Career opportunities in hydrology

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Hydrology is the science of movement of water on the land surface or underground. It includes the study of physical, chemical and biological interaction of water with the rocks and minerals of the earth as well as the critical interaction with living organisms.

A practitioner of hydrology is a hydrologist, working within the fields of earth or environmental science, physical geography or civil and environmental engineering. Domains of hydrology include hydro metrology, surface hydrology, hydrogeology, drainage basin management and water quality, where water plays the central role.

Branches of Hydrology:

  • Chemical hydrology Study of chemical characteristics of water.
  • Ecohydrology- Study of interaction between organisms and the hydrological cycle.
  • Hydrologeology- Study of presence and movement of water in aquifers.
  • Hydroinformatics- Adaptation of IT to hydrology and water resource applications.
  • Hydrometaorology- Study of the transfer of water and energy between land, water body surfaces and lower atmosphere.
  • Surface Hydrology- Study of hydrologic processes that operate at or near the earth surface

Role of Hydrologist

1) Hydrologists undertake a wide range of activities in order to monitor, manage and protect the water environment. Many activities and studies are based on hydrometric data measurement, collection and archiving.

Maintaining and monitoring networks to record river flow, water level in river, lake and ground, rainfall and other climate variables.

Taking water samples and conducting analysis for chemical properties.

Working with biologists and ecologists to monitor river and lake condition.

2) Process studies- Investigation patterns of rainfall and other forms of precipitation.

The study of ice, snow and glaciers.

Observing river flow processes including water quality, sediment movement and channel shapes.

Investigating water in the biosphere at all scales including soil and water interactions.

A hydrologist can work in the following organization/sectors:

  • International organizations- Technology Transfer International Cooperation and Emergency Relief.
  • Consulting/providing service in civil engineering, environmental management and assessment.
  • Academic and research- Undertaking teaching or research with the help of new analytical techniques.
  • Utility companies and public authorities-Providing water supply and sewage services.


There is no first degree course in India in hydrology. However, hydrology is well covered as a part of programmes in civil engineering, geography, environmental science and environmental management. It also forms a part of geology, soil sciences and ecological degrees. Detailed training in hydrology is mostly provided at the post graduate level.

A bachelors degree in a field related to hydrology is required, while a masters degree is strongly preferred to become a hydrologist. Related fields of study include geology, geophysics, forestry, soil sciences, civil engineering and agricultural engineering. Courses that are considered essential for training as a hydrologist includes chemistry, physics, calculus, water quality, hydrology, hydraulics and metrology.

A number of reputed universities offer graduate and post graduate courses in hydrology and water resource subjects. The details regarding courses in hydrology can be obtained from web sites of various reputed universities in India.