More than seventy percent of Earth’s surface is covered by water… which supplies a lot of work material for hydrologists— the scientists who study how water moves across and through the Earth’s crust. They solve problems to improve water quality and increase the availability of water. The core of a hydrologist’s job involves measuring the properties of bodies of water, collecting and testing water samples, and analyzing the impact of pollution, erosion, and drought. They use sophisticated computer programs and sensing equipment to forecast future water levels, and may supervise technicians who operate the equipment. Hydrologists also evaluate the feasibility and impact of projects such as hydroelectric dams or irrigation systems, then report their findings and recommendations. Most hydrologists specialize; for example, groundwater hydrologists study water below the earth’s surface and plan cleanup of contaminated groundwater from chemical spills, or advise on locating wells safely. Hydrologists generally spend time working both in an office and in the field. In the field, hydrologists may collect samples and inspect equipment while knee-deep in lakes and streams. Many jobs require significant travel. Most hydrologists work full time, but the length of daily shifts may vary when in the field. Hydrologists need at least a bachelor’s degree, and some positions require a master’s degree. Candidates for advanced research and university faculty positions typically need a Ph.D.
What they do:
Research the distribution, circulation, and physical properties of underground and surface waters; and study the form and intensity of precipitation and its rate of infiltration into the soil, movement through the earth, and return to the ocean and atmosphere.
On the job, you would:
Prepare written and oral reports describing research results, using illustrations, maps, appendices, and other information.
Design and conduct scientific hydrogeological investigations to ensure that accurate and appropriate information is available for use in water resource management decisions.
Measure and graph phenomena such as lake levels, stream flows, and changes in water volumes.
Math and Science
arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, or statistics
Engineering and Technology
product and service development
computers and electronics
Arts and Humanities
thinking about the pros and cons of different ways to solve a problem
listening to others, not interrupting, and asking good questions
noticing a problem and figuring out the best way to solve it
People and Technology Systems
thinking about the pros and cons of different options and picking the best one
figuring out how a system should work and how changes in the future will affect it
communicate by speaking
communicate by writing
Ideas and Logic
make general rules or come up with answers from lots of detailed information
notice when problems happen
choose the right type of math to solve a problem
add, subtract, multiply, or divide
see hidden patterns
People interested in this work like activities that include ideas, thinking, and figuring things out.
They do well at jobs that need:
Attention to Detail
You might use software like this on the job:
Analytical or scientific software
The MathWorks MATLAB
Waterloo Hydrogeologic RBC Tier 2 Analyzer
Data base user interface and query software
Groundwater Software Visual Site Manager
Computer aided design CAD software
Advanced Logic Technology WellCAD
BOSS International Visual Groundwater
master's degree or bachelor's degree usually needed
Get started on your career:
New job opportunities are very likely in the future.