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Oswego Career Ladders - Hydrologist

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Industry: Energy
Area: Hydropower

Hydrologists help assess and protect our water supplies and water quality. Hydrologists concerned with water supplies manage surface and ground water to avoid problems caused by floods, droughts, population growth, and the impact of human activities. Most hydroelectric power comes from the potential energy of dammed water driving a water turbine and generator. The operation of electricity generation and transmission facilities obviously places demands on the reservoirs. Hydrologists track soil moisture, ground water discharge, and snow conditions on the watershed and river system. This information is used to regulate stream flow and the probability of future runoff.

Work Settings

Most entry-level hydrologists spend the majority of their time in the field, while more experienced workers generally devote more of their time to office or laboratory work. Travel often is required to meet with prospective clients or investors. Those in laboratories may conduct tests, run experiments, record results, and compile data.


A starting position in this area of specialization requires bachelor's or higher in the physical or natural sciences, or engineering with courses in hydrology, the physical sciences, geophysics, chemistry, engineering science, soils, mathematics, aquatic biology, atmospheric science, meteorology, geology, oceanography, or the management or conservation of water resources.

Job Outlook

Employment of hydrologists should grow much faster than average. Job growth should be strongest at private-sector consulting firms. Demand will be spurred by a continuing emphasis on the need for energy, environmental protection, responsible land management, and water-related issues.


Median annual earnings of hydrologists were $61,510 in May 2004, with the middle 50 percent earning between $47,080 and $77,910, the lowest 10 percent earning less than $38,580, and the highest 10 percent earning more than $94,460.

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