earth Observation is required.



Emma Collier

Emma studies Physics with Astronomy at the University of Southampton.

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