Become a Geohydrologist: Education and Career Roadmap

Research the requirements to become a geohydrologist. Learn about the job description and duties and see the step-by-step process to start a career in the geosciences.

Should I Become a Geohydrologist?

According to the American Geological Institute (AGI), geohydrologists may also be referred to as geoscientists, hydrologists or hydrogeologists. Professionals in the hydrology subfield of the geosciences usually study water, specifically the amount of water on the planet, water movement, groundwater levels, ocean water runoff, rainfall and flooding. Geohydrologists generally work as consultants or environmentalists.

These professionals travel to various locations to examine different bodies of water, gather samples and run tests. Workers examine their findings to write reports about various types of information, such as groundwater locations, salinity levels or environmental threats. These scientists often work long or irregular hours while doing fieldwork, but the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that these workers made higher than average salaries. As an extra bonus, some geoscientists spend time studying and conducting research around the world.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree (minimum), doctorate degree (recommended)
Degree Field Geology, geosciences or field specific (hydrology or hydrogeology)
Licensure State licensure or registration may be required
Experience Professional and academic experience may be required for licensing
Key Skills Able to work well with others, strong writing skills, comfortable solving problems, able to make objective observations and comfortable giving presentations; familiar with geological mapping software systems (GIS and GPS) and knowledgeable with data management systems; thorough understanding of geoscience testing tools and laboratory equipment
Salary (2014) $78,370 yearly (median for all hydrologists)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), State Geology Licensing Boards

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Common bachelor's degree programs for geohydrologists may include geosciences or geology, although students may also want to take courses in engineering, the natural sciences or mathematics, per the BLS. There are not many bachelor's degree programs that focus specifically in geohydrology, but a few geoscience degree programs may offer concentration options in hydrology. Common coursework in geoscience degree programs often include rocks and minerals, structural geology, sedimentology, Earth history, stratigraphy and structural geology. Students also have to complete several geology-based laboratory or field experiences.

Success Tip:

  • Take computer science courses. Due to upgrades in geoscience technology, the BLS recommends that potential geohydrologists take computer science courses early on. Students will need to know how to use digital mapping equipment, such as global positioning systems (GPS) and geographic information systems (GIS). Individuals will also need experience with analyzing large pools of data and creating computerized models of geographic locations.

Step 2: Gain Field Experience

Between undergraduate and graduate studies, many students build field experience by becoming volunteers or interns for geological research expeditions. Positions are available through university geology departments. National organizations, such as the AGI, Environmental Protection Agency and the Carnegie Institution of Washington, also offer summer internships to eligible students. Employers and graduate schools often prefer candidates who have significant geological field experience, especially with processing data and working with mapping technologies.

Success Tip:

  • Apply to multiple programs. Some internships, especially with recognized national organizations, can be difficult to get into, because so many ambitious students are competing for the same positions. To avoid missing out on field experience, students may want to consider applying to several programs at once. If individuals are accepted into more than one program, they can always accept the offers from their favorite programs and decline the other positions.

Step 3: Get Necessary Licenses

Geohydrologists may be required to obtain licenses in accordance with state laws. Most states do not have specific licenses for geoscience specialists, such as geohydrologists. Instead, the majority of states have geologists or geoscientists licenses that encompass all specialties. Some states do not require licenses but do require geology professionals to register through the state. To become licensed or registered often requires meeting education and experience requirements, passing exams and paying fees.

Step 4: Maintain Licensure

Licensed geohydrologists are usually required to renew their licenses every few years. Each state has different license renewal requirements. For example, some states may require applicants to prove they have a clear criminal record, whereas other states may require geologists to take continuing education coursework. The most common license or registration renewal requirements include paying fees and filing paperwork with the state.

Step 5: Obtain Graduate Degrees

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that geoscientists in general can often find entry-level employment with only bachelor's degrees. However, most specialists, such as geohydrologists, work in research fields, and employers often require these professionals to hold graduate degrees.

There are many master's degree programs in hydrogeology, but most doctoral programs are in hydrology. There are few, if any, graduate degree programs under the title geohydrology. Topics in hydrology or hydrogeology may include groundwater, subsurface hydrology, water management, aquifer systems, isotope hydrology and environmental law.

Other requirements for graduate degree programs may include participating in field experiments and publishing papers on geoscience or geohydrology topics. Students in doctorate programs are usually required to write a dissertation. Graduate students often have to take comprehensive exits exams prior to graduation.

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