Hydrologist

Water engineer, flood engineer, hydrology engineer

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Hydrologists study the impact of rainfall, rivers and waterways on the environment. They also look at sustainable ways to use water.

Salary range: £22,500 to £46,000

How to become a hydrologist

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • an apprenticeship
  • working towards this role

University

You can start by doing a degree in:

  • environmental science
  • geography
  • civil engineering
  • environmental engineering
  • Earth sciences
  • ecology

After finishing your degree, you could go on to complete a postgraduate course in water engineering, flood risk management or hydrogeology.

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree
  • a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study

More information

Apprenticeship

You can do an environmental practitioner degree apprenticeship before specialising in hydrology.

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent, for a higher or degree apprenticeship

More information

Work

You could start as an assistant hydrologist if you have a relevant degree. Your employer may encourage you to study for a postgraduate qualification, like a master’s or PhD in hydrology, while you’re working.

More information

Career tips

You can get information about hydrology, including work on water pollution, flooding and drought, from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology.

Professional and industry bodies

You can join the British Hydrological Society or Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management for industry news, advice on professional development and networking opportunities.

Further information

You can discover more about careers in hydrology from the British Hydrological Society and The Geological Society.

What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You’ll need:

  • maths knowledge
  • knowledge of engineering science and technology
  • analytical thinking skills
  • knowledge of geography
  • science skills
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • knowledge of physics
  • excellent written communication skills
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages confidently

Restrictions and requirements

You’ll need to:

  • have a full driving licence

What you’ll do

Day-to-day tasks

Your day-to-day duties may include:

  • measuring river flows and the amount of water above and below ground
  • investigating the causes and impact of flooding and drought
  • modelling rainfall patterns under different climate conditions
  • studying snowfall, glaciers and ice formation
  • analysing water samples for chemicals and pollutants
  • assessing water use in agriculture and industry
  • working on engineering projects like dams, drainage and flood defences
  • advising policy makers on sustainable water use
  • collecting data from flood events to improve forecasting and risk management

Working environment

You could work in an office, in a laboratory or in the countryside.

Your working environment may be outdoors in all weathers.

Career path and progression

You could become a senior hydrologist, co-ordinating a team of researchers, hydrologists and engineers.

You might also work as a consultant, advising government departments and businesses on sustainable water use, civil hydro-engineering projects or flood risk management.

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