According to the United States Geological Service, the Earth is about 70 percent water. Hydrologists are the scientists who seek to understand water — the things that live in it, how it affects the planet, and how humans use and affect it. They may study the oceans or fresh water, and focus on specific aspects of it, such as the geological formations beneath the seas, the impact of pollution on marine life, or harnessing the power of water to create energy. Salary levels for the role are variable depending on such factors as location and employer.
During its May 2010 survey of national employment, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics gathered pay information from nearly 7,000 individual hydrologists working throughout the nation. It calculated that the mean annual wage for the profession was $79,280, which is equivalent to $38.11 an hour. Those within the top 10 percent of earners received wages of over $112,490, while their contemporaries in the bottom 10 percent earned less than $48,280.
Pay by Industry
Most hydrologists work for government agencies. The bureau listed the mean yearly salary of an individual working for the federal executive branch as $82,900. At the state government level the mean was $66,320, while local government positions were compensated to the tune of $71,720. Hydrologists may also work within scientific research and development services, which had a mean annual wage of $70,570; or architectural, engineering and related services, listed at $81,760. Those working in academia — colleges, universities and professional schools — earned $74,730.
Pay by Location
The state in which, according to the bureau’s figures, a hydrologist was likely to secure the highest wages was Virginia, with a mean of $126,010. California and Colorado had comparable wage rates — $92,950 and $91,670, respectively — as did New Mexico and Washington, at $80,480 and $78,870, respectively. The state with the lowest mean wages for hydrologists was reported to be Montana, at just $64,830.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that job opportunities for hydrologists, as for their close colleagues, geoscientists, will increase by around 18 percent over the years from 2008 to 2018. This exceeds the growth rate projected for the nation, expected to be between 7 and 13 percent through 2018. Environmental protection, particularly as increasing numbers of people move to environmentally-sensitive areas, such as the coasts, and minimizing the effects of pollutants will be key factors fueling this growth for hydrologists. As such, pay rates for the role should remain quite competitive.