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Career Profile: Hydrologist

Why Is Hydrology a Job of Tomorrow?
Hydrologists will be sought after to help manage precious water resources as urban sprawl creeps into environmentally sensitive areas. Employment opportunities for hydrologists are expected to increase 24 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Hydrologists make an average salary of $66,260 annually.

What Does a Hydrologist Do?
Hydrologists are experts in the properties, uses and conservation of water. They study the quantities, distribution and circulation of water resources, and often work in consulting firms that aid businesses and government agencies in complying with federal environmental policies. Most hydrologists specialize in either surface or underground water. For example, a hydrologist specializing in underground water may work with a landfill company that needs consultation on how to avoid groundwater contamination. On the other hand, a hydrologist specializing in surface water may work with an agricultural company on preventing pesticide and soil contamination of nearby lakes or rivers. Hydrologists also often participate in scientific research about precipitation, global water cycles and river flow rates. Many hydrologists are employed by clients to help solve problems, such as contamination or environmental policy violation issues.

What Kind of Training Do I Need to Become a Hydrologist?
Hydrologists must have a master’s degree in environmental science with an emphasis on hydrological courses. Those looking for a teaching or research position typically need a Ph.D. A master’s degree program typically takes two to three years to complete after earning a four-year bachelor’s degree. A Ph.D. typically takes an additional four to six years to complete. Prospective hydrologists should expect to take courses in such subjects as geophysics, soil science and aquatic biology. To increase marketability, prospective hydrologists should also take courses in business, finance and marketing, as this knowledge would be useful in consultation positions. Those seeking advancement in the field should earn certification in professional hydrology, which is available from the American Institute of Hydrology.