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Become A Research Hydrologist

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Working As A Research Hydrologist

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

    Average Salary

What Does A Research 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 Research 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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Research Hydrologist Demographics

Gender

Male

66.7%

Female

20.0%

Unknown

13.3%
Ethnicity

White

54.9%

Asian

14.4%

Hispanic or Latino

12.0%

Black or African American

11.8%

Unknown

6.8%
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Research Hydrologist Education

Schools

University of the Sciences

8.3%

University of South Carolina - Columbia

8.3%

Western Seminary

8.3%

University of Maryland - College Park

8.3%

University of Puerto Rico-Central Administration

8.3%

University of New Mexico

8.3%

University of South Florida

8.3%

University of Virginia

8.3%

Duke University

8.3%

Utah State University

8.3%

University of Arizona

8.3%

Southern Illinois University Carbondale

8.3%
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Majors

Geology

20.0%

Environmental Science

13.3%

Management

6.7%

Civil Engineering

6.7%

Public Relations

6.7%

Agricultural Operation And Science

6.7%

Statistics

6.7%

Management Science

6.7%

Mathematics

6.7%

Chemistry

6.7%

Environmental Engineering

6.7%

Geography

6.7%
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Degrees

Doctorate

73.3%

Masters

20.0%

Other

6.7%

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Highest Research Hydrologist Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Scientist, Research Hydrologist Air Worldwide Corporation San Francisco, CA Nov 05, 2016 $98,613
Research Hydrologist Engineer Air Worldwide Corporation San Francisco, CA Sep 16, 2014 $97,000
Scientist/Research Hydrologist Air Worldwide Corporation San Francisco, CA Aug 18, 2015 $90,000
Scientist/Research Hydrologist Air Worldwide Corporation Boston, MA Aug 10, 2015 $85,000
Research Hydrologist Engineer Air Worldwide Corporation San Francisco, CA Aug 24, 2014 $75,000
Research Hydrologist Air Worldwide Corp. Boston, MA Mar 15, 2010 $72,000

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