Hydrogeologists are a type of environmental geologist that study how water interacts with the natural environment of rocks and soils. People with these qualifications can carry out one of two jobs, but sometimes will be expert in both. The first role is that of environmental geographer. They study the relationship between water and rocks and soil as a natural process. Their data will help other experts understand such environmental processes as glaciation, river formation and movement, flood and other natural disaster risk and long-term environmental processes. They help us understand the world around us in terms of the relationship between water and dry land. They will look equally at data collected from the field, GIS analysis and old maps.
The second role of a hydrogeologist is to ensure that water supplies remain safe and healthy. Some rock and soils contain contaminants that are harmful to human health. It is their job to identify and mitigate them. Most of these will be naturally occurring contaminants, but they may also be the result of pollutants. They may provide expert analysis in litigation against the businesses responsible should a court case be necessary.
They may also be involved in environmental planning. The amount of waste that we produce requires space to put them. Hydrogeologists will look at the underlying soil and geology of proposed sites to ensure that pollution risks are low (for example subterranean rivers or lakes that flow into domestic water supplies). Land use planners will often consult hydrologists and hydrogeologists. They differ from hydrologists in that these professionals study surface water rather than how water changes the environment.
Where does a Hydrogeoloist Work?
Hydrogeology is closely related to hydrology and the Earth sciences, so they will have a good all round understanding of the environment. The largest employer of hydrogeologists at present is Federal government. They will work in a wide range of areas such as monitoring for bodies like the National Park Service, as researchers for the EPA and in legal (public prosecution). Around 28% of hydrogeologists work for the Federal government. Others will also work in academia and teaching.
Around 22% presently work for scientific and technical consulting services. These individuals will work independent of bodies and hired on a case by case basis. Government, private businesses and third sector organizations may hire them for a specific task per contract. Similarly, the 17% who work for engineering services will be hired for the same sort of role by (typically) civic engineering and construction companies, or they may work on projects that their employer manages.
17% and 9% respectively work for state and local government. Their roles will be similar to the Federal government jobs but at a local level. Regardless of which sector they work in, their role will be a mix of office work and fieldwork.
Steps to take
- Ensure your degree and/or classes are tailored towards the sector
- Relevant work experience/internships will be extremely useful when it comes to applying for a job.