Career Guide


Emily Hanson  · Aug 22nd 2022

While much of your analysis and research work will be in an office or laboratory, you’ll need to travel to waterway locations, such as rivers and canals, to conduct experiments and collect data.


Hydrologists monitor natural and manmade waterways, advising on policies to manage them and assessing human impact. They work to ensure our use of water is sustainable, consulting on the best ways to protect this incredibly important resource.

What is hydrology?

What is a Hydrologist?

A hydrologist works in a variety of settings, from local councils to large companies. They monitor human use of water, keeping check of our use of natural reserves like rainfall and rivers.

Hydrology jobs are highly skilled, so you should expect a good salary progression.

Your work will likely be in a variety of locations. This is important as hydrologists also advise decision-making bodies such as local government, charities and larger corporations on protecting water resources, and using them sustainably, such as being part of large urban planning projects through to supporting the engineering of large water pipes.


Your work as a hydrologist incorporates both practical monitoring and consultancy. While hydrologists working on different forms of water will have varied responsibilities, some common duties include:

  • Monitoring human water consumption in your local area, or on a more national scale, sharing ideas for limiting this or improving flow.
  • Working with computer modelling software to predict water consumption and sharing these with stakeholders.
  • Studying rainfall and snowfall levels, comparing this to previous years and assessing how this might impact resource levels.
  • Studying floods, assessing their causes and their impact of local areas.
  • Studying natural ice patterns like glaciers, observing their growth or loss, and analysing if this is due to human activity.
  • Studying drought, providing potential causes and preventions of future issues.
  • Providing advice on prevention of major incidents such as floods.
  • Analysing potentially polluted water sources, and providing a plan for making the water safe.
  • Supporting on large-scale industrial projects like dams.
  • Providing consultancy on urban projects that involve large-scale water use, adding man-made water sources or adjusting natural resources like rerouting a river.

What is a hydrologist?


Hydrology jobs are highly skilled, so you should expect good salary progression. Junior hydrologist jobs and hydrogeologist jobs can expect to fetch around £17,000. As you progress through the ranks, a hydrologist salary could rise to £50,000 with the right experience and skills.

Once you’re employed, your training will happen on the job.

If you become a hydrologist through an apprenticeship, expect the apprenticeship wage while you're training. As of 2022, this is £4.81 for your first year and raises to minimum wage once you are over 19 and in your second year of training.


While working as a hydrologist does not require a degree, it can be an advantage when positions are competitive. Several different degree courses would align you well with hydrology work, including:

Some hydrologists begin their studies with a more generalised degree in a science subject. They then go on to specialise in hydrology to bolster their experience before applying for work. The British Hydrological Society (BHS) lists several accredited masters level courses that would give you specialisms including:

  • Flood and Coast Engineering
  • Flood Management
  • Freshwater and Marine Ecology
  • Hydrology and Water Resources Management
  • Hydrogeology
  • Water Engineering

Alternatively, you could study towards becoming a hydrologist through a degree apprenticeship. This would include a combination of work placements and academic study. Employers offering apprenticeships will set their own entry requirements, though you’re likely to need a breadth of work experience in a similar field or 2-3 A Levels in science subjects, and 5 GCSEs grades 9-4 (A*-C).

Hydrology jobs

Training and development

Once you’re employed, your training will happen on the job. You’ll shadow senior hydrologists while learning about the techniques specific to the job. You’ll likely be trained on any particular forms of software you’ll be expected to use, as well as information on related sectors, such as construction or domestic planning.

You could begin working for your local council in officering roles, but progress up to senior and management levels.

Many hydrologists choose to join accredited societies to keep up to date with their discipline. They’ll also use membership to develop their professional practice. You can join the British Hydrological Society or The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management for access to conferences, webinars and training. Membership will also mean you’re more likely to spot relevant BHS jobs if you’re looking for new roles.


Much of the skills required for hydrogeology jobs are covered in your degree. These include:

  • A robust scientific knowledge based around hydrogeology.
  • Knowledge of the sciences and maths to underpin your more specific industry knowledge.
  • Ability to manage multiple workloads: you could be covering a variety of different phenomena for multiple clients and departments, so you’ll need to confidently switch between methods.
  • An understanding of measuring methods for rainfall, flood management and drought.
  • An ability to pick up new technologies quickly, as you’ll be learning new methods for analysis as research updates.
  • Ability to keep up to date with new research to improve your monitoring and analysis.
  • Ability to work well within a larger team of environmental scientists.
  • Attention to detail - you’ll be measuring geographical phenomena on a very small scale, but using this information to inform big decisions around government policy and sustainability agendas.
  • Good written and verbal communication: you’ll need to feedback detailed data to stakeholders and managers, which they’ll use to inform policy.

Hydrogeology jobs

Work Experience

Scientific subjects can be competitive, especially if you are considering postgraduate courses. Completing work experience placements can be advantageous if you want to stand out from the crowd.

It would be worth asking your local council if they have a hydrology department and asking to shadow their workers. Alternatively, you could contact sustainability charities and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that focus on water preservation, to see if they have any placement programs. Examples include The Canal and River Trust and The Rivers Trust. You may be able to help on a particular project in your local area, which will give you a fantastic experience of how hydrology fits into wider sustainability agendas.

Career Prospects

Sustainability is big on the government agenda. Equally, private companies are becoming more and more aware of their use of natural resources. As a result, scientists with expertise in protecting our waterways are in demand.

A hydrologist works in a variety of settings, from local councils to large companies.

You could begin working for your local council in officering roles, but progress up to senior and management levels. You could specialise in a particular area, or work in a cross-disciplinary way, such as in hydrology engineering. You could also work for charities and non-governmental organisations. Your career could also take a more independent path, where you work on a consultancy basis, advising companies and governments on how to best preserve water resources.

Some hydrologists find the research side of their field particularly rewarding, so take on further academic study. Many decide to pursue a doctoral (PhD) project and publish their own academic research to contribute to the field. Some NGOs and charities sponsor PhD places if you are willing to research an area that they have a particular interest in. You might even find that your employer offers to fund your research. If you do take on PhD research, you could also teach at university level.

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