Hydrologists research and monitor the quality of water both on and below the surface of the earth. They extract and analyze samplesto determine what if any pollutants are impacting water in the area. They analyse pollution from rain runoff, from aquifers that have pollutants which have percolated throught the soil, and from standing bodies of water such as lakes and resevoirs.
Much of their work involves analyzing polluted water sources and developing mitigation plans to remove the source of the pollutants and restore the quality of the water. Much of the analytical and planning work is done by government agencies, so many career opportunities for hydrologists are with agencies such as the EPA and its many divisions.
Some hydrologists work as consultants for developers who are planning a project that could impinge on wetlands or protected watershed areas.
Most entry level hydrologists spend much of their time in the field, while those more experienced devote more time to office and laboratory work.
In order to work for conservation agencies or consulting firms it is usually necessary to have a master's degree in hydrology. Those that are involved in saltwater preservation projects will need some academic background in oceanography.
According to U.S. Department of Labor statistics there were about 92,000 environmental scientists and hydrologists working in the U.S. in 2006. Only about 10% of those worked solely as hydrologists. About half worked for government agencies and another quarter for architectural, engineering or consulting firms.
Between 2006 and 2016 employment for hydrologists is expected to grow by 24%, much faster than the average job growth. Continued population growth will cause broader and more intensive threats to water quality, as regulation of the habitat becomes more complex.
10th Percentile: $44,410
Median Salary: $71,450
Ninetieth Percentile: $105,010
Source: U.S. Department of Labor