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Hydrologists study rainfall, rivers and waterways to support the development of sustainable ways to manage water resources.

Annual Salary

£22,500 to £46,000

Average UK salary in 2019 was £30,378
(source Office for National Statistics)

Working hours

38 to 45 a week

You could work: evenings / weekends; occasionally

Day to day tasks

As a hydrologist you could:

  • measure river flows and the amount of water above and below ground
  • investigate the causes and impact of flooding and drought
  • model rainfall patterns under different climate conditions
  • study snowfall, glaciers and ice formation
  • analyse water samples for chemicals and pollutants
  • assess water use in agriculture and industry
  • work on engineering projects like dams, drainage and flood defences
  • advise policy makers on sustainable water use
  • collect 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.

You can get into this job through:

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

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. You can find out more about relevant postgraduate courses from the British Hydrological Society.

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
For more information

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

This typically takes 5 years to complete as a mix of workplace learning and off-the-job study with an approved university.

For more information

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.

Requirements and restrictions

You'll need to:

  • have a full driving licence

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

The British Hydrological Society has a series of hydrology job profiles. You can also find out more from The Geological Society.

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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.

You could go into academic research and lecturing in your specialist field.

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Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You'll need:

  • maths knowledge
  • knowledge of engineering science and technology
  • knowledge of geography
  • analytical thinking skills
  • knowledge of chemistry for analysing water samples
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • the ability to think clearly using logic and reasoning
  • excellent written communication skills
  • thinking and reasoning skills
  • to have a thorough understanding of computer systems and applications
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