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Working As A Hydrologist

  • Getting Information
  • Analyzing Data or Information
  • Interacting With Computers
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems
  • Processing Information
  • $81,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Hydrologist 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

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 also use geographic information systems (GIS) and global positioning system (GPS) equipment to do their jobs.

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. Most groundwater hydrologists focus on the cleanup of groundwater contaminated by spilled chemicals at a factory, an airport, or a gas station. Some groundwater hydrologists focus on water supply and decide the best locations for wells and the amount of water available for pumping. 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 who concentrate their efforts in the area of water quality are environmental scientists and specialists. Some people with a hydrology background become high school teachers or postsecondary teachers.

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How To Become A Hydrologist

Hydrologist need at least a bachelor’s degree for entry-level positions; however, some workers begin their careers with a master’s degree. 

Education

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 extensive 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.

Important Qualities

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 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.

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Average Yearly Salary
$81,000
Show Salaries
$54,000
Min 10%
$81,000
Median 50%
$81,000
Median 50%
$81,000
Median 50%
$81,000
Median 50%
$81,000
Median 50%
$81,000
Median 50%
$81,000
Median 50%
$122,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Shell
Highest Paying City
Davis, CA
Highest Paying State
Alaska
Avg Experience Level
4.8 years
How much does a Hydrologist make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Hydrologist in the United States is $81,612 per year or $39 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $54,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $122,000.

The largest raises come from changing jobs.

See what's out there.

Real Hydrologist Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers Ellington & Associates, Inc. Mar 18, 2013 $260,000
Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers Shell Oil Company Apr 24, 2014 $213,600
Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers Exxon Mobil Corporation Apr 16, 2014 $204,500 -
$238,400
Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers Statoil Gulf Services LLC Apr 23, 2014 $200,000
Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers BP America Inc. Aug 18, 2014 $195,700 -
$205,700
Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers Statoil Gulf Services LLC Sep 12, 2014 $195,686
Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers Talisman Energy Services Inc. Jul 01, 2014 $195,686 -
$229,686
Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers Ion Geophysical Corporation Nov 04, 2013 $177,382
Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers Exxon Mobil Corporation Apr 07, 2014 $177,382 -
$267,500
Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers EMGS Americas, Inc. May 28, 2014 $177,382
Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers TGS-Nopec Geophysical Company Apr 22, 2014 $177,382
Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers Hess Corporation Aug 26, 2014 $177,382 -
$192,000
Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers Broken Hill Proprietary (USA) Inc. Mar 03, 2014 $177,382
Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers Shell Oil Company Jan 27, 2014 $167,524 -
$169,524
Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers Shell Oil Company Dec 17, 2013 $128,500
Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers Conocophillips Company May 16, 2014 $126,624
Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers Chevron Corporation Nov 27, 2013 $125,600
Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers Conocophillips Company Apr 15, 2014 $125,000
Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers BP America Inc. Sep 18, 2014 $124,900 -
$135,000
Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers Chevron Corporation Aug 05, 2013 $124,500
Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers Pioneer Natural Resources USA, Inc. Apr 09, 2014 $124,197
Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers Chevron Corporation Jul 15, 2014 $121,400
Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers Noble Energy Inc. Apr 08, 2013 $107,400
Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers Geokinetics Inc. Aug 19, 2013 $107,200 -
$110,200
Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers Hess Corporation May 06, 2014 $107,182 -
$147,000
Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers Exxon Mobil Corporation Aug 21, 2014 $106,100 -
$180,300
Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers Exxon Mobil Corporation Aug 14, 2014 $106,100 -
$180,300
Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers Rock Solid Images, Inc. May 13, 2014 $106,000
Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers Rock Solid Images, Inc. May 13, 2014 $105,000
Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers Exxon Mobil Corporation Jan 22, 2014 $103,500 -
$175,900

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Top Skills for A Hydrologist

  1. Water Quality Studies
  2. Ensure Compliance
  3. GIS
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Water quality studies, well drilling/coring supervision, core description, Coastal Plain stratigraphy
  • Permit reviews according to watershed district rules and Wetland Conservation Act provisions and site inspections to ensure compliance with permitted plans.
  • Desired future conditions review and estimation of modeled available groundwater in support of the legislatively mandated groundwater management process.
  • Conducted scientific studies of water resources in the western and mid-western United States.
  • Managed annual program budget and planned and executed surface water, aquatic habitat and riparian monitoring protocols.

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Average Salary:

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Top 10 Best States for Hydrologists

  1. Louisiana
  2. Alaska
  3. Rhode Island
  4. Kentucky
  5. Connecticut
  6. West Virginia
  7. New Jersey
  8. Montana
  9. Maryland
  10. South Carolina
  • (3 jobs)
  • (6 jobs)
  • (1 jobs)
  • (8 jobs)
  • (4 jobs)
  • (1 jobs)
  • (16 jobs)
  • (2 jobs)
  • (9 jobs)
  • (3 jobs)

Hydrologist Demographics

Gender

Male

66.5%

Female

27.7%

Unknown

5.9%
Ethnicity

White

64.7%

Hispanic or Latino

12.1%

Asian

9.9%

Black or African American

9.2%

Unknown

4.1%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

23.5%

French

11.8%

Dakota

11.8%

Navajo

11.8%

Arapaho

5.9%

Hawaiian

5.9%

German

5.9%

Chamorro

5.9%

Hopi

5.9%

Armenian

5.9%

Cheyenne

5.9%
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Hydrologist Education

Schools

Colorado State University

13.1%

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

8.2%

University of Arizona

8.2%

University of Nevada - Las Vegas

8.2%

University of Connecticut

4.9%

University of South Florida

4.9%

University of California - Berkeley

4.9%

Kent State University

4.9%

University of Washington

4.9%

University of Kansas

4.9%

Northern Arizona University

3.3%

South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

3.3%

University of North Dakota

3.3%

Ohio State University

3.3%

University of Montana

3.3%

East Carolina University

3.3%

Oklahoma State University

3.3%

Texas A&M University

3.3%

George Washington University

3.3%

City College of New York of the City University of New York

3.3%
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Majors

Geology

40.0%

Civil Engineering

16.3%

Environmental Science

12.5%

Geography

5.0%

Meteorology

3.1%

Chemistry

2.5%

Physics

2.5%

Mathematics

1.9%

Public Administration

1.9%

Environmental Engineering

1.9%

Natural Resources Management

1.3%

Educational Leadership

1.3%

Forestry

1.3%

Medicine

1.3%

Human Resources Management

1.3%

Biology

1.3%

Soil Science

1.3%

Business

1.3%

Geological Engineering

1.3%

Engineering

1.3%
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Degrees

Masters

46.9%

Bachelors

40.2%

Doctorate

6.1%

Certificate

2.8%

Associate

1.1%

Diploma

1.1%

High School Diploma

1.1%

License

0.6%
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