Career Choice: Hydrologists

Career Choice: Hydrologists
  • Type: Career Type
  • Opening Intro -

    Clean and abundant water is essential to the maintenance of any society as governments have risen and fallen where water issues have played in.

    Humans may be able to last weeks without food, but without water death can take place in as little as 48 hours.


Hydrologists are professionals that study water with an eye toward ensuring an adequate and clean supply is available. They may also be known as a hydrogeologist, groundwater consultant or a hydraulic engineer.


The rain falls, but where does the water go? That’s a question hydrologists seek to answer, especially when looking for sources of clean water to supply communities. The distribution and circulation of water is carefully observed to determine precipitation rates, how water penetrates and moves through soil and its eventual return to the atmosphere or out to the ocean.

The work of a hydrologist can be varied, and may include installing, maintaining and calibrating equipment; measuring and graphing large bodies of water including lakes; studying and evaluating data including the environmental impact of pollution; investigating the impact that glaciers, snow and ice have on ground conditions; and conducting studies. Hydrologists liaise with other professionals and may make recommendations for environmentally sensitive projects.


Hydrologists have at least a bachelor’s degree with about half of all such professionals possessing at least a master’s degree. Students pursuing this field will likely embrace the geosciences, including earth science to get qualified.

Applicable courses for geoscience students include: physical geography, oceanography, paleobiology, field geology, geoclimatology and volcanology. Other courses may include a study of plate tectonics, sustainability, gem minerals, physics, mining and energy exploration.


The median wage for hydrologists came in at $75,530 as of 2012 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Salaries for those in the 10th percentile came in at $48,400 per year. Those in the 25th percentile earned $60,100 while the median salary for hydrologists came in at $75,500 per year. Hydrologists in the 75th percentile averaged $94,000 per year and those in the 90th percentile could expect to earn at least $112,800 annually.

Salaries for hydrologists were highest in Georgia according to the BLS. Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina and Massachusetts represented the top five states for salary averages, with a range from $88,500 to $91,100. Bottom pay of just $48,100 per year was found in Nebraska followed by South Carolina coming in at $56,100 and Wisconsin at $59,800.

Job Outlook

Hydrology falls under the BLS’ “green occupation” designation largely because of the work that they do to ensure that drinking water is available and clean. Approximately 8,000 individuals are hydrologists, a field that is expected to grow by 18 percent from 2010 to 2020.


O*NET Online: Summary Report for: 19-2043.00 – Hydrologists

US Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Hydrologists

See AlsoCareer Choice: Green Marketers


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Categories: Career Planning