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Hydrologist

Job Description

Without hydrologists dehydration would be rife across the UK, hose pipe bans would be the norm and swimming pools would be empty. These clever people play a vital role in supplying us with clean, safe and ever-so-tasty water.

Responsible for managing and conserving our water resources, hydrologists use their expert scientific knowledge to make sure that water flows through our pipes and out of our taps in the most economical and sustainable way possible.

Hydrologists use state-of-the-art computer systems and equipment, such as water level followers, rain gauges, ultrasonic probes and FloPro sensors, to collect data on everything from water levels and rainfall depths to surface run-off and geological formations.

They also take water samples from key areas to analyse the quality of the water in the catchment area that they are investigating.  

Once they have conducted their investigations, hydrologists spend their time in a laboratory or office analysing, evaluating and interpreting the data that they have collected. Often, they process the data that they amass using complex computer software to develop hydrological models.

This allows the hydrologists to weigh up water usage against water supply. It also allows them to identify possible causes of alterations in water flow, such as drought, flood and afforestation.

Based on this analysis, hydrologists make recommendations to water companies and environmental agencies that will influence water resource management, planning and strategy.

Salary & benefits

Entry-level hydrologists tend to earn between £18,000 and £24,000 per annum, while experienced hydrologists can earn anywhere between £25,000 and £35,000.

Some senior hydrologists with managerial responsibilities can earn up to £45,000 a year.

Working hours

Hydrologists typically work five days a week, nine-to-five. However, you may be required to work longer hours to meet project deadlines from time to time. Furthermore, you may be required to work extra hours in the event of water-based emergencies, such as floods.

Travelling, both domestically and internationally, is a regular occurrence for many hydrologists. 

Entry

To enter this line of work, you will need an undergraduate or postgraduate degree in a relevant subject, such as environmental geoscience, geology, physical geography, ecology, environmental management or civil engineering.

This is a competitive area of work and, therefore, a relevant postgraduate qualification may enhance your chances of securing an entry-level position. Check out our Postgraduate Courses section to search for relevant postgraduate courses.

Another way to boost your employability is volunteering with an environmental organisation. This will give you fantastic hands-on experience and enable you to build up a network of useful contacts.

Training & progression

The majority of your training will be done whilst on the job under the supervision of a senior hydrologist. However, you may occasionally be required to attend training courses run by external organisations, such as the British Hydrological Society, to keep up-to-date with all the latest techniques and technologies.

You may eventually be given the opportunity to progress into a senior hydrologist or water resources manager position. However, this may mean taking a step back from hands-on scientific investigation work and focusing your efforts more on project management and team leading responsibilities. 

Alternatively, you might have the opportunity to develop an academic career, where you’ll conduct research, give lectures and inspire the next generation of expert hydrologists.

Freelance consultancy work is another option.

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