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Limnologist: Job Description, Duties, Outlook and Salary

Limnologists require significant formal education. Learn about the degree programs, job duties, and requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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Limnologists are scientists who study the regional waterways and freshwater ecosystems, conducting chemical analysis and taking plant and water samples to understand ecological impact. Limnologists are expected to have at least a master's degree, but many positions in the field will require a doctorate. The employment opportunities can vary, including options such as teaching in an academic institution, researching within a private sector or working with the environmental government agencies.

Essential Information

A limnologist observes and reports on freshwater inland ecosystems, such as streams, rivers, ponds, lakes, and marshland. Government agencies, universities, and research companies are examples of employers who seek out limnologists to monitor the health of regional water environments. Aspiring limnologists generally will need at least a master's degree, although many positions require a doctorate.

Required Education Master's or doctoral degree in a relevant natural science
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 3.7% for all biological scientists;
6.9% for hydrologists
Median Salary (2015)* $59,680 for zoologists and wildlife biologists;
$79,550 for hydrologists

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Job Description for a Limnologist

Limnologists assess the impact of human activity, weather, and other factors on the current and future health of regional waterways. They conduct tests such as water sampling, chemical analysis, and biological monitoring to determine if pollution from manufacturing, farming, or recreational activities have negatively impacted the health of an area. Limnologists may work closely with colleagues from other life sciences and earth sciences fields, including geologists, meteorologists, and zoologists.

Limnologist Job Duties

Limnologists collect samples of water, plant, insect, and animal life for testing and observation. This may include inspecting animal habitats surrounding a waterway and capturing fish or other wildlife. They conduct laboratory tests for pollution and other factors that negatively affect water chemistry, keep records on environmental changes, and maintain a catalog of the biological organisms found in their assigned region.

Limnologists employed by academic institutions may teach courses on such environmental topics as ecosystems analysis, conservation of aquatic resources, and water science. They may also conduct research projects on environmental issues, write grants in support of their research, conduct laboratory experiments, and do field work.

Limnologist Job Outlook and Salary

While no job outlook figures exist specifically for limnologists, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported employment for hydrologists was predicted to increase 6.9% from 2014-2024, while employment of biological scientists was expected to grow at a slower-than-average rate of 3.7% throughout the decade (www.bls.gov). This may be partly due to the rapid growth of biotechnology as a field, environmental impact awareness, and modern research methods.

Limnologists with advanced doctoral degrees may have to compete for the limited academic and research grants available through universities. Research positions in the private sector and through government agencies may be more available, but competition may arise if more biological scientists seek out those opportunities due to the lack of academic jobs, according to BLS projections for biological scientists.

Salary data is not available specifically for limnologists, but BLS comparisons of similar biological science occupations in May 2015 showed a median annual wage of $79,550 for hydrologists and $59,680 for zoologists and wildlife biologists. In academia, college biological science professors earned a median annual salary of $75,320 during that same period.

Limnologists are environmental scientists who study inland water systems and the ecological environments around them. They'll need either a master's degree or doctorate. Whether working as a wildlife biologist or hydrologist, the job market is growing slowly, but those who find positions could, in 2015, earn a median wage as high as $79,550.

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