Education and Training Requirements
At the high school level, you can prepare for a career in groundwater work by taking a lot of science and math classes. Technology is important in this field, so make sure you have computer skills. Also, focus on developing your writing and speech skills. Reports, proposals, memos, scientific papers, and other forms of written and verbal communication are likely to be part of your job as a groundwater professional.
A bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement for being a professional in this field, although many employers require hydrologists to have a master's degree. Geology, civil engineering, and chemistry are the most common undergraduate degrees in this field today. Other appropriate majors are engineering, geology, hydrogeology, geophysics, petroleum geology, mining engineering, and other related degrees. Appropriate course work at the undergraduate level includes chemistry, physics, calculus, groundwater geology, groundwater hydrology, engineering hydrology, and fluid mechanics. It is also a good idea to learn how to do computer modeling, mapping, and related tasks. Undergraduate degrees are sufficient for getting a job doing activities such as on-site sampling and measurement.
Only a few colleges offer degrees in hydrology. Most hydrologists prepare for the field by completing hydrology concentrations in their geosciences, engineering, or environmental science degree programs. A graduate degree and some experience will place you among the most sought-after workers in the environmental industry.
Some colleges and universities offer certificates in hydrology, hydrogeology, and related fields. For example, the University of Arizona at Tucson offers a graduate certificate in hydrology and water resources. Required classes include Fundamentals of Water Quality, Fundamentals of Subsurface Hydrology, Fundamentals of Surface Water Hydrology, and Fundamentals: Systems Approach to Hydrologic Modeling. Contact schools in your area to learn more about available programs.
Other Education or Training
The National Ground Water Association offers continuing education (CE) opportunities via conference sessions, short courses, and webinars. Past offerings included Principles of Groundwater: Flow, Transport, and Remediation, Asset Management for Groundwater-Supplied Public Water Systems, and Groundwater Sampling and Environmental Monitoring. The American Geophysical Union, American Water Works Association, and the Geological Society of America also provide CE opportunities.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
Some certification programs have been developed to measure experience and knowledge of groundwater science. Both the American Institute of Hydrology and theNational Ground Water Association offer voluntary certification programs. Some states also require geoscientists and hydrologists who serve the public to be licensed. Requirements vary by state, but typically applicants must meet education and experience requirements and pass an examination.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
Internships, co-ops, volunteering, and part-time jobs with local water districts, government agencies, or groundwater consulting firms will provide useful experience to aspiring groundwater professionals.
Patience, persistence, curiosity, attention to detail, and good analytic skills are all useful traits for a groundwater professional. You also need excellent communication and interpersonal skills since you will likely work as part of a team and have people to answer to, whether a supervisor, the government, a client, or all three. Groundwater specialists also need to be familiar with many regulations, often complex ones, so a willingness to continue to learn throughout your career is important.
Groundwater specialists, especially hydrologists, also need skills in data analysis, computer modeling, digital mapping, geographic information systems (GIS), and remote sensing.