How to Become a Hydrologist

How to Become a Hydrologist: Career Guide

To become a hydrologist, you need to begin by determining if a career as a hydrologist is right for you.


If you want to work in a well-paying and dynamic career in which you can help protect our water resources, becoming a hydrologist may be a great career choice for you!


Below we've outlined what you'll need to become a hydrologist. We've also included helpful information for a hydrologist career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Education Needed to Become a Hydrologist

To become a hydrologist, you need to begin by earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Geology, Hydrology or a closely related field such as Environmental Science. Completing coursework geology, hydrology, chemistry, mathematics and physics is a great way to build an educational foundation for your prospective career as a hydrologist.


Depending on where your career ambitions and interests lie, you will likely need a graduate degree in geology, hydrology, chemistry or environmental science to become a senior level hydrologist. Employers also usually accept a degree in Environmental Engineering provided the candidate has experience in one of the above-mentioned fields.


Depending on the requirements of the employer, a Master’s degree in Geology, Hydrology, Chemistry or Environmental Science is typically sufficient for many applied research positions. To become a hydrologist who works in research and university teaching positions a PhD in hydrology, geology or environmental science is needed.


Hydrologists must also complete continuing education throughout their careers in order to keep their skills current stay up to date with advancements in the field.




Additional Training Needed to Become a Hydrologist

Individual training requirements for hydrologists typically vary from employer to employer. Many of the skills hydrologists need to be effective practitioners; they will gain on the job. They may receive additional training in specific software that is provided in-house, or by an external organization. 



Hydrologist Job Description

Hydrologists are responsible for studying the occurrence, distribution and properties of water on the earth’s surface, in the atmosphere and in soil. They also examine issues such as the relationship between rainfall and runoff, and the effects of precipitation on soils and various landscapes. 



Hydrologist Job Duties

• Solve water related problems using mathematical and physical principles

• Study the flow and storage of water in rivers, lakes, wetlands, glaciers, rocks and soil

• Assess the risk potential of floods and droughts

• Conduct short and long term climate assessments

• Develop management plans for water drainage

• Assist in minimizing the impacts of pollution, water-borne diseases, erosion and sedimentation

• Study public and industrial water supply, water quality, wastewater, water base and recreation requirements, and their impacts on the wetland habitats of fish and wildlife



Personal Traits and Skills Needed to Become a Hydrologist

To become an effective hydrologist, you need more than training and education. Below are some of the personality characteristics and skills needed to succeed in a career as a hydrologist.


• Analytical reasoning skills

• Attention to detail

• Excellent oral and written communication skills

• The ability to write clear and informative reports

• The ability to work independently and as part of a team

• An interest in the environment and our natural resources

• The ability to look at issues from an objective standpoint

• Must be comfortable working outside





Hydrologist Salary

The salaries of hydrologists can vary greatly depending on many factors, including their level of experience and education, who they work for, and many others.


Salary figures for hydrologists in Alberta: According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Geologists, Geochemists and Geophysicists occupational group, which includes hydrologists, earned on average from $40.80 to $60.85 an hour.


Salary figures for hydrologists in Canada: According to ECO Canada, hydrologists working entry-level jobs make an average of $43,000 per year in Canada. With several years of experience and advanced education, geologists earn an average of $75,000 to $100,000 per year.


Salary figures for hydrologists in the United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, hydrologists earn a median salary of $75,690 (2010 figures).



What is the Importance of Hydrologists?

Hydrologists are crucial to protecting our natural resources; many hydrologists are involved in projects to determine and promote sustainable usage of water sources in order to conserve our supply. For example, hydrologists assess risks posed to the water supply by pollution, floods, and other threats. They must develop water management plans to handle these threats.


They are also frequently hired by municipalities to study the effect that residential and commercial development will have on our environment, specifically the water quality of nearby rivers and streams. Their findings help city planners make wise decisions with respect to residential development.



Working Conditions for Hydrologists

The work setting for hydrologists can vary greatly, depending on who their employer is, what their duties are that day, or which project they are working on. They typically split time between working in an office setting performing research and data analysis, and working in a field setting for the purpose of collecting data and samples.


The physical requirements and schedule of the job can vary significantly for hydrologists depending on the work setting they find themselves in. For example, working in an office setting provides little in the way of physical challenge, although it can involve eye stain caused by working with computers for extended periods of time. In an office setting, hydrologists typically work a normal weekday-working schedule.


In a field setting, the work of a hydrologist can become quite physically demanding, as they may be required to travel great distances over rough terrain on foot in order to collect data and samples, as well as work and live in remote areas for several weeks or months at a time.



Who Hires Hydrologists?

Hydrologists typically work on a full-time permanent basis, although some may be employed on a contractual or interim basis. The following types of organizations usually hire them:


• Natural resource companies

• Civil and environmental engineering firms

• Environmental and forestry consulting firms

• Municipal, provincial/state and federal government departments



Hydrologist Jobs

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

Career Advancement for Hydrologists

Hydrologists typically receive greater responsibility and independence in their work as they become more experienced. Furthering their education can also lead to greater responsibility in their career. Hydrologists with a Ph.D. are usually responsible to directing research projects and overseeing the employees and students on the research team.



Careers Related to Hydrologist

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to Hydrologist, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Fluvial Geomorphologist



Soil Scientist

Environmental Scientist



References: How to Become a Hydrologist

Please use the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a hydrologist.


Alberta Learning and Information Services website:

ECO Canada website:

Prospects website:

Unites States Bureau of Labor Statistics website:



Scholarships for Becoming a Hydrologist

Scholarships in Canada and the United States listed for majors that apply to becoming a Hydrologist can be found on our All Scholarships by Major 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!



Becoming a Hydrologist: Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming a hydrologist. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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