|Quick Facts: Hydrologists|
|2017 Median Pay||$79,990 per year
$38.46 per hour
|Typical Entry-Level Education||Bachelor's degree|
|Work Experience in a Related Occupation||None|
|Number of Jobs, 2016||6,700|
|Job Outlook, 2016-26||10% (Faster than average)|
|Employment Change, 2016-26||700|
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Hydrologists Career, Salary, and Education Information
What Hydrologists Do
Hydrologists study how water moves across and through the Earth’s crust. They study how rain, snow, and other forms of precipitation impact river flows or groundwater levels, and how surface water and groundwater evaporate back into the atmosphere or eventually reach the oceans. Hydrologists analyze how water influences the surrounding environment and how changes to the environment influence the quality and quantity of water. They use their expertise to solve problems concerning water quality and availability.
Duties of Hydrologists
Hydrologists typically do the following:
Measure the properties of bodies of water, such as volume and stream flow
Collect water and soil samples to test for certain properties, such as the pH or pollution levels
Analyze data on the environmental impacts of pollution, erosion, drought, and other problems
Research ways to minimize the negative impacts of erosion, sedimentation, or pollution on the environment
Use computer models to forecast future water supplies, the spread of pollution, floods, and other events
Evaluate the feasibility of water-related projects, such as hydroelectric power plants, irrigation systems, and wastewater treatment facilities
Prepare written reports and presentations of their findings
Hydrologists may use remote sensing equipment to collect data. They, or technicians whom they supervise, usually install and maintain this equipment. Hydrologists also use sophisticated computer programs to analyze the data collected. Computer models are often developed by hydrologists to help them understand complex datasets.
Hydrologists work closely with engineers, scientists, and public officials to study and manage the water supply. For example, they work with policymakers to develop water conservation plans and with biologists to monitor wildlife in order to allow for their water needs.
Most hydrologists specialize in a particular water source or a certain aspect of the water cycle, such as the evaporation of water from lakes and streams. The following are examples of types of hydrologists:
Groundwater hydrologists study the water below the Earth’s surface. Some groundwater hydrologists focus on water supply and decide the best locations for wells and the amount of water available for pumping. Other groundwater hydrologists focus on the cleanup of groundwater contaminated by spilled chemicals at a factory, an airport, or a gas station. These hydrologists often give advice about the best places to build waste disposal sites to ensure that groundwater is not contaminated.
Surface water hydrologists study water from aboveground sources such as streams, lakes, and snowpacks. They may predict future water levels by tracking usage and precipitation data to help reservoir managers decide when to release or store water. They also produce flood forecasts and help develop flood management plans.
Work done by hydrologists can sometimes include topics typically associated with atmospheric scientists, including meteorologists. Scientists with an education in hydrology and a concentration in water quality are environmental scientists and specialists. Some people with a hydrology background become high school teachers or postsecondary teachers.
Work Environment for Hydrologists
Hydrologists held about 6,700 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of hydrologists were as follows:
Federal government, excluding postal service: 29%
Management, scientific, and technical consulting services: 20%
State government, excluding education and hospitals: 20%
Engineering services: 16%
Local government, excluding education and hospitals: 9%
Hydrologists work in offices and in the field. In offices, hydrologists spend much their time using computers to analyze data and model their findings. In the field, hydrologists may have to wade into lakes and streams to collect samples or to read and inspect monitoring equipment. Hydrologists also need to write reports detailing the status of surface water and groundwater in specific regions. Many jobs require significant travel. Jobs in the private sector may require international travel.
Most hydrologists work full time. However, the length of daily shifts may vary when hydrologists work in the field.
How to Become a Hydrologist
Hydrologists need at least a bachelor’s degree for entry-level positions; however, some workers begin their careers with a master’s degree.
Hydrologists need at least a bachelor’s degree, and some begin their careers with a master’s degree. Applicants for advanced research and university faculty positions typically need a Ph.D.
Few universities offer undergraduate degrees in hydrology; instead, most universities offer hydrology concentrations in their geosciences, engineering, or earth science programs. Students interested in becoming hydrologists need to complete coursework in math, statistics, and physical, computer, and life sciences. Hydrologists may find it helpful to have a background in economics, environmental law, and other government policy related topics. Knowledge of these areas may help hydrologists communicate with and understand the goals of policymakers and other government workers.
