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Geology/hydrogeology career advice



I'm an undergraduate geology student. I plan to get a masters degree in whatever aspect of geology I work in. I'm wondering about hydrogeology. What is career satisfaction like in that field?

I know a handful of people who have worked in the environmental consulting industry - most say the industry tends to treat employees poorly and there is little work/life balance often times. I've also heard most hydrogeologists work in consulting firms.

My question for you is where do most hydrogeologists work and how is the job satisfaction? How is work/life balance? How about salary?"


I have worked in the consulting industry for nearly 25 years.  I started with a very small company and was managing projects pretty quick.  I was also working 70+ hours a week.  But I was young and was capable of maintaining the work hard/play hard lifestyle.  I went to work for one of the firms in the world after that and was reasonably successful, but again I was working 60 to 70 hours a week.  A friend of mine who worked for me at the time and I often comment that those were some of the best times in our professional career though.  We were working hard, but all of us in the office got along, we had interesting projects and enjoyed ourselves.

I can tell you that as soon as I got married and then started having kids my focus changed and it was not an easy adjustment.  I am now self employed and I work long hours, but with an office in the house I can spend time taking my kids to school and helping there and then work late at night to get caught up.  Generally it works out.

I also remember that I had a young man that came to work for me who was great.  A hard worker, smart, courteous, etc.  After a year or two he left to go back to grad school.  I hired him back the next summer and was quite surprised when he turned down work and I ended up having to let him go.  I would have thought that a grad student would have wanted the opportunity to work as many hours as possible over the summer, but I was wrong.  So, part of the whole equation is expectations.

So, to answer your questions - most hydrogeologists do work in consulting.  Some work in govt and if you get a PhD maybe you can get an academic position.  I am pretty satisfied with my job.  I enjoy solving client problems trying to find out of the box solutions.  The work/life balance can suck at times, but that is really a matter of personal choice.  Salaries are not great.  I am guessing that starting salaries are $35000 to $40000 these days.  I suspect that if end up doing really really well, building up a good client base and can keep a bunch of people busy you might end up making $100000 or $150000.  But that might take 10+ years.  

If you really want to do this, consider getting highly specialized in grad school.  Combine some hydrogeologic modeling expertise with some GIS expertise.  Do some fancy geographic data management, dumping that data into some modeling and statistical analysis program to be able to do some really fancy predictive modeling.

Hope this helps.



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Fraser Hamilton


I have over 15 years of professional experience in the environmental geology field. I am well versed in general geology types of questions and answers. In addition I have a keen understanding of physical stratigraphy (especially in the Valley and Ridge of Central PA) and cycles.


Eight years of education, fifteen years of professional experience. Have worked or studied in ME, PA, TX, KY, IN, TN, OH, WA and Scotland.

Geological Society of America
American Association of Petroleum Geologists
Properties Magazine
Cleveland Bar Association
Cleveland Engineering Society

BA Geology/Math, University of Maine at Farmington
MA Geology - Physical Stratigraphy, Temple University
Post Grad Studies Geology - Texas A&M University

Awards and Honors
Distinguished graduate teaching award, Temple University

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