From 1840 until 1856 Rosenberg was a topographical draughtsman on Sumatra and its neighboring islands. Afterwards he was a civil servant, working as a cartographer and surveyor in the Moluccas and western New Guinea. Rosenberg also had a keen interest in ornithology, and beginning in the 1860s collected specimens in the Indies for study and classification by Hermann Schlegel at the natural history museum of Leiden.
Rosenberg published a few books and several articles concerning his work in the East Indies. In these he describes the geography, zoology, linguistics and ethnography of the islands. His best known work is the Der Malayische Archipel. Land und Leute in Schilderungen, gesammelt während eines dreissigjährigen Aufenthaltes in den Kolonien. Here he writes about the famous Javanese garden at Buitenzorg, and describes the artifacts and customs of the people of Sumatra, Celebes, New Guinea and the Moluccas. The illustrations in the book are mostly made from wood-engravings, based on Rosenberg's illustrations made on site.