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How to Become a Hydrologist

Explore the field of hydrology

What do hydrologists do? How can you become one? If you have an interest in studying water and the natural environment, this career is for you.

Hydrologists study biology, chemistry, meteorology, oceanography, and other physical and environmental sciences to understand water quality and availability. As a hydrologist, you would work with engineers, scientists, and government agencies to conserve and manage water.

Increasing global temperatures are altering precipitation patterns, causing flooding, droughts, and rising sea levels. Hydrologists will be needed to help measure and assess these changes and effects.

Are you ready to play a role in protecting our most important resource? Apply to Unity to get started.

Career Statistics

Follow your curiosity.

Realize your potential.


Hydrologist jobs in the U.S., 2018. 


Median hydrologist pay, 2018.


Estimated U.S. job growth for hydrologists through 2028. 

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unity Environmental University cannot guarantee employment. Salary data represents averaged earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience.  

 What is hydrology?

Hydrology is the study of water in terms of movement, quality, and distribution in certain ecosystems. Environmental hydrology can be applied to many contexts, including the study of water as a finite source, a product of ecosystem services, and the patterns and impacts of human activity on water.

What do hydrologists do? 

Water is an extremely valuable natural resource. Hydrologists are becoming increasingly more important as this resource is threatened due to climate change and human activity.

Hydrologists overall study how water interacts with its surrounding environment. This means looking at precipitation, identifying pollutants, and measuring groundwater levels. They study how water affects ecosystems, and vice versa, to understand both the quality and quantity of water.

There are several types of hydrologists, including groundwater and surface water hydrologists.

  • Groundwater hydrologists focus on conserving water underground. They may work to reduce contamination from factories, gas stations, and from mining. Your local groundwater hydrologist plays a role in determining locations for wells and the availability of water for wells.
  • Surface water hydrologists help cities with the management of resources for drinking water. This means studying local rivers, lakes, and reservoirs. They use statistical modeling based on historical patterns of precipitation, water availability, and other data. Whenever you take a drink of tap water, you can thank your local surface water hydrologist.

Hydrologist salary and job outlook 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for hydrologists in 2018 was $79,370. This is a collection of salaries from hydrologists around the country—you will likely make less as an entry-level hydrologist. Pay also varies by location and education level.

If you’re considering a job as a hydrologist, you’re in luck. O*Net estimates a very bright outlook for hydrologists. Employment in the field is expected to grow 7-10%, which means an estimated 800 jobs in the next 10 years.

How to become a hydrologist 

Now that you know how vital hydrologists are to society, it’s time to start planning your path to a career. Most hydrologist jobs require higher education, meaning a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

As an aspiring hydrologist in college, you’ll take courses in physical sciences, chemistry, math, aquatic biology, meteorology, oceanology, environmental management, soils, engineer, and hydrology.

Unity Environmental University can help you earn the degree you need to begin working in the field of hydrology. We offer on-campus and online programs, so anyone around the world can jumpstart their hydrology career here.

We recommend one of the following for a career in hydrology:

Already have a bachelor’s degree? It’s never too late to switch careers or strengthen your resume. About 52% of hydrologists surveyed by O*Net have a master’s degree. Earning one can help you gain a competitive edge.

Check out our online graduate programs in Environmental Studies and Sustainability and Conservation Law Enforcement to begin.

Hydrology Certificate

There are no specific certifications required in order to become a hydrologist. Since hydrologists use modeling and remote sensing technologies in their regular work, the GIScience certificate at Unity is recommended to begin shaping your resume for a career in hydrology. 

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