Hydrologists Career Video
Description: Research the distribution, circulation, and physical properties of underground and surface waters; and study the form and intensity of precipitation, its rate of infiltration into the soil, movement through the earth, and its return to the ocean and atmosphere.
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.