Hydrologists examine the physical characteristics, distribution, and circulation of water above and below the earth's surface. They study rainfall and other precipitation, the paths precipitation takes through the soil and rocks underground, and its return to the oceans and air.
Sample of Reported Job Titles
Hydrologist, Hydrogeologist, Research Hydrologist, Assistant Groundwater Engineer, Environmental Consultant, Groundwater Consultant, Groundwater Programs Director, Hydraulic Engineer, Hydrologic Engineer
They study rainfall and other precipitation, the paths precipitation takes through the soil and rocks underground, and its return to the oceans and air. Often, they specialize in either underground water or surface water. They examine the form and intensity of precipitation, its rate of infiltration into the soil, its movement through the Earth, and its return to the ocean and atmosphere.
Many hydrologists assist in water conservation. The work they do is very important for environmental preservation; for instance, they may project water shortages, analyze the quality of potential water sources, or monitor the inflow and outflow of reservoirs. Some hydrologists forecast and help to prepare a region for conditions such as flooding, snowmelt, drought, and the formation and melting of river ice. Hydrologists often serve as consultants to scientists, engineers, developers, and governing bodies.
Hydrologists generally perform research at a variety of outdoor sites, but they also work in laboratories. Hydrologists may monitor wells, record water depths, and measure stream flows or runoff rates. They frequently collect and analyze water samples and research historical data on storms and floods.
Some Common Specialties
- Groundwater hydrologists study the water below the Earth’s surface. They decide the best locations for wells and the amount of water that should be pumped. They are often consulted about the best places to build waste disposal sites to ensure that the waste does not contaminate the groundwater.
- Hydrometeorologists study the relationship between surface waters and water in the atmosphere. For example, to predict and prepare for droughts, they study how much rain or snow a particular area gets and how that evaporates.
- Surface water hydrologists study water from above ground sources such as streams, lakes, and snow packs. They may predict future water levels and usage to help reservoir managers decide when to release or store water. They also produce flood forecasts and help develop flood management plans.
Most hydrologists need a master's degree, but a bachelor's degree is adequate for some entry-level positions. Applicants for advanced research and university faculty positions typically need a Ph.D.
Students interested in hydrology should consider taking courses in the physical sciences, geophysics, chemistry, engineering science, soil science, mathematics, aquatic biology, atmospheric science, geology, oceanography, hydrogeology, and the management or conservation of water resources.
For hydrologists who consult, courses in business, finance, marketing, or economics may be useful. In addition, combining environmental science training with other disciplines such as engineering or business, qualifies these scientists for the widest range of jobs.
Computer skills are essential for prospective hydrologists. Students who have some experience with computer modeling, data analysis and integration, digital mapping, remote sensing, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) will be the most prepared to enter the job market.
Median Salary 2022
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary of Hydrologists in 2022 was $85,990.
Want to know more?
Belonging to professional organizations & LinkedIn groups can provide you with networking, informational interviewing, & job shadowing opportunities, as well as assist you with finding internships and jobs.
Find a Job
- Career Development
- What Can I do with a Major In...
- Career Mapping System
- Personalize Your Career Plan
- Build a Professional Profile
- Internships and Research
- Job Search Resources
- Programs & Events
- Additional Career Resources
- Archived Newsletters
- Applying to Graduate School
- Reporting Your Post-Grad Plans
- Post-Graduation Data
- Alumni Profiles