A water chemist's academic journey usually starts with earning a bachelor's degree in chemistry, and relevant computer/technology courses may be valuable as well. Many chemist jobs require a graduate degree, which can be specialized in hydrologic sciences.
Water chemists study the impact of water on elements in other ecosystems and how their interactions affect water and water quality. These highly trained professionals study both groundwater and surface water and examine currents, soil infiltration and the effects that outside sources like weather and soil erosion create on water ecosystems. A master's or doctorate degree is often required to become a water chemist, though degree programs in this field are also offered at the undergraduate level.
|Required Education||Master's or doctorate degree|
|Other Requirements||Licensure required by some states|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||7% for hydrologists|
|Median Annual Salary (2015)*||$79,550 for hydrologists|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Bachelor of Science in Chemistry
A career in water chemistry or hydrology usually requires an advanced degree. The first step on this career path is to earn an undergraduate degree in chemistry, which emphasizes the study of natural science at a molecular level. A 4-year program such as this will typically include general education courses but will be heavily focused on mathematics and natural sciences. Most chemistry majors can expect to take courses such as:
- General chemistry
- Organic and inorganic chemistry
- Biosystems and bioproducts
- Chemical engineering
- Quantum chemistry
- Analytical chemistry
- Geological engineering
Minor courses in physical, earth or natural science offer studies in water quality, aquatic chemistry and hydrologic cycles on forest land. Courses on new technology, with courses in computer modeling, data analysis, digital mapping and remote sensing are also helpful. Because hydrologists work as part of a team, it is equally important for students to take courses that could improve interpersonal and written communications skills.
Master of Science in Hydrologic Sciences
Graduate degree programs in water chemistry are also offered by some colleges in the U.S. By taking the study of water from its traditional place as a subspecialty of engineering, geology, and agricultural studies and elevating it to its own science, water chemistry is becoming established as an emerging and important field of study. Typical graduate study courses include studies in water/stream ecology, fluid mechanics, water and groundwater resources, global warming and topics in aquatic biology. Candidates are required to develop an independent research project and present a final thesis before qualifying for graduation.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in May 2014, 17% of professional hydrologists were employed in engineering services. Management, scientific and technical consulting services employed approximately 22% of workers, while 28% worked for the federal government. As of 2015, the median salary of a hydrologist was $79,550 according to the BLS. The BLS employment outlook for hydrologists predicted 7% growth during the 2014-2024 decade.
Because of the increased need for environmental protection and responsible land and water management, employment for hydrologists with experience in water chemistry is expected to rise. Hydrologists will increasingly be needed by government agencies to troubleshoot and diagnose problems such as soil and water contamination, particularly in coastal environments and at infrastructure construction projects.
With the currently diminishing availability of natural resources, particularly water, hydrologists and water chemists are becoming increasingly desired in various industries. These professionals typically hold a master's or doctoral degree in hydrology, water chemistry or general chemistry.