Hydrologists: Salary Overview
Hydrologists study the movement of water across and through the Earth’s crust.
They typically analyze the impact of rain, snow, and other precipitations on river flows and groundwater levels and how water evaporates back into the atmosphere and eventually reaches the ocean.
A hydrologist’s job description usually includes measuring the volume of water, collecting water and soil samples to test for pH and other properties, analyzing data, trying to find ways of minimizing the negative impact of pollution on the environment, forecasting future water supplies using computer models, evaluating and deciding if water-related projects are feasible, and writing reports.
Many hydrologists specialize in a particular water source; for example, some specialize in groundwater hydrology while others specialize in surface water hydrology.
As a hydrologist, you may have to travel often and you may have to wade into lakes and streams to collect water samples or to inspect monitoring equipment.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for hydrologists was $81,270 in May 2019- this means that half of the workers in this profession earned less than this amount and half earned more.
Salaries vary depending on experience, education, and the industry of employment, among other factors; the lowest 10 percent earned less than $51,220 while the highest 10 percent earned more than $127,400 per year.
The report published by BLS shows that 75% of all hydrologists earned more than $63,650.
Hydrologist Salary by Industry
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, hydrologists held about 6,700 jobs in 2018.
The biggest employer for hydrologists was the federal government- a field that hired 27% of all hydrologists.
Other big employers for hydrologists were state governments, companies that provide management, scientific, and technical consulting services, companies that provide engineering services, and local governments.
The mean annual wage for hydrologists who worked in the federal executive branch was $88,020 while those who were employed in the field of management, scientific, and technical consulting services earned, on average, $96,380.
The average annual salary was $70,460 for hydrologists who worked for state governments, $93,460 per year for those who were employed by companies that provide engineering services, and $81,800 for hydrologists employed by local governments.
The highest paying industry for hydrologists, management of companies and enterprises, offered them a mean annual wage of $111,780.
However, this field hired only about 40 hydrologists in 2019, so job openings for hydrologists don’t come up very often in this sector.
Hydrologist salaries vary widely depending on the industry of employment but education is another important factor in determining a hydrologist’s wage.
Holding a master’s degree or a Ph.D. in geosciences, engineering or a related science field will help you find a higher-paying job and provide you with better advancement opportunities.
Hydrologist Salary by Compensation Structure
Most hydrologists earn a salary paid weekly or monthly and some of them may also receive bonuses and a share of the company’s profit.
The exact amounts vary depending on the hydrologist’s level of experience within the company, his/her skills, and the role within the organization.
According to a report published by payscale.com, as of May 2020, hydrologists earned between $491-$6,000 a year in bonuses and between $1,000-$3,000 in profit sharing.
These benefits can supplement a hydrologist’s salary with several thousand of dollars per year.
The same report shows that the majority of hydrologists (90%) received medical benefits, 67% of them also received dental insurance, and 55% of them received vision insurance.
Hydrologists will continue to be needed in the future to study the possibility of sea-level rise, flooding, drought, and other environmental concerns, and to develop water management plans that address these problems.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for hydrologists is projected to grow 7 percent from 2018 to 2028.
Having a master’s or a doctoral degree in the field will likely improve your job prospects and your earnings potential.
* Based on information from the May 2021 salary report from the BLS. The figures represent accumulated data for all states of employment for Hydrologists. BLS data represents averages and medians for workers at all levels of education and experience. This data doesn't represent starting salaries.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.