Study the secret world of underwater geography.

Quick Stats

Salary Range
$26,000 – $71,000

Data from U.S. Department of Labor

What do Hydrographers do?

A Hydrographer, also known as a Hydrographic Surveyor, uncovers and exposes the secret world of underwater geography by studying, surveying, and mapping the bottoms of rivers, lakes, and oceans. Although at first glance, water’s pretty boring, it actually hides a lot of secrets. When you lift the lid, you’ll discover an entire landscape of hills, valleys, and even mountain ranges hiding beneath the surface. That makes the job of a Hydrographer very exciting indeed!

As a Hydrographer, you’re employed by government agencies, universities, and environmental research organizations, as well as private industry — for instance, oil, utility, shipping, and telecommunications companies. You spend your days setting up and then using special tools — geographic information systems (GIS) and global positioning system (GPS) software, sonar equipment, and physical depth finders — to collect data about underwater topography, as well as coastline features, water levels, tides, and currents. Using that data, you then create maps, as well as analyses about the causes and effects of environmental phenomena such as erosion, earthquakes, and climate change.

The goal of your work depends on whom you work for. Typically, though, your data is used to plot safe currents and navigational paths for ships, or to locate natural resources, including oil. It’s also used to understand and predict geological activity, and to assist companies and governments with shipwreck recovery efforts. In addition, it’s used to protect and advocate on behalf of water resources and habitats.

Because you’re charting the geography of an undiscovered “water world,” you’re like a hydrological Lewis and Clark!

Should I be a Hydrographer?

You should have an associate's degree or higher and share these traits:
  • Ready for a Challenge: You jump into new projects with initiative and drive.
  • Persistent: You keep pushing through, even when faced with tough obstacles.
  • Detail Oriented: You pay close attention to all the little details.

  • How to become a Hydrographer

    We recommend at least an Associate's degree. Check out these schools offering Hydrographer-related education!
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