Analytical skills. Hydrologists need to analyze data collected in the field and examine the results of laboratory tests.
Communication skills. Hydrologists prepare detailed reports that document their research methods and findings. They may have to present their findings to people who do not have a technical background, such as government officials or the general public.
Critical-thinking skills. Hydrologists develop and use models to assess the potential risks to the water supply by pollution, floods, droughts, and other threats. They develop water management plans to handle these threats.
Interpersonal skills. Most hydrologists work as part of a diverse team with engineers, technicians, and other scientists.
Physical stamina. When they are in the field, hydrologists may need to hike to remote locations while carrying testing and sampling equipment.
Salaries for Hydrologists
The median annual wage for hydrologists was $79,990 in May 2017. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $50,900, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $122,870.
In May 2017, the median annual wages for hydrologists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
Management, scientific, and technical consulting services: $91,860
Engineering services: $87,110
Federal government, excluding postal service: $86,610
Local government, excluding education and hospitals: $75,510
State government, excluding education and hospitals: $65,540
Most hydrologists work full time. However, the length of daily shifts may vary when hydrologists work in the field.
Job Outlook for hydrologists
Employment of hydrologists is projected to grow 10 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. Demand for the services of hydrologists will stem from increases in human activities such as mining, construction, and hydraulic fracturing. Environmental concerns, especially global climate change and the possibility of sea-level rise in addition to local concerns such as flooding and drought, are likely to increase demand for hydrologists in the future.
Managing the nation’s water resources will be critical as the population grows and increased human activity changes the natural water cycle. Population expansion into areas that were previously uninhabited may increase the risk of flooding, and new communities may encounter water availability issues. These issues will all need the understanding and knowledge that hydrologists have to find sustainable solutions. However, as governments are the main consumers of hydrologic information, budget constraints will limit growth.
Hydrologists will be necessary to assess the threats that global climate change poses to local, state, and national water supplies. For example, changes in climate affect the severity and frequency of droughts and floods. Hydrologists are critical to developing comprehensive water management plans that address these and other problems linked to climate change.
Employment projections data for Hydrologists, 2016-26
Employment, 2016: 6,700
Projected Employment, 2026: 7,400
Change, 2016-2026: +10%, +700
Careers Related to hydrologists
Agricultural engineers attempt to solve agricultural problems concerning power supplies, the efficiency of machinery, the use of structures and facilities, pollution and environmental issues, and the storage and processing of agricultural products.
Atmospheric scientists study the weather and climate, and examine how those conditions affect human activity and the earth in general.
Civil engineers conceive, design, build, supervise, operate, construct, and maintain infrastructure projects and systems in the public and private sector, including roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and systems for water supply and sewage treatment.
Conservation scientists and foresters manage the overall land quality of forests, parks, rangelands, and other natural resources.
Environmental engineers use the principles of engineering, soil science, biology, and chemistry to develop solutions to environmental problems. They are involved in efforts to improve recycling, waste disposal, public health, and water and air pollution control.
Environmental science and protection technicians monitor the environment and investigate sources of pollution and contamination, including those affecting public health
Environmental scientists and specialists use their knowledge of the natural sciences to protect the environment and human health. They may clean up polluted areas, advise policymakers, or work with industry to reduce waste.
Geological and petroleum technicians provide support to scientists and engineers in exploring and extracting natural resources, such as minerals, oil, and natural gas.
Geoscientists study the physical aspects of the Earth, such as its composition, structure, and processes, to learn about its past, present, and future.
Mining and geological engineers design mines to safely and efficiently remove minerals such as coal and metals for use in manufacturing and utilities.
|Occupation||ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION||2017 MEDIAN PAY|
|Atmospheric Scientists, Including Meteorologists||Bachelor's degree||$92,070|
|Civil Engineers||Bachelor's degree||$84,770|
|Conservation Scientists and Foresters||Bachelor's degree||$60,970|
|Environmental Engineers||Bachelor's degree||$86,800|
|Environmental Science and Protection Technicians||Associate's degree||$45,490|
|Environmental Scientists and Specialists||Bachelor's degree||$69,400|
|Agricultural Engineers||Bachelor's degree||$74,780|
|Geological and Petroleum Technicians||Associate's degree||$54,190|
|Mining and Geological Engineers||Bachelor's degree||$94,240|
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Hydrologists,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/hydrologists.htm