Geoscientists and Hydrologists

Geoscientists and hydrologists use sophisticated equipment to analyze the composition of earth, rock and water; sometimes this is done in conjunction with environmental scientists in an attempt to preserve and restore the environment to a cleaner state, while other times it is done to locate natural resources such as groundwater, minerals, metals and petroleum.

Several professional titles including geologist, geophysicist and hydrologist fall under the scope of geosciences; under these major fields, there are a vast number of subspecialties. Geologists study the composition and history of the earth. Geophysicists use the principles of physics, math and chemistry to study these very same things, plus the atmosphere, oceans, and magnetic, electrical, and gravitational forces.


Geophysicists specialize in geodesy (determining the exact position of geographical points and the shape and size of the earth), seismology (the study of earthquakes) and magnetic geophysics (measuring the earth’s magnetic field and using the measurements to theorize the earth’s origin).

Geoscientists and Hydrologists Analyze Internal Composition of the Earth to Locate Natural Resources
Hydrologists study all things related to water, including its distribution, quantity, circulation and physical properties, and typically specialize in either underground or surface water. Hydrologists examine precipitation and the form in which it occurs, how quickly it is absorbed into the soil, and how it moves through the earth and ultimately returns to the ocean and atmosphere.
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Oceanographers are related to hydrologists and use the knowledge they have in geosciences as well as biology and chemistry to study the world’s oceans and coastal waters. They study the motion and circulation of the waters as well as their chemical and physical properties to determine how these factors affect coastal areas, climate and weather.

Subspecialties are abundant within the major geosciences fields and cover professions such as petroleum geologists who map the subsurface of oceans or land while exploring terrain for gas and oil deposits, paleontologists studying fossils, volcanologists studying volcanoes to understand past activity and predict future eruptions, and glacial geologists who study the physical properties and movements of glaciers and ice sheets.

Much of the work done by these scientists – such as identifying and examining geological formations, studying data collected by remote sensing instruments and constructing field maps – is grant-funded and performed in the field. Some in this field do spend time in offices, but the majority of them divide their time between the field and the office. When in the field, they must be prepared to endure a variety of climates and terrain, so professionals in this field should be in relatively good physical condition.

The geosciences and hydrology fields offer a few entry-level positions that can be had with just a bachelor’s degree; however, a master’s degree is the primary minimum-education requirement for most entry-level positions. For anyone looking to research or teach at the college level, a Ph.D. is required. Fortunately, there are many colleges and universities that offer these degrees, emphasizing classical geological methods and topics, which are important for all geoscientists.

A hydrology degree is harder to come by, but universities and colleges do tend to offer concentrations in hydrology or water studies in their geoscience, environmental science or engineering departments. These students are encouraged to take courses in the physical sciences, geophysics, chemistry, engineering science, soil science, mathematics, aquatic biology, atmospheric science, geology, oceanography, hydrogeology, and the management and conservation of water resources.

Because of the complicated nature of the equipment that is used in this field, those wanting to enter the geosciences or hydrology field are advised to become computer proficient and have experience with computer modeling, Global Positioning Systems, geographic information systems and digital mapping among other things. Employers will often look for these skills on a resume, so it is a good idea to participate in a summer internship program to gain the necessary experience.

Many begin their careers as research assistants, field explorers, or office and laboratory technicians to gain experience before moving into more complex, challenging, independent work. Those geoscientists and hydrologists who seek opportunities in management will spend more time on paper-related duties such as scheduling and budgeting.
The fields of geosciences and hydrology are expected to grow very fast; employment will be found as teachers and in architectural and engineering firms, oil and gas extraction companies, and state departments and agencies. A small percentage of people will find employment with the federal government. The driving force for the continued growth in these fields can be related to the world’s increased need for energy, environmental protection, and responsible land and water management. Those seeking employment in these fields can expect to earn anywhere from $40,000 to $150,000, depending on the position and the individual’s degree and level of experience.