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Hydrologists research, develop and maintain safe and sustainable domestic or natural water management strategies.

Employers seek adaptable individuals with good technical ability and some degree-level knowledge and experience of mathematical modelling or data analysis

What does a hydrologist do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Hydrologists apply scientific knowledge and mathematical principles to solve water-related problems such as quantity, quality and availability. Hydrologists could work on finding new water sources, predicting droughts or floods and reducing waste water.

Typical responsibilities of the job include:

  • studying relationships between soil and rock features, rainfall and water run-off
  • using specialist computer modelling applications
  • recording and analysing water resource systems data
  • employing statistical and hydrological modelling techniques
  • determining the most effective water management methods
  • assessing the impact of environmental changes and land use changes
  • predicting and monitoring rainfall, water yields and usage
  • liaising with clients, consultants, water regulators, researchers, external bodies and other professionals
  • managing on-site data collection
  • forecasting floods
  • producing water and drought management plans
  • ensuring appropriate regulations are implemented
  • keeping up to date with scientific and technical developments
  • making presentations
  • supervising the work of hydrometrists and other staff

Typical employers of hydrologists

  • Environmental bodies
  • The Environment Agency
  • National government
  • Regional councils
  • Public authorities
  • Water or sewerage utility companies
  • Research and development organisations
  • The Natural Environment Research Council
  • Consultancies

Opportunities are advertised online, by careers services and specialist recruitment agencies, in national newspapers and in relevant scientific publications. Speculative applications are recommended – directories including Water Yearbook, the ENDS Environmental Consultancy Directory and Water UK provide details of water supply and sewerage companies.

  • The recruitment process is likely to involve a technical interview. Read our article on technical interviews to find out what these involve and how you can tackle them.
  • If you'd like to find out what your salary might look like, take a look at our article on how much you might earn in science on our TARGETcareers website.

Qualifications and training required

A strong academic background is essential for all candidates. You will need a degree in an appropriate subject, eg geography, engineering, science, maths, or environmental studies. A relevant postgraduate qualification is also beneficial, particularly for research positions. The British Hydrological Society, together with the JBA Trust, provides a small number of studentships to help towards the costs of an Msc/MRes in a hydrology-related subject at a UK Higher Education Institution.

Read our article on scientific postgraduate study to explore your different options.

Pre-entry work experience can be difficult to obtain but is helpful for entry into the profession.

Key skills for hydrologists

  • Project management
  • Problem solving
  • Organisation
  • Teamworking
  • Communication skills
  • Good computing ability
  • Mathematical skills

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