Hydrologist Job Description

Hydrologists manage and maintain water resources to check the water being supplied to consumers in a safe and cost-effective way. This involves managing all aspects of water resource information and data collection, travelling to field sites to carry out tests, and identifying trends in data regarding hydrologic systems.
Hydrologists typically work in an office environment, but fieldwork is often required as well, which may lead them to difficult outdoor settings and mean working in undesirable weather conditions. This job is well-suited to people who enjoy analyzing data, have good computer skills, work well as part of a team, and like finding solutions to problems.


Hydrologist Duties and Responsibilities

The type of organization a hydrologist works for will determine the exact roles and responsibilities. Based on job listings we analyzed, a hydrologist’s duties typically involve:

Collect Water Samples

Hydrologists collect samples of water and soil from different areas to test for specific properties, such as the levels of pollution or the pH balance.

Test Water Supplies

Hydrologists test the water from rivers, ponds, and other bodies of water, to check for pollution, diseases, and other foreign particles that make the water unsanitary. They also test the waste in the underground which can affect the fertility of the soil.

Analyze Data

Once data has been collected, hydrologists look at the impact the environment has had on the water and soil in a certain area, looking also at issues such as erosion or drought.

Write Reports on Findings

Hydrologists write reports on their findings, particularly if they’ve uncovered disease in the water, and submit these to the proper authorities so that the appropriate measures can be taken to prevent it spreading further. They also evaluate the feasibility of water-related projects such as hydroelectric plants or irrigation systems.

Research Pollution Reduction

Hydrologists look for ways to minimize the negative effects of pollution, sedimentation, erosion, and other issues on the environment. They use computer models to forecast future water supplies to highlight these issues, such as the spread of pollution.


Hydrologist Skills and Qualifications

Hydrologists are team-oriented problem-solvers with an analytical approach to tasks and data. Typically, employers will require a bachelor’s degree in a science or engineering-related subject, as well as the following abilities:

  • Analytical Skills – Hydrologists analyze laboratory tests and data, so they need to have strong analytical skills to spot errors, anomalies, and trends
  • Critical Thinking – This job requires the ability to think critically to assess the potential risks from pollution, droughts, and floods, among other threats
  • Interpersonal Skills – Hydrologists typically work as part of a team of engineers, scientists, and technicians, so the ability to communicate effectively is beneficial to this job
  • Computer Skills – Hydrologists spend a lot of time analyzing data and creating graphs and spreadsheets to show their findings, so an understanding of computers and database software is vital
  • Physical Stamina – When working in the field, hydrologists may have to hike to remote locations with heavy equipment and sampling tools, so the physical stamina to carry out this aspect of the job is important


Hydrologist Education and Training

The minimum requirement to become a hydrologist is a bachelor’s degree in engineering, earth sciences, geosciences, or similar. It’s common for candidates to begin their careers with a master’s degree in these subjects. Applicants for advanced research and university faculty positions usually also need a Ph.D. Students interested in this field of work should complete coursework in math, statistics, or life sciences. Hydrologists may benefit from having a background in environmental law or government policy, as these subjects will help them understand the goals of policymakers and government workers as well as to communicate on projects.


Hydrologist Salary and Outlook

The median annual salary for hydrologists is nearly $80,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Hydrologists in the 10th percentile earn around $50,000 annually, while the highest paid earn close to $123,000. Some companies offer packages that can reach up to $6,000 from bonus structures based on individual or group performances, and up to $4,000 in profit sharing opportunities.

This full-time position includes benefits such as vacation and sick pay, in addition to medical coverage. Those working in the public sector, such as for the federal government, can expect life insurance and a pension plan. The BLS predicts that the growth rate for this position is expected to increase by 10 percent through 2026.


Helpful Resources

We’ve collected some of the best resources to help you learn more about a career as a hydrologist:

Environmental Engineering Jobs – For anyone working in the environmental sector, this LinkedIn group is a great place to network, discuss the latest industry news, and stay ahead of trends and valuable information.

Clean Water: An Introduction to Water Quality and Water Pollution Control – Ideal for anyone who wants to be better informed about one of the planet’s most valuable resources, this book provides an overview of the scientific, cultural, geographical, and regulatory issues related to water quality and pollution control.

Water Supply and Pollution Control – This book is a great reference tool for those working in water-based environmental engineering roles, covering theory to practice regarding water treatment, water quality, and the regulations regarding pollution control.

“What are the Biggest Sources of Water Pollution?” – There are a vast number of pollutants in the world today, each with a different level of destructiveness and impact on the environment. This blog post explains why this is such as concerning issue for the planet, along with a description of some of the main causes of water pollution that the population needs to manage.


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