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Become A Hydrologist

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Working As A Hydrologist

  • Getting Information
  • Analyzing Data or Information
  • Interacting With Computers
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems
  • Processing Information
  • $83,000

    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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Hydrologist Career Paths

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Hydrologist Demographics

Gender

Male

65.1%

Female

26.3%

Unknown

8.7%
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

University of Arizona

14.0%

Colorado State University

10.3%

University of Nevada - Las Vegas

7.5%

University of Washington

5.6%

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

5.6%

Arizona State University

4.7%

University of South Florida

4.7%

Texas A&M University

4.7%

Northern Arizona University

3.7%

South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

3.7%

University of North Dakota

3.7%

University of Montana

3.7%

University of Idaho

3.7%

University of California - Berkeley

3.7%

Oklahoma State University

3.7%

Kent State University

3.7%

Utah State University

3.7%

University of Maryland - College Park

3.7%

University of South Carolina - Columbia

2.8%

Oregon State University

2.8%
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Majors

Geology

41.1%

Environmental Science

13.2%

Civil Engineering

12.2%

Geography

5.3%

Natural Resources Management

3.9%

Biology

2.3%

Meteorology

2.3%

Business

2.0%

Environmental Control Technologies/Technicians

2.0%

Geological Engineering

2.0%

Engineering

2.0%

Environmental Engineering

1.6%

Management

1.3%

Soil Science

1.3%

Ecology, Population Biology, And Epidemiology

1.3%

Chemistry

1.3%

Physics

1.3%

Public Administration

1.3%

Physical Sciences

1.3%

Pharmacy

1.0%
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Degrees

Masters

46.3%

Bachelors

30.7%

Other

9.4%

Doctorate

9.1%

Certificate

2.4%

Associate

1.6%

License

0.3%

Diploma

0.3%
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Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary
Average Yearly Salary
$83,000
View Detailed Salary Report
$42,000
Min 10%
$83,000
Median 50%
$83,000
Median 50%
$83,000
Median 50%
$83,000
Median 50%
$83,000
Median 50%
$83,000
Median 50%
$83,000
Median 50%
$163,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Exxon Mobil
Highest Paying City
Fort Collins, CO
Highest Paying State
North Dakota
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 $83,367 per year or $40 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $42,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $163,000.

Real Hydrologist Salaries

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

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Top Skills for A Hydrologist

  1. Groundwater Samples
  2. Water Quality Studies
  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
  • Desired future conditions review and estimation of modeled available groundwater in support of the legislatively mandated groundwater management process.
  • Permit reviews according to watershed district rules and Wetland Conservation Act provisions and site inspections to ensure compliance with permitted plans.
  • Coordinated the Electronic Data Plan (EDP) for the Water Resources Program and presented computer tech support for office workers.
  • Managed annual program budget and planned and executed surface water, aquatic habitat and riparian monitoring protocols.

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Top 10 Best States for Hydrologists

  1. New Jersey
  2. Maryland
  3. Alaska
  4. Georgia
  5. Colorado
  6. Nevada
  7. New Hampshire
  8. Texas
  9. District of Columbia
  10. Oklahoma
  • (16 jobs)
  • (9 jobs)
  • (6 jobs)
  • (5 jobs)
  • (7 jobs)
  • (3 jobs)
  • (1 jobs)
  • (14 jobs)
  • (0 jobs)
  • (2 jobs)

Top Hydrologist Employers

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