Do you love wetlands, lakes and streams, and groundwater? Do you care about environmental issues? Do you enjoy working with people and finding solutions to problems? Then a career in hydrology might be good for you.
Why do we need hydrologists?
Hydrologists make sure that Minnesota's wetlands, lakes, rivers and groundwater supplies are healthy and protected. They also ensure that water is sustainable so that everyone has access for many generations to come. Water is vital to Minnesota's way of life and prosperity, now and in the future. Along with other state agencies, the DNR ensures a quality groundwater supply by working with thousands of the largest users of water in the state.
What do hydrologists do?
This position works both indoors and outdoors.
- While in the field, hydrologists might monitor wells, inspect wetlands, lakes, streams, and springs, and help landowners figure out the best way to protect their water resources.
- In the office, hydrologists might use GIS mapping software to analyze data, draft technical reports and review water supply plans. They might also use computer modeling to solve problems.
- Hydrologists build partnerships with water users such as farmers, companies and municipalities to protect and conserve water.
- Hydrologists might also review permit applications from companies, farmers and municipalities to pump water for uses such as irrigation or public water supplies.
What are the working conditions?
Hydrologists work both indoors and outdoors in all sorts of weather. In the field, hydrologists might work alone or with others. They might travel by vehicle, hiking, or even paddling. They also might work full-time in an office setting analyzing data.
How should I prepare while I am in high school?
If you would like to do professional-level hydrology work, you will need a college degree. To prepare for college, take science and math courses in high school and begin exploring the requirements of schools offering natural resource degrees.
- Math: Ensure you gain important math skills in high school such as algebra, geometry, pre-calculus, calculus and statistics.
- Sciences: Have a good understanding of physical, chemical, and biological sciences in high school. In addition to biology, chemistry, physics, earth sciences and environmental science classes are also useful.
- Language arts: Communication and language are key to success in any career, including natural resources. In high school, take courses in English, intensive writing and public speaking.
What kind of educational background or work experience do I need?
Hydrologists come from different scientific backgrounds. Some are more engineering focused, while other hydrologists have degrees in other areas. Degrees that would qualify include a bachelor of science in civil engineering, agricultural engineering, environmental engineering, geological engineering, hydrology, forest hydrology, geography, geology, geophysics, hydrogeology, natural resources, environmental studies, soil science, water resources management, hydraulics, environmental science, earth science, or a related major.
Required coursework includes:
- Three hydrology qualifying courses in the areas of: hydrology, hydraulics, hydrogeology or groundwater hydrology, water resources engineering, hydrologic modeling, watershed management, groundwater, fluid mechanics, fluvial geomorphology;
- OR two hydrology qualifying courses and two courses (or equivalent experience) in: geology, geomorphology, geochemistry, geography, limnology, erosion and sediment control, environmental engineering, and soils.
In addition to coursework, candidates can gain valuable experience by applying for an internship at the DNR or another natural resource organization, or volunteering. Local watershed districts and local soil and water conservation boards might have volunteer opportunities. The DNR also has volunteer opportunities related to water.
DNR hydrology and water classifications
When you are applying for a position you will see both a classification or pay grade and a more descriptive working title. Here are some examples of what you will want to look for.
- Hydrologist 1
- Hydrologist 2
- Hydrologist 3
- Hydrologist 4
- Hydrologist supervisor
Example working titles
- Watershed specialist
- Monitoring hydrologist
- Groundwater protection hydrologist
- Floodplain hydrologist
- Area hydrologist
Positions in other industries
A similar education and background could lead you to jobs in other industries such as federal agencies, watershed districts, soil and water districts, universities, and engineering and consulting firms.
To Learn More
The salary for a hydrologist will vary depending on qualifications and experience, but the range for a starting position is:
- $23.27 to $31.70 hourly
- $48,588 to $66,190 annually