In this weekly feature, the editors of SpringBoard highlight one career in the health care professions–including a basic description, educational requirements, core competencies/key skills needed, and related web sites and professional organizations where you can find more information!

Job Description

Hydrologists study the occurrence, movement, and distribution of water on and within the earth, and the relationship between that water and the surrounding environment. Hydrologists also look at how water can become contaminated or purified by natural processes, and they develop methods to predict changes and monitor effects. Hydrologists who work with public health officials are involved in monitoring water supplies, looking for pollutants, and determining how altering certain aspects of the environment could influence water purity. If a new well is planned, a hydrologist will look at how it could affect water in existing wells. They also help decide where to place new waste disposal facilities, to minimize environmental effects. The job often includes work in the field, as well as high-tech work such as statistical modeling and the use of remote sensing technologies. Hydrologists work closely with engineers, geologists, and other experts.

Education and Certification

A master’s degree is standard. There are some entry-level jobs for people with bachelor’s degrees, and high-level research jobs tend to require PhDs. Degrees specifically in hydrology are available, but many programs have a hydrology concentration within a degree program in geoscience, engineering, or environmental science. There are also nondegree certificates available from some universities, for people who already have a background in a related subject. Several states require hydrologists to be licensed if they will be offering their services to the public. There is also a voluntary certification available from the American Institute of Hydrology (AIH).

Core Competencies and Skills

  • Good math and statistics skills and an interest in the natural sciences
  • Strong computer skills, for statistical and modeling programs
  • Ability to collaborate with other scientists
  • Ability to communicate information to nonscientists
  • Training in how to assess risk and apply theory to actual practice
  • Understanding of public health laws and regulations as they relate to environmental issues with the supply and safety of our water and with waste management.

There are also many jobs for hydrologists at consulting firms and in industry, and there are opportunities at nonprofit organizations concerned with the environment.

Employment Outlook

Opportunities for hydrologists should be good. Changes in government regulations are expected to create new jobs. Population increases, with ongoing development of environmentally sensitive areas, as well as climate change will likely increase the need for hydrologists, as well.

For Further Information

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