Hydrologist job information

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Jenny Moore is an assistant hydrologist at one of the country's leading consultancy firms specialising in the transport, water and property sectors. She assesses potential risks to the environment from water and is the young persons' representative at the British Hydrological Society (BHS).

What is hydrology?

It is the study of water movement and accumulation on and in the land. It covers water in rivers, lakes, aquifers and glaciers. It also includes rainfall analysis. We can use this information to plot potential risks on various sites from water resources.

Who do you work for?

One of Halcrow's main clients is the Environment Agency, but we also work for water companies, local authorities, other government organisations such as English Nature, private developers, and even individuals.

So what do you actually do in your hydrologist job?

My workload is a mixture of technical activities and project management. A lot of my work is computer-based, and involves logging information collected in the field and from weather records. This is used to work out the potential hazards under a variety of 'what-if' conditions. I use a computer to predict the effects of say, a season of abnormally high rainfall throughout the winter, to check whether the surrounding land will flood, for instance.

These desk studies are all about working out the odds of something happening caused by water, now and/or in the future. It can cover anything from flood estimation to work on droughts.

I also spend time out on site. I think if you're going to try and model something using a computer it does help to have seen the area first. Project management involves a lot of interaction with people, managing budgets, attending meetings and making sure we deliver things on time and to the quality the client expects.

What hours do you work?

We work a 37.5-hour week. Sometimes it's longer but you get overtime. We always avoid working at weekends.

What equipment do you use?

In you're out on site you'll use various bits of measuring equipment, such as a gauging staff, flow meters and even a theodolite for surveying levels.

What skills do you need to work as a hydrologist?

For projects where site visits are not possible, one of the most important skills a hydrologist can implement is the ability to picture how something looks just by using maps, Geographical Information Systems (GIS) or other deskbased illustrations. There's a lot of maths involved too.

You need good communication skills and must be able to develop good working relationships with clients in a short space of time. Sometimes you'll be managing three projects at once so you have to chop and change between subject matter, and jump from working with one team to another.

Do your work alone or as part of a team?

As a project manager you're a focal point, so it's a good way to get to know your colleagues. Sometimes you have to manage yourself and use your own initiative, and then at the other extreme you're interacting with a team of, say, ten people. Some of them may be senior to you, so you need to get used to 'managing upwards.

I enjoy working with other people and I think you can learn a lot from them, especially when you're involved with technical experts.

What is good about the hydrologist job?

The projects are often very technically challenging but it is rewarding when the client says you've done a good job and you can see how your design input fits into something that is actually constructed.

Is there any on-the-job training?

There's always some training going on. I have my own structured training scheme within Halcrow which is accredited by the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM). The focus of this scheme is the ability to satisfy core competencies under the guidance of a mentor. It leads to chartered status and professional membership of CIWEM.

Jenny's route to her hydrologist job

  • Geography A level which included hydrology.
  • Physical Geography degree which included modules on hydrology, fluvial geomorphology and floodplain management.
  • MA in water resources technology and management.

Jenny's hydrologist tips

  • Get relevant work experience through a 'hands-on' gap year or summer placement.
  • At university, tap into what your tutors know, and the contacts they have. It's often a case of who knows whom in this industry.
  • Join a recognised society, such as BHS, at undergraduate or postgraduate level and take part in their programme of organised events.

Hydrologist related jobs

  • Geologist
  • Oceanographer

Salary of a hydrologist

  • Entrants with a first degree and Masters qualification will start at around £18,000, rising to around £25,000 to £30,000, depending on experience.

Hydrologist job information

  • Although it's possible to work as a hydrologist using experience alone, the majority of hydrologists have a masters degree.
  • Many employers offer work placements for school-leavers and students. These placements are an excellent way of obtaining relevant experience and insight into where you could be in a few years time - and the types of technical challenges and people you could be dealing with on a daily basis.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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