Hydrologist salary & career outlook
Quality water is crucial for human survival. Hydrologists work to ensure that we have it. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, hydrologists study how water moves through and across our planet's crust. They study how precipitation affects river flows or groundwater levels, as well as the environmental impact of surface water and groundwater when it evaporates into the atmosphere or filters to the ocean. This requires determining how changes to the environment influence the quantity and quality of water, measuring and collecting samples, and writing reports on findings, among other things.
Becoming a hydrologist usually requires a master's degree with a focus on the natural sciences. Some states also require a license. Other important qualities for becoming a hydrologist, according to the BLS, include analytical, communication skills and interpersonal skills, as well as critical thinking and physical stamina.
Based on available data, the field of hydrology appears to be growing and sustainable, and deciding to become a hydrologist could be a wise career choice.
As of May 2013, hydrologists in America earned a mean annual wage of $79,260, according to the BLS, with the lowest-paid 10 percent earning an annual wage of $49,040 or below and the highest-paid 10 percent earning an annual wage of $113,070 or more.
However, you'll often see salaries fluctuate by industry. The top-paying industries for hydrologists in America, as of May 2013, were:
- Scientific Research and Development Services: $90,440 annual mean wage
- Social advocacy organizations: $85,010 annual mean wage
- Architectural, engineering, and related services: $84,870 annual mean wage
Wages also vary among different locations. According to the BLS, the top-paying states in America for hydrologists, as of May 2013, were:
- New Jersey: $93,920 annual mean wage
- New Hampshire: $93,610 annual mean wage
- Colorado: $91,710 annual mean wage
The top-paying metropolitan areas in the U.S., as of May 2013, , according to the BLS, were:
- Oakland-Fremont-Hayward, CA Metropolitan Division: $105,990 annual mean wage
- San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, CA Metropolitan Division: $105,480 annual mean wage
- Boulder, CO: $104,470 annual mean wage
Job outlook for hydrologists
There seems to be no shortage of jobs in the near future for hydrologists.
The BLS projects that employment of hydrologists will grow by 10 percent between 2012 and 2022, which is almost as fast as the 11 percent average for all occupations nationally. That is projected to result in approximately 800 new jobs.
Population growth and expanding into new areas are two possible explanations for the growth in the hydrologist field. Other explanations exist, though. Demand for hydrologists is expected to increase as a result of mining, construction and hydraulic fracturing. Environmental concerns associated with these activities, as well as global climate change, are likely to increase demand for hydrologists in the future.
Some states have traditionally strong hydrology industries, while others have been weaker in the past but are expected to grow in the future. According to the BLS, the U.S. states with the highest numbers of hydrologists employed, as of May 2013, were:
The American metropolitan areas with the highest employment level of hydrologists as of May 2013, according to the BLS, were:
- Denver - Aurora - Broomfield, CO
- Minneapolis - St. Paul - Bloomington, MN-WI
- Sacramento - Arden-Arcade - Roseville, CA
When it comes to growth, it's a much different story. Based on data collected by state labor departments and aggregated by Projections Central, the states with the highest expected growth for hydrologists through 2020 are:
- Virginia: 33.7% projected growth
- South Carolina: 26.9% projected growth
- Michigan: 26.6% projected growth
- Massachusetts: 26.2% projected growth
- Louisiana: 25.5% projected growth
If you're interested in water, natural resources and how our society functions in the larger world, choosing to become a hydrologist could be a rewarding path in a growing field.
Long Term Occupational Projections for Hydrologists, Projections Central,
Occupational Employment and Wages: Hydrologists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, May 2013,
Hydrologists, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014,