Geohydrologist Careers: Salary Information & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a career as a geohydrologist? Get real job descriptions, as well as career outlook and salary information, to see if becoming a geohydrologist is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as a Geohydrologist

A geohydrologist works to monitor and reclaim water for a variety of purposes, like warning the public about possible water-related hazards or preserving the integrity of water resources. If you're interested in becoming a geohydrologist, there are a few pros and cons to consider; check out the chart below for more information.

Pros of Being a Geohydrologist
Playing a role in water resource conservation*
Opportunity to protect communities from flood hazards*
Above-average income potential (median income of $78,370 for hydrologists and $89,910 for all geoscientists except hydrologists and geographers as of 2014)*
Above-average job growth (10% projected increase between 2012 and 2022 for hydrologists and 16% for all geoscientists except hydrologists and geographers)*

Cons of Being a Geohydrologist
High level of education (many jobs require a master's degree, which usually takes 2 years past the bachelor's degree to earn)**
High level of professional experience (many jobs require at least 4 years of experience)**
State licensure may be required*
Extensive fieldwork and data collection may take place in rough environments and be physically challenging*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **April 2012 job postings

Essential Career Information

Job Description and Duties

As a geohydrologist, you would study the physical properties of water, water cycle distribution and ways humans and the Earth interact with water. Using scientific and mathematic principles, you would strive to solve water-related problems revolving around issues of water resource quantity, quality and availability.

Geohydrologists also conduct surveys of geologic formations or geographic locations to determine the quantity and viability of a water source. You might design and construct wells to search for and measure aquifers (natural sources of groundwater). Collecting water samples and monitoring water sources are two other common tasks. Additionally, you might establish flood control programs, develop sustainable agricultural irrigation or investigate sources for residential and commercial water supplies.

Your career may also involve laboratory research and data analysis, followed by development of reports and presentation of information to clients. You will need to have excellent communication skills and be able to translate scientific data and technical terminology for a broad audience. You may work for government agencies or private companies involved in development or any type of geologic disruption.

Career Outlook and Salary Info

The federal government, namely the U.S. Geological Survey, is a top employer of geoscientists and hydrologists. Management, consulting, engineering and architectural firms employ many other geoscience professionals.

Based on BLS projections, geoscientists except for hydrologists and geographers could see an employment increase of 16% (a faster than average rate) from 2012 to 2022, while hydrologists could expect an average increase of 10% during the same years. These professionals were anticipated to be in high demand in the private sector due to the need for companies to comply with federal regulations. Increased awareness of the importance of water conservation was also expected to spur continued growth for geoscientists and hydrologists. If you're hoping to earn a doctoral degree and land an academic position, keep in mind that strong competition was forecast.

Salary and employment projection data specifically for geohydrologists was not available. Per the BLS, hydrologists earned a median annual salary of about $78,370 as of May 2014. Geoscientists earned a median yearly wage of about $89,910.

Requirements

Education Requirements

For most careers in the geosciences, you must obtain a minimum of a bachelor's degree in an area of study such as hydrology, geology, geophysics, geochemistry, environmental sciences or a related field. However, hydrology-oriented careers more often require a master's degree, so you'll probably need a graduate education in an area such as geology, hydrology or hydrogeology. If you want to teach or conduct independent research, you'll likely need to earn a Ph.D.

Courses in your degree program might cover mineralogy, petrology, aqueous geochemistry, remote sensing, groundwater modeling, environmental sustainability and geophysics. Additionally, your program may include engineering courses, covering topics such as fluid mechanics. Additional courses in quantitative statistics, calculus, economics and public policy may be useful in your career.

Licensure Requirements

Licensure requirements vary depending on the type of service you'll provide and the state where you'll be working. Many states require a Professional Geologist (PG) license for any geologic survey work, and a few states mandate that hydrologists obtain licensure. Certain states also offer the Certified Hydrogeologist (CHG) credential.

