Hydrologist - Career Information

Career Information

Hydrologist takes a water sample
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Job Description

A hydrologist is a scientist who researches the distribution, circulation and physical properties of underground and surface waters. He or she may help environmental scientists and other scientists preserve and clean up the environment or may search for groundwater.

Employment Facts

There were 7,000 hydrologists employed in 2012. Most worked for the federal or state and local governments, management and technical consulting firms, and engineering firms.

They spend time in the field where they collect data, and in offices where they use computers to analyze it. Hydrologists often spend time traveling.

Educational Requirements

One usually needs a master's degree in geoscience, environmental science or engineering with a concentration in hydrology or water sciences to work as a hydrologist. There are some entry-level jobs for those who have only a bachelor's degree.

Why Do You Need to Know About Educational Requirements?

Other Requirements

Some states require hydrologists to have licenses that are issued by state licensing boards. To get a license one usually must meet specified educational and experience requirements and pass an exam. Check the licensing requirements of the state in which you plan to work by using the Licensed Occupations Tool on CareerOneStop. In addition, you can apply for voluntary certification from the American Institute of Hydrology.

To become certified you will need a bachelor's degree and five years of work experience, a master's degree and four years of experience or a doctorate degree and three years of experience. You will also have to pass a two-part written exam.

Advancement Opportunities

An entry-level hydrologist will likely begin his or her career working as a research assistant or technician in a laboratory or office.

Alternatively, he or she may work in field exploration. With experience, a hydrologist may become a project leader, program manager, or may be promoted to a senior research position.

Why Do You Need to Know About Advancement?

Job Outlook

Employment opportunities for hydrologists should be good for the next several years. This occupation should grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2022.

Why Do You Need to Know About Job Outlook?


Hydrologists earned a median annual salary of $78,370 in 2014 (US).

Use the Salary Wizard at Salary.com to find out how much a hydrologist currently earns in your city.

A Day in a Hydrologist's Life

These are some typical job duties taken from online ads for hydrologist positions found on Indeed.com:

  • Plan and collect surface or groundwater water quality and quantity monitoring data to support projects and programs
  • Work with local, state, federal agencies on water resource issues
  • Conduct watershed and stormwater studies
  • Process meteorological, snow, and hydrologic data
  • Prepare various maps and figures including: contour maps of groundwater elevations, geologic structure, cross-sections, isopach, water quality, and other hydrogeologic data
  • Install and maintain water property and water quality instrumentation
  • Determine the nature and extent of contamination in groundwater
  • Prepare written reports and make oral presentations

Occupations With Related Activities and Tasks

 DescriptionAnnual Salary (2014)Educational Requirements
Atmospheric ScientistStudies how the weather and climate affect the earth and its inhabitants$87,980Bachelor's degree in atmospheric science or a related science field
Environmental TechnicianPerforms laboratory and field tests in order to monitor the environment and determine sources of pollution$42,190Associate degree or certificate in applied science or science-related technology
ConservationistFinds ways to utilize land without harming natural resources$61,860Bachelor's degree in forestry, agronomy, agricultural science, biology or environmental science
Environmental ScientistConducts research on pollution and other environmental contaminants$66,250Bachelor's degree in environmental science or a related field

Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Hydrologist, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/hydrologists.htm (visited July 3, 2015).
Employment and Training Administration, US Department of Labor, O*NET Online, Hydrologist, on the Internet at http://www.onetonline.org/link/details/19-2043.00 (visited July 3, 2015).

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