How to Become a Hydrologist in the UK

Hydrology is the scientific study of water. Hydrologists study its movement, distribution and quality. They find practical solutions to a range of water problems and ensure the water people drink is of the right quality. If you have an academic background in environmental science and an interest to conserve water resources, you could become a hydrologist.

What do hydrologists do?

Hydrologist perform the following duties:

  • Identify the most cost-effective ways to manage water resources
  • Monitor climate and environmental changes and establish their effect on water flow and quality
  • Develop strategies for mitigating conditions such as droughts and floods
  • Advise policy makers on how to regulate issues such as water harvesting and distribution
  • Advocate for reforestation and environment conservation in a bid to protect water catchment areas
  • Review applications for licenses by organizations that supply or distribute water from natural sources
  • Keep up to date with new water management techniques and innovations

Work environment

Hydrologists typically work from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. However, should there be a water emergency, they may be called in at any time to provide help.

Hydrologists spend most of their time in wetlands collecting water samples and laboratories conducting experiments. When compiling reports, they work from their offices.

This work can be physically demanding, since the job of hydrologists involves working in swampy areas. When working outdoors, hydrologists often wear protective clothing.


The average annual income for hydrologists is:

Level of seniority

Annual pay

Beginning hydrologists

£17,000 - £25,000

Experienced hydrologists

£23,000 - £32,000

Senior hydrologists

£28,000 - £40,000

Source: Prospects

Qualifications required

In the UK, there are no colleges or universities offering hydrology programs at the undergraduate level. Therefore, aspiring hydrologists can enter the field through a bachelor’s degree in any of the following fields:

  • Civil engineering
  • Soil science
  • Environmental science
  • Ecology
  • Geography
  • Geology
  • Environmental management

It is important to ensure that the course you choose to pursue is accredited or recognized by a professional organization.

Although very rare, employers may consider individuals with a Higher National Diploma and vast work experience. If you have a HND, you can volunteer in conservation projects to gain the experience you need to get started.

Important skills and abilities

To become a successful hydrologist, you should have:

  • Strong research, practical and technical skills
  • Good analytical and problem-solving skills
  • Good communication and teamwork skills
  • Good computers skills
  • Good project management skills
  • Good mathematical and analytical skills
  • Outdoor skills
  • An interest in water conservation

Career development

Hydrology degrees are available at the postgraduate level. This means you should focus on earning a master’s degree to improve your career progression prospects. Examples of universities offering this credential include:

  • Imperial College London, England
  • University of Dundee, Scotland

You can also choose to specialize in the following fields:

  • Water management
  • Waste water management
  • Hydrogology
  • Aquatic resource management.

Another career advancement option is to obtain a certification from a professional body. For example, if you enter this profession through a degree in civil engineering, you can earn a certification from the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE). The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM)also certifies those with a degree in environmental management.

Job opportunities

The potential employers of qualified hydrologists include:

  • Local authorities
  • Companies that provide sewerage services
  • Environmental organizations
  • Research and development companies
  • Government agencies
  • Engineering firms

After gaining vast experience, you can move into self-employment and establish a company that provides water management services or solutions. If you wish to move into teaching in universities, you should earn a doctoral degree in hydrology.

Between 2014 and 2022, the National Careers Service projects there will be about 180,000 new jobs for science and engineering professionals. This is one of the industries with the highest employment projections. So instead of worrying about finding a job, focus on obtaining the required qualifications!