CAREER DEVELOPMENT / NOV. 09, 2014
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How to Become a Hydraulic Engineer in the US

Hydraulic engineering is a discipline in the wider civil engineering field. It focuses on the flow and use of water among other fluids. Hydraulic engineers use their knowledge of fluid mechanics to solve a range of practical problems, such as controlling flood water. If you are good at physics and math, you already have good deal of what it takes to become a hydraulic engineer.

What Do Hydraulic Engineers Do?

Some of the duties hydraulic engineers perform include:

  • Developing hydraulic designs for proposed hydraulic engineering projects
  • Determining the type of pumps and pressure valves required for a certain job, such as irrigating projects
  • Calculating the rate of water flow, pressure and other aspects
  • Estimating the cost of projects and preparing procurement specifications of the required equipment
  • Researching new technologies to improve the efficiency of systems in new designs
  • Analyzing existing drainage systems and making necessary modifications
  • Offering technical guidance to junior hydraulic engineers and ensuring projects are completed on time
  • Maintaining design files and other related documents.

Work Environment

Hydraulic engineers work in a number settings: They spend time in their offices and workshops when developing designs and work onsite when implementing or installing hydraulic systems.

Although hydraulic engineers have regular work schedules, they often work overtime when faced with tight project deadlines. This job is physically demanding – so if you are not ready to lift heavy equipment or work in tight spaces, you may want to rethink your options.

Salary

The table below shows the average wages for civil engineers in the US:

Level of seniority

Annual wage

Junior hydraulic engineers

$46,000 -$62,000

Experienced engineers

$62,000 - $81,000

Senior engineers (project managers)

$81,000 - $96,000

Source: Payscale

Qualifications Required

To get started as a hydraulic engineer, you should complete a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering with a major in hydraulics. The program should be accredited by Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology.

After earning your degree, apply to your state’s engineering board for a professional engineering license. The requirements for getting licensed include passing an examination and having at least four years of experience working under a licensed engineer.

At this point, you can be hired as a hydraulic engineer.

Important Skills and Abilities

Which skills and abilities do you need to be an effective hydraulics engineer? You need:

  • Strong project management
  • A detailed understanding of fluid mechanics and fluid systems
  • The knowledge of international hydraulic standards
  • Strong analytical and technical skills
  • Good report writing skills
  • The ability to use science principles to solve technical problems
  • Good practical skills
  • Good computer skills.

Career Development

To improve your knowledge, credibility, competence and career progression chances, you should:

  • Pursue a master’s degree in hydraulic engineering – You can earn a PhD if you wish to move into teaching later on
  • Earn a professional designation, such as the Certified Fluid Power Engineer, which is offered by the International Fluid Power Society. The IFPS also offers membership opportunities

Job Opportunities

The major employers of hydraulic engineers include:

  • Water management agencies
  • Local authorities
  • Construction companies
  • Higher learning institutions
  • Research and development firms
  • Architectural and engineering companies
  • Equipment manufacturing plants

With vast experience, a professional certification and an advanced degree, you could become a hydraulic project manager. You could also move into self-employment and start practicing as a hydraulics consultant.

Finally, the BLS reports there will be 53,700 new jobs for all types of civil engineers between 2012 and 2022. Given that this represents a 20 percent job growth, it is safe to conclude aspiring hydraulic engineers have strong employment prospects.

So if you have the necessary attributes and an interest in water and water management then this could be the perfect career for you.

 

Image: University of New South Wales

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