Hydrology is the study of the earth's water cycle, including the distribution of resources, the composition and movement of water in oceans, lakes, and rivers, and the analysis of rainfall data. There are many different options for individuals interested in hydrology jobs, including employment as research hydrologists and assistants, public advocacy workers, and business consultants. Most hydrology jobs are found in environmental protection organizations, government agencies, private research laboratories, and business development firms.
Scientists and laboratory assistants who specialize in hydrology usually spend a great deal of time researching historical data regarding the movement, distribution, and contamination of water in a given area. Hydrologists and their assistants gather field samples and bring them to specialized laboratories to analyze their contents. Using microscopes and other laboratory equipment, scientists can determine the presence of pollutants, bacteria, or other matter in samples. They use information gathered from experiments to write scientific papers and introduce data into longitudinal studies of an area's water cycle. Hydrologists often make predictions regarding changes in climates and ecosystems, and calculate the best means of combating such changes.
Hydrologists and environmental scientists often become involved in environmental protection efforts in nonprofit groups and government agencies. Experts use empirical observations and data gathered by research hydrologists to make new environmental laws and organize cleanup efforts. They often become involved in public advocacy work, publishing educational information and giving talks about the importance of preserving water systems. Many hydrologists focus on the importance of water conservation and the responsible use of resources.
Other hydrology jobs can be found in architectural businesses and consulting firms. Consulting hydrologists help companies design water management systems, organize the proper disposal of waste and potential contaminants, and ensure that businesses do not violate environmental regulations and laws. Architectural firms and construction companies often employ hydrologists to help determine the best and most responsible places to build new structures. Experts consider nearby water sources and ecosystems when making decisions about where to construct buildings, roads, and bridges.
To obtain most entry-level hydrology jobs and laboratory assistant positions, individuals must hold at least bachelor's degrees in hydrology, environmental science, or biology. Research scientists and government officials are often required to obtain master's or doctoral degrees in their specialty before working independently. Certification is not typically required to work in most hydrology jobs, though some professionals choose to take certifying exams in order to improve their knowledge and credentials. Several national organizations, such as the American Institute of Hydrology in the United States, provide resources on how scientists can pursue certification in their field.