Careers in Geoscience: Hydrogeology

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Careers in Geoscience: Hydrogeology

A hydrogeologist is a person who studies the ways that water (hydro) moves through the soil and rock of the earth (geology). They work for resource companies, government, in academia and as consultants and are responsible for applying their geological knowledge and mathematical principles to solve groundwater-related problems related to quantity, quality, availability and sustainability. They may be field orientated with an emphasis on drilling of bores, coordinating aquifer tests, sampling for water quality and installing and monitoring specialist logging equipment. They may be office based with an emphasis on numerical modelling, water quality analysis and data management.


The responsibilities of a hydrogeologist vary considerably according to the sector, employer and area of specialisation.

Typical duties include:

  • Applying a knowledge of fundamental geology to develop an understanding of how the rock types (lithologies) and structure in an area impact on groundwater occurrence and movement
  • Understanding and interpreting maps, geographical data, geophysical data, historical evidence and models to build up a picture of the groundwater regime and/or land contamination, often based on incomplete information
  • Using computers to model groundwater flow, chemistry, temperature and other physical properties influenced by geology/structure, surface water flow and man-made influence
  • Undertaking field work and site visits for investigative and monitoring purposes
  • Designing and commissioning boreholes, and sampling and measuring groundwater and surface water
  • Undertaking environment impact assessments of groundwater abstraction and management activities
  • Analysing collected information to assess and predict the impact of activities such as landfills, construction developments, mining or agriculture on groundwater quality and resource availability
  • Liaising with other hydrogeologists, hydrologists, geophysicists, ecologists, engineers and other professionals in related fields
  • Ensuring compliance with environmental legislation and keeping up to date with technological and legislative developments
  • Writing reports for clients, which can be understood by people who don't necessarily have a technical background
  • Answering technical queries and providing advice to clients and the public in writing and presentations to clients, litigants and stakeholder groups
  • Managing projects and contractors
  • Working within occupational health and safety guidelines
  • Working ethically.
Skills Required

The job carries a high level of responsibility as the hydrogeologist must provide concise assessment upon which the viability of resource and other projects may depend, through groundwater resource impacts on both the project and the environment and through water quantity and quality impacts. Consequently, appropriate training is an important feature of the job as well as a sound understanding of the hydrological cycle e.g. interaction between groundwater and surface water systems.

Typical skills required are:

  • Knowledge of a range of disciplines (hydrogeochemistry, groundwater hydraulics, geophysics, structural geology, sedimentology, well construction etc.) and their relevance to groundwater plus those related to hydrology, agriculture, pumping technology and environment
  • Sound geological skills including geological mapping, rock recognition, structural geology, knowledge of geochemistry and geophysics and GIS
  • Ability to work within a multidisciplinary team of scientists and engineers
  • Good organisational skills
  • Computer literacy and ability to analyse numerical and graphical data
  • Good written and verbal communication skills.




University unit suggestions

Core subjects
structural geology
mineral identification
Specialty subjects
numerical modelling


Statutory Requirements

Registration in Australia as a Registered Hydrogeologist through AIG (RPGeo), full membership level of AIG as a minimum requirement.

Full members of the AIG can become registered as a Registered Professional Geoscientist (RPGeo).  In several states, government organisations may require either Full membership of the AIG or registration as RPGeo to report to various authorities.  Further information on these requirements should be found at the relevant state authority.

Registration as RPGeo is recommended for geoscientists practising in these areas. For further information go to



Job Opportunities

Hydrogeologists are employed by mid tier to major mining and oil/gas companies, various levels of government, academia, CSIRO and consulting organisations. Other areas where hydrogeologists are employed to a lesser extent are NGOs, geophysical companies.





Residential/Lifestyle Options

  • More likely based in capital city or regional centre with work areas either locally or remote
  • Field work generally for short periods though may be project based for longer periods such as installation of a large monitoring bore program or production bore-field
  • Often involves up to 70% field time in early years reducing to around 20% experienced and management geoscientists and <5% for modellers

Pros & Cons

  • Opportunities for travel, domestic and international
  • Varied work programs
  • Multi skilling and multi-disciplinary teamwork required


  • Absence from home for variable field periods
  • Long hours especially in the field with shift and weekend work as required, irregular schedules


Do you work a regular length day/week?

Hydrogeologists often are based in major cities and travel to their work sites when field work is required. When they are working in the city office they would work a regular day/week. There is a strong field work component to work in hydrogeology. Hydrogeologists may carry out field work for short periods of time although larger projects such as installation of a bore field may take much longer periods and may involve longer work days and/or shift work.

What is the career progression as a hydrogeologist?

Entry level hydrogeologist (generally field based work)
Hydrogeologist (leads recent graduates and runs small projects including modelling)
Senior Hydrogeologist (runs large projects)
Principal Hydrogeologist (modeller or practical hydrogeologist, technical specialist)

Are there opportunities to work overseas?

Yes, water is becoming a scarce commodity around the world and better water management practices are needed in most countries as well as Australia. A factor which may influence where hydrogeologists work is any language skills that person may have (French is widely used in Canada and Africa, Spanish and Portuguese in South America).

Do Hydrogeologists interact with other professionals?

Hydrogeologists are an integral part of construction, development and mining team environments. They provide essential input to engineers, town planners and developers and need to provide timely advice and information to ensure the development manages the ground water resources in a safe and practical manner and are therefore an important part of the development management and planning teams.

Should I  do science at school?

Yes, a solid grounding of mathematics and science (in particular chemistry and physics) is important for all areas of geoscience practice. If Geology/Earth Science is available at school level it is highly recommended.

Do I need to be physically fit?

Working as a geoscientist can be physically demanding.  Field work generally involves various physical activities particularly in remote areas. Whether it be walking to get to a site, mapping, collecting and carrying samples, working around drill site or working from 4WD vehicles or helicopters a good level of fitness is generally required.

As a geoscientist do you work with new technology?

Geoscience is often at the cutting edge of new technology.  Many of the current gaming platforms were developed from 3D computing technology developed within the mining industry. New technologies are constantly being used and developed within the geoscience professions to enhance our knowledge of the earth. Modelling techniques, visualisation and the use of mobile technology are widely used.


The following are video and You Tube links that are relevant to this career path.

RPGeo Forum Hydrogeology

Yet to be up on You Tube

A panel of experienced hydrogeologists talk about their career experiences, how they became hydrogeologists, considerations for further