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Career Profile: Hydrologists

Research the distribution, circulation, and physical properties of underground and surface waters; and study the form and intensity of precipitation and its rate of infiltration into the soil, movement through the earth, and return to the ocean and atmosphere.

Salary and Outlook

According to the US Department of Labor, there are 6,500 people employed as hydrologists in the United States. The median annual salary is $84,000. Entry level employees earn approximately $52,900 per year and senior employees earn approximately $130,030 per year.

Estimates do not include other potential benefits such as health insurance, overtime pay, or retirement benefits that may be offered by employers.

Job Duties

  • Prepare written and oral reports describing research results, using illustrations, maps, appendices, and other information.
  • Design and conduct scientific hydrogeological investigations to ensure that accurate and appropriate information is available for use in water resource management decisions.
  • Measure and graph phenomena such as lake levels, stream flows, and changes in water volumes.
  • Conduct research and communicate information to promote the conservation and preservation of water resources.
  • Coordinate and supervise the work of professional and technical staff, including research assistants, technologists, and technicians.
  • Monitor the work of well contractors, exploratory borers, and engineers and enforce rules regarding their activities.
  • Answer questions and provide technical assistance and information to contractors or the public regarding issues such as well drilling, code requirements, hydrology, and geology.
  • Investigate properties, origins, and activities of glaciers, ice, snow, and permafrost.
  • Conduct short- and long-term climate assessments and study storm occurrences.
  • Administer programs designed to ensure the proper sealing of abandoned wells.
  • Develop computer models for hydrologic predictions.
  • Study and analyze the physical aspects of the earth in terms of hydrological components, including atmosphere, hydrosphere, and interior structure.
  • Evaluate research data in terms of its impact on issues such as soil and water conservation, flood control planning, and water supply forecasting.
  • Collect and analyze water samples as part of field investigations or to validate data from automatic monitors.
  • Apply research findings to help minimize the environmental impacts of pollution, waterborne diseases, erosion, and sedimentation.
  • Prepare hydrogeologic evaluations of known or suspected hazardous waste sites and land treatment and feedlot facilities.
  • Evaluate data and provide recommendations regarding the feasibility of municipal projects, such as hydroelectric power plants, irrigation systems, flood warning systems, and waste treatment facilities.
  • Develop or modify methods for conducting hydrologic studies.
  • Review applications for site plans and permits and recommend approval, denial, modification, or further investigative action.
  • Study and document quantities, distribution, disposition, and development of underground and surface waters.
  • Install, maintain, and calibrate instruments such as those that monitor water levels, rainfall, and sediments.
  • Study public water supply issues, including flood and drought risks, water quality, wastewater, and impacts on wetland habitats.
  • Investigate complaints or conflicts related to the alteration of public waters, gathering information, recommending alternatives, informing participants of progress, and preparing draft orders.
  • Design civil works associated with hydrographic activities and supervise their construction, installation, and maintenance.
  • Compile and evaluate hydrologic information to prepare navigational charts and maps and to predict atmospheric conditions.

Career List

Job Outlook


Total Current Jobs:
6,500
Annual Openings:
700
Increase in Openings by 2030:
6%
Annual Salary Range:
$52,900 - $130,030
Education Requirements:
Bachelor's degree