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Hydraulic Engineering Degree and Certificate Program Overviews

Hydraulic engineering programs are found in civil and environmental engineering departments at the bachelor's and master's levels. Find out more in this video.

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  • 0:03 Essential Information
  • 1:11 BS in Civil Engineering
  • 1:59 Graduate Certificate
  • 3:15 MS in Civil &…
  • 4:03 Careers & Outlook
  • 6:00 Licensure & Certification

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Essential Information

Program Levels Bachelor's degree; master's degree
Field(s) of Study Civil and environmental engineering
Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent for bachelor's; bachelor's degree in engineering or related field required for master's programs
Program Length 4 year for bachelor's degree; 2 years for master's
Licensure/Certification Licensure varies by state; voluntary certification available
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 7% growth (for hydrologists)
8% growth (for civil engineers)
12% growth (for environmental engineers)
Median Annual Salary (2015) $79,550 (for hydrologists)
$82,220 (for civil engineers)
$84,560 (for environmental engineers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Hydraulic engineering professionals help to control floods, study sewer overflows and use math to determine potential spread of contaminants through ground water. Hydraulic engineering can be studied within civil and environmental engineering programs. Bachelor's degree programs in civil engineering may include courses in hydrology and hydraulic engineering that teach students about the issues associated with designing around groundwater, fractured soil, dams and spillways. Some programs may offer a concentration specifically in fluid mechanics and hydraulic engineering. Students often participate in hands-on lab work and are required to complete an internship or work experience.

Students interested in learning about hydraulic engineering at the graduate level can consider earning a master's degree in civil and environmental engineering. These 2-year programs are available in thesis and non-thesis formats, though non-thesis programs may require students to complete a research or design project instead. Applicants are often required to hold a bachelor's degree in engineering or a related field.

Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering

A Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering is a 4-year undergraduate degree. Programs have tracks in fluid mechanics and hydraulic engineering. Students learn to draft water redistribution systems, design hydraulic systems, control pollution and mitigate environmental damage. Because this field is based on the practical application of learned skills, programs have internship opportunities and involve a significant amount of lab work. Applicants are expected to have completed high school.

Modern scientific advances help hydraulic engineers to improve techniques like wetland restoration, hydrologic modeling and soil erosion projects. Commonly, bachelor's degree programs include training in:

  • Dynamics
  • Fluid mechanics
  • Surveying
  • Geosciences
  • Systems engineering

Graduate Certificate in Hydraulics

A Graduate Certificate in Hydraulics gives students the knowledge needed to work in the field. Work in the hydraulics field requires knowledge of open-channel flow, stochastic modeling, data collection and the impact of building structures to divert water. Because much of this work involves computer simulations, students need to know what types of field samples to collect to create the most accurate environmental simulation. Graduate certificate programs generally take one semester of full-time study to complete.

Applicants must have completed a bachelor's degree program with a minimum grade point average of 3.0. Students may not be required to hold a particular bachelor's degree, but prior coursework in subjects like physics, calculus or chemistry may be required.

In order to properly evaluate and design water usage systems, students learn to analyze water resources, limit soil erosion and restore wetlands. Because there are a variety of different factors that influence water's ability to flow, like urban development, geography and weather, programs' curricula can include:

  • Environmental regulations
  • Design of hydraulic structures
  • Sedimentation engineering
  • Watershed modeling
  • Wave propagation

Master of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering

In a Master of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering , hydraulic engineers can learn groundwater contamination, mathematical modeling and water treatment so they are able to help control pollution and redistribute water. These 2-year programs are available in both thesis and non-thesis options.

Applicants to these programs must typically have earned a bachelor's degree in a related field like urban planning, engineering or chemistry. A minimum grade point average may also be required by a university's graduate school.

Master's degree candidates learn about river mechanics, the diversion of floodwaters and drainage systems. Programs offer instruction about:

  • Analysis of environmental systems
  • Groundwater modeling
  • Hydroclimatology
  • Infrastructure design
  • Oceanic sedimentation

Popular Careers & Employment Outlook

Knowledge in this field is applicable to industries like energy, transportation, mining, and public utilities. Other than working as consultants to a variety of industries, graduate-degree holders found placement as:

  • Environmental scientists
  • Hydrologists
  • Engineering geologists

Though the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics offers no information on hydraulic engineers specifically, there is information on a number of relevant jobs. The BLS reports that demand for hydrologists will stem from certain practices such as mining, construction, and hydraulic fracturing. Further, the specific expertise of hydrologist are important for developing water management plans to address issues of climate change. Hydrologists with computer modeling experience were projected to have the easiest time filling openings. BLS 2014-2024 employment forecast showed an anticipated 7% increase in the overall number of jobs. The same source reported that hydrologists took home a median annual income of $79,550 as of May 2015.

Given the need to improve the United States' aging infrastructure, the BLS 2014-2024 job projections showed an expected 8% jump in employment opportunities for civil engineers. These professionals earned $82,220 as a median annual wage as of May 2014.

The employment outlook from the BLS for environmental engineers is also positive. These professionals were anticipated to see a 12% job growth from 2014-2024. Significant employment increases were forecast because spurring governmental concerns over public health, required industrial compliance with environmental regulations as well as a loss of environmental engineers due to retirement. The median annual wage of these professionals was $84,560 as of May 2015, according to the BLS reports.

Licensure and Certification Information

Certain states require licensure of professional hydrologists offering their services directly to the public. Requirements vary, but commonly, applicants must meet a minimum of five years of experience prior to sitting for an examination.

Degrees in hydraulic engineering are available at the bachelor and master's level, with an additional graduate certificate option. Degrees can lead to careers as a hydrologist, civil engineer or environmental engineer.

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