How to Become a Hydro Engineer: Career Path Guide
Although there are other paths to take, the most common way to become a hydro engineer is to follow these essential steps:
1. Make sure you have the right personal traits for this profession
2. Pursue a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering
3. Get work experience as a student via internship and co-op opportunities
4. Get an entry-level job in hydro engineering after graduation
5. Earn the Professional Engineer designation
6. Advance into senior-level roles, management roles, or consultancy as you gain experience
Below we've expanded on these points to give you a good idea of what you'll need to become a hydro engineer in the United States or Canada. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as what you’ll be doing, what you could earn, and a list of “Hydro Engineer” job postings in your area!
What Education Will I Need?
To become an entry-level hydro engineer, you typically need a bachelor’s degree in electrical or civil engineering, or a related field of engineering. A graduate-level degree may be required for roles involving greater responsibility (depending on the requirements of the employer or the scope of the project) and will be required for research and teaching positions.
What is a Hydro Engineer?
Hydro engineers (also known as hydro-electric and hydro-power engineers) provide design, engineering, project planning and consulting services to hydro-electric companies to assist with all phases of hydroelectric power development including hydroelectric dams, spillways, tunnels, power transmission lines and electrical substations.
What Does a Hydro Engineer Do?
In general, hydro engineers are responsible for the following:
• Designing hydro electric facilities and equipment
• Using, developing and implementing internal engineering tools
• Conferring with technicians, technologists, architects and other professionals
• Participating in the establishment and maintenance of the project schedule and budgets
• Developing specifications and technical procedures for the procurement, manufacturing, installation and commissioning of equipment
• Developing specifications for the procurement of external engineering resources
• Actively participating in design reviews, both internal and with the client
• Conducting inspections of project sites and workplace environments
• Ensuring processes follow established safety standards and legislation
• Supporting the quality assurance team in the creation of inspection and test plans and the resolution of any quality issues
What Courses Should I Take in High School?
Excelling at math (calculus, algebra, geometry), physics and biology will serve as excellent preparation for this career while you’re a high school student. Be sure to absorb as much information as you can and get good grades in these areas.
Success Tip: Excelling in these subjects will give you a head start in preparing for this career, and will help you qualify for engineering degree programs!
What Experience Will I Need?
Most entry-level hydro engineering jobs don’t require any work experience above what you gain as part of an internship while completing your engineering degree.
Entry-level jobs may consist of assisting with collecting data on electrical system requirements, determining the efficiency of power generators and conducting field surveys to identify power system problems.
Mid and senior-level roles often require 3-5 years of experience working in lower level roles, with progressive amounts of responsibility in those roles, as well as Professional Engineer certification.
What Licensure/Certification Will I Need?
You will need to be licensed as a Professional Engineer (“PE” - United States; “P.Eng.” - Canada) in order to exercise direct control of a public project and to supervise other engineers and engineering technicians.
You will also need to have the PE/P.Eng. designation in order to sell your own engineering services publicly.
Most entry-level distribution planning engineer jobs won’t require you to have the Professional Engineer designation. In such cases, you would work under the supervision of a licensed engineer.
How to Become Licensed
Licensing requirements typically involve completion of an accredited engineering degree, completion of a set number of supervised working hours, and passing an exam, or series of exams. However, these requirements can vary, so please contact your provincial/territorial/state engineering association for full details on becoming licensed.
Should I Become a Hydro Engineer?
A career as a hydro engineer might be an excellent match for you if you have the following characteristics and attributes:
• You have a natural aptitude in science and mathematics
• You have a keen interest in renewable energy, and in engineering principles
• You’re interested in seeing a project through from conception to completion
• You enjoy the idea of working on large-scale projects
• You’re committed to staying up to date with relevant technological innovations
• You're willing to work overtime when required, and possibly travel for work
• You can work effectively with a small team for the duration of a project
• You approach your work with confidence, and can install that confidence in clients
• You’re mindful of how the total costs to perform services affects company/client decisions
• You want to apply your knowledge of the science of water in motion in your work
What is the Salary of a Hydro Engineer?
Hydro engineers belong to the “Electrical and Electronics Engineers” and “Civil Engineers” occupational groups. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans working in the former group earn a median salary of $95,230 per year, while those in the latter earn a median salary of $82,222 per year.
More About Salary Levels
The salary you could earn as a hydro engineer can vary based on many factors, including:
• Your level of education, experience and certification
• The level of responsibility involved in your job
• The size and type of your employer
• The region in which you work
• The industry in which you work
• If you receive any medical, dental, vision, profit sharing, and/or retirement benefits
• Many other factors
Hydro Engineer Salary - Alberta: According to the 2015 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, the overall average salary of Albertans working in the “Civil Engineers” occupational group is $98,342 per year, while those working in the “Electrical and Electronics Engineers” group earn an average of $104,815 per year.
Hydro Engineer Salary - United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall median salary level of Americans working in the “Electrical and Electronics Engineers" occupational group is $95,230 per year, while that of workers in the “Civil Engineers” group is $82,222 per year.
Who Creates Jobs for Hydro Engineers?
The most common types of employers for hydro engineers include:
• Local, regional and national government departments
• Civil, electrical and energy engineering consulting firms
• Utility concerns
• Conservation groups
• Research and academic institutions
• Self-employment as a consultant
Hydropower/Hydroelectric Engineer Jobs
Our job board below has "Hydro Engineer" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.
What Career Advancement Opportunities Are There?
If you’re willing to constantly learn and improve your craft and expand your knowledge, then you'll see plenty of career advancement opportunities.
With a proven track record of success you could move into roles of greater responsibility and pay, including project engineer or project manager, or become self-employed as an engineering consultant. With graduate-level education, you could also work in research and teaching positions.
What are Careers Similar to “Hydro Engineer”?
Listed below are careers that may be in the same field, or they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and/or responsibilities as “Hydro Engineer”:
What Scholarships Are There for Aspiring Hydro Engineers?
The “Majors in Our Database Relevant for this Career” section below lists fields of study that are relevant to becoming a hydro engineer. You can search for relevant scholarships by finding those majors on our “Any Field of Study Scholarships” page.
Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!
Please consult the following resources to learn more about what it takes to become a hydro engineer:
• Occupational Profile: “Electrical Engineer.” (n.d.). Alberta Government - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved February 20, 2017.
• Occupational Profile: “Civil Engineer.” (n.d.). Alberta Government - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved February 20, 2017.
• Occupational Outlook Handbook: “Electrical and Electronics Engineers.” (n.d.). United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved February 20, 2017.
• Occupational Outlook Handbook: “Civil Engineers.” (n.d.). United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved February 20, 2017.
• Job Profiles: “Energy Engineers.” (December 6, 2016). National Careers Service. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
Please Note: Much of the information used for this career guide was sourced from actual “Hydro Engineer” related job postings, which due to their brief online nature, are not listed here as references.
Majors in Our Database Relevant for this Career
We have career guides for over 60 university majors in our database. Below we've outlined those that are most relevant to becoming a hydro engineer. Click on the links to see what else you can do with these majors!