How to Become a Hydraulic Engineer


If you have an excellent grasp of engineering concepts and fluid mechanics, and you want a career that offers great pay, excellent long-term growth, and the chance to make a name for yourself in the municipal infrastructure community, then a career as a hydraulic engineer is probably a great fit for you.


After all, nobody wants to lose their home to a flood, or go without clean drinking water or power. You could play a vital role in preventing these types of situations from happening by becoming a hydraulic engineer.


If you’d like to know more about the ins and outs of this career, then read on; we’ll fill you in on the details, including an overview of what these engineers do, and how you can become one!



What is a Hydraulic Engineer?

Hydraulics engineers are civil engineers that specialize in the interactions between water in motion and the surrounding environment.



Education Needed to Become a Hydraulic Engineer

The basic educational requirement for becoming a hydraulic engineer is a bachelor's degree in civil or mechanical engineering, with a good base of coursework related to the science of water in motion.


Please Note: You can also get into this field by pursuing a degree in a related scientific field, such as geology, although it will take you longer to fully meet the educational requirements for becoming a Professional Engineer (P.Eng.).





General Job Description

Hydraulic engineers are responsible for solving large-scale problems related to managing the flow and storage of water, such as power generation, flood control, and ensuring cities have enough drinking water.


They do so by applying the principles of fluid mechanics in the design and development of water engineering structures, as well as civil and environmental engineering structures and facilities, such as canals, rivers, dams, reservoirs and water treatment plants.



Typical Job Duties

Although the job duties of a hydraulic engineer can vary depending on what their responsibilities are, they are generally responsible for the following types of tasks:


• Liaising with project owners to get an overview of project needs

• Computing flow rates of water

• Preparing engineering designs, reports and recommendations

• Presenting reports and recommendations to structural engineers, architects and construction personnel

• Liaising with architects and other professionals to design dams and bridges

• Directing activities related to dredging and digging cutoffs and constructing levies

• Designing and coordinating the construction of artificial canals and mains used to transport water

• Developing plans for reservoirs, pressure valves and booster stations to obtain proper water pressure

• Building laboratory models to study construction and flow problems

• Performing research related to the effects of flooding on the environment



Licensure and Certification Needed

As a hydraulic engineer, you won’t get very far without a license. As a rule of thumb, if you are doing unsupervised engineering work that affects public safety, you will need a license. If you are not licensed, you may still work on engineering projects under the supervision of a licensed engineer. This is good news, because you will need that experience to become licensed.


Becoming Licensed in Canada


• Licensure as a Professional Engineer in Canada generally requires the following:

• A four-year bachelor's degree in a recognized engineering program

• At least four years (typically) of acceptable work experience under the supervision of a Professional Engineer

• A minimum of three acceptable references

• Successful completion of an approved examination in law, ethics and professionalism



Becoming Licensed in the United States


To be licensed in the United States as a PE, you generally need to meet the following requirements:


• A degree from an accredited engineering program

• A passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam

• Relevant work experience

• A passing score on the Professional Engineering (PE) exam



Skills Needed to be Effective

In order to succeed in this field, you’ll need to have a certain knowledge base and skill set, including:


• Familiarity with relevant hydrologic and hydraulic modeling software

• A demonstrated ability to meet project schedules and budgets

• An excellent grasp of engineering principles

• An excellent grasp of fluid mechanics

• Working knowledge of relevant engineering design standards, codes and manuals, and best practice guidelines

• Working knowledge of standard construction specifications, engineering drawing standards, and regulatory and permitting requirements

• Knowledge in relevant equipment areas, such as valves, piping or pumps

• Knowledge of 2D or 3D modeling is often an asset



Traits For Becoming a Hydraulic Engineer

To get the most out of any career, you have to truly enjoy what you do. In order to enjoy working as a hydraulic engineer, you need certain characteristics, including:


• You have a keen interest in building a solid reputation in the municipal infrastructure industry

• You want to apply your knowledge of the science of water in motion in your work

• You enjoy the idea of working on large-scale projects

• You have a keen interest in areas such as surface water management, river bank stabilization and erosion protection

• You really enjoy seeing projects get from conception to completion

• You love meeting different people from a range of professional disciplines

• You’re okay with splitting work time between an office, a lab, and construction sites

• You have a strong business acumen and willingness to expand your employer’s business





Typical Salary Level

The salary level you could earn as a hydraulic engineer can vary, typically depending on the following factors:


• Your level of education

• Your level of experience

• The specific responsibilities of your job

• The size and type of your employer

• The region in which you work

• Many other factors


There is no salary information available from reliable sources for the specific occupation of hydraulic engineer. We can however, get a good idea of what you could earn in this field by looking at the average salary level of civil engineers, since hydraulic engineering is a subset of civil engineering.


Hydraulic Engineer Salary Canada: According the Alberta Learning Information System (ALIS), the average salary level of Albertans working as part of the "Civil Engineers" occupational group is $99,194 per year. WorkBC (province of B.C.), states that civil engineers earn an annual provincial median salary of $80,101. Unfortunately, no similar statistics were available from reliable sources for other Canadian provinces or territories at the time of writing (October 9, 2019).


Salary - United Kingdom: According to the National Careers Service, entry-level civil engineers earn roughly between £17,000 and £25,000 per year, and between £25,000 and £40,000 as they gain more experience. Senior Chartered Engineers can earn between £50,000 and £80,000 a year.


Salary - United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of Americans working in the "Civil Engineers" occupational group is $87,370 per year.



Who Employs Hydraulic Engineers?

The following types of organizations typically employ hydraulics engineers:


• Municipal, provincial/state and federal government departments

• Engineering, geoscience and environmental consulting firms

• National Defence

• Construction contractors

• Property developers

• Resource industries, such as oil & gas

• Public utilities

• Colleges and universities

• Companies that manufacture equipment used by engineers and in the construction industry

• Self-employment (with enough experience and a strong network of contacts)



Hydraulic Engineer Jobs

Our job board below has "hydraulic engineer" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.




Career Advancement Possibilities

When you first start off in the field, you will start as a junior engineer, or ‘engineer in training’, and you would train under the supervision of a licensed engineer in order to develop your technical knowledge skills.


In order to advance your career, you would need to obtain the Professional Engineering (PE) license, because only licensed engineers can assume responsibilities for public projects. Once you’ve gained licensure, you may qualify for advancement to more senior roles. Once you acquire even more experience and prove your ability to take on large projects, you may qualify for advancement to senior technical positions, or even managerial positions, such as Team Lead or even Project Manager.


If you have enough experience, you might choose establish your own consulting company or professional services firm. If you have a doctoral (PhD) degree, you may teach at a university, or conduct research.



Working Conditions Typical to This Profession

Hours: Hydraulic engineers typically work regular business hours, but due to the need to meet deadlines many have to work evenings and weekends on occasion. They may be on call, depending on the needs of their employer.


Setting: Hydraulic engineers typically divide their time between working at the office on a computer, sitting in a meeting, working in a lab, and visiting a project work site.


Work Environment: Hydraulic engineers usually work with a team that may include professionals from other engineering and scientific disciplines, as well as contractors, engineering technicians, bankers, lawyers or government officials.



Similar Occupations in Our Database

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to this one, as they may be in the same field, or they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and/or the same type of responsibilities.


Civil Engineer

Construction Manager

Environmental Engineer


Geoscience Technician

Water Resources Specialist 



References for this Career Guide

To find out more about what a hydraulic engineer does, what qualifications you’ll need, how much you could earn, and other details of this career, please consult the following resources:


Occupations in Alberta:Mechanical Engineer.” (March 31, 2018). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved December 21, 2019.

Architecture & Engineering:Civil Engineers.” (September 4, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved December 21, 2019.

Explore Careers:Civil Engineers.” (July 2, 2019). WorkBC website. Retrieved December 21, 2019.

Research:Hydraulic Engineering.” (n.d.) The University of Queensland - School of Civil Engineering website. Retrieved December 21, 2019.



Scholarships for Becoming a Hydraulic Engineer

All of the scholarships on our Civil Engineering Scholarships or Mechanical Engineering Scholarships are relevant for becoming a hydraulic engineer.



Applicable Majors

The university majors below are relevant to a career as a hydraulic engineer, as they can teach you relevant skills and competencies. Click on the majors to find out what other careers are applicable to them!


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