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Is Hydrology a good career choice in the US?. I intend to go for it with my Masters as soon as im done with my Bachelors degree(BSc Geology). I'm really interested in it, but im having a hard time deciding whether i should or should'nt. How are job prospects and pay?


To be completely honest, no it isn't.  The environmental industry, which is the primary employer of hydrologists, has been shrinking since the 1990's.  A couple of years back one of the largest enviromental consulting firms in the country, a former employer of mine, started having layoffs and furloughs, putting people on half pay, all due to the lack of work.  The trouble is in the 1980's and 1990's the industry was too successful at closing most of the large environmental sites and doing cleanups.  Now there are too many companies and not enough work to go around.  Most companies have expanded overseas.

Another factor is the kind of work they do requires few actual hydrologists.  We had one and only one on our staff of about 50 engineers and geologists.  Most projects do not require a high degree of ground water modeling, it is focused more on basic geology, installing wells, sampling, production of maps etc.

We didn't do a lot of computer stuff then, I helped introduce GIS to the company, but at the time we did no computer contouring at all, but did everything by hand.  The dirty secret here is you bill out your time by the hour, so why use a computer to contour a map in 5 minutes when doing it by hand can take an hour of time that you can bill out?  The company saw it as taking money out of its pocket.

I took a class in hydrology in grad school, and aside from the basics, did not use ANY of the very sophisicated methods.  I think I performed one drawdown test in my 8 years of work.

The other thing is pay, the enviromental industry pays about half to 2/3 of what the petroleum industry does.  I was making $40k after seven years, quit and went back to the petroelum industry and the next day was making $56K  In three years I was making $78K and was underpaid because I was working for a oil field service company and not a oil company.

There are jobs out there with engineering firms and state agencies for example in California:  on this last site, most of the companies are environmental consulting firms some state agencies and a few companies.  I'm actually surprised at the number I was able to find, probably due to the sad state of the universities, not many kids graduating in the geosciences with Masters degrees, which is an absolute necessity to get a job as a professional.


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Keith Patton


I can answer questions concerning physical and historical geology, environmental geology/hydrology, environmental consulting, remote sensing/aerial photo interpretation, G&G computer applications, petroleum exploration, drilling, geochemistry, geochemical and microbiological prospecting, 3D reservoir modeling, computer mapping and drilling.I am not a geophysicist.


I have 24 years experience split between the petroleum and environmental industries. I have served as an expert witness in remote sensing, developmental geologist, exploration geologist, enviromental project manager, and subject matter expert in geology and geophysical software development.

American Association of Petroleum Geologists
American Association of Photogrammetrists and Remote Sensing

Bachelor and Master of Science
Registered Geologist in State of Texas

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