State licensure for the PG generally entails completing an approved program of study, gaining 5 years or more of professional experience (sometimes referred to as a Geologist-in-Training period) and successfully completing an examination. The CHG designation requires a PG license and 7 years of work experience. The National Association of State Boards of Geology (ASBOG) issues standardized exams and licensure models for individual states to follow.

Skills and Qualifications

Along with a strong scientific background, careers in geohydrology require excellent verbal and written communication abilities, critical thinking skills and field stamina, as reported by the BLS. Per online job postings, you may need to be familiar with technology such as GIS and software programs like Microsoft Access, AquaChem and ArcGIS.

Real Job Listings

A master's degree and several years of experience are often required by geohydrologist employers. Consulting services requiring the gathering, analysis and reporting of data are in demand. You may need to travel for fieldwork, requiring a driver's license. Here are some real job listings for geohydrologists from private firms in April 2012.

  • A large engineering firm in Denver, CO, was seeking a senior geohydrologist. A bachelor's degree or higher in geology, hydrology or related discipline was required. The candidate needed at least 6 years of experience in data collection, review and documentation (graduate school field experience was applicable). Excellent written and verbal communication skills were also required to interact with clients, including technical and non-technical personnel.
  • A Denver, CO, global consulting firm providing data analysis for oil and gas, mining and solid waste industries sought a senior project hydrologist for data collection, well installation, water sampling and measurement of subsurface flow and contaminants. A master's degree in geology, geological engineering or a related field was required. The employer required 7-15 years of experience.
  • A Sacramento, CA, consulting firm was looking for a project-level environmental geologist for soil/groundwater investigation and remediation. A bachelor's degree or master's degree in geology, hydrology, hydrogeology or a related field, as well as 4-10 years of experience in environmental consulting, was required. A current PG license was preferred.

How to Get Ahead in Your Career

According to the BLS, you can benefit from gaining experience working with GIS, GPS and remote sensing equipment since these are often used in the field. The usefulness of GIS is just beginning to be exploited by geohydrologists for finding and calculating groundwater and organizing collected data. Studying digital mapping, computer modeling and data analysis can also help you edge into the workforce.

Alternative Careers

Environmental Protection Technician

If the educational requirements for geohydrologists are too extensive but you'd still like a hands-on, environmental career, consider becoming an environmental protection technician. Armed with only an associate's degree, you could seek an entry-level job. These professionals inspect public places to uncover problems and plan remediation for environmental, health or safety hazards. Many of these professionals engage in monitoring pollution levels for industries to foster compliance with governmental standards. According to the BLS, nearly one-quarter of all environmental protection technicians are employed by consulting firms, while roughly the same number of these professionals are employed by local government agencies.

The BLS projected 24% growth (faster than average) in employment for environmental protection technicians between 2010 and 2020. The increase was attributed to the continuing need to comply with regulations. Depending on the type of work you'll be doing and the state where you live, you may need a license to work in this field. Based on BLS 2011 data, these professionals earned a median salary of about $42,000.

Environmental Engineer

If you'd like to work with the Earth but you'd rather apply information about the environment to development projects, think about an environmental engineer career. You would design environmental projects and provide technical support to architects and other engineers. Inspecting facilities to monitor their sustainability and their impact on surrounding water supplies, air quality and habitation might be another job duty. You would also write environmental impact reports for various types of industrial development.

Minimum education requirements include a bachelor's degree in civil, chemical or mechanical engineering with a background in chemistry, biology, physics, mathematics and calculus. A license may be required or at least be advantageous in obtaining a job.

Nearly one-third of all environmental engineers were employed by federal, state or local government as of 2010, per the BLS. About 28% were employed by architectural and engineering firms. The BLS projected that these professionals would experience above-average job growth (22%) between 2010 and 2020. While the median salary for these professionals was around $79,000 in 2011, based on BLS data, those employed by the federal government earned about $97,000 yearly.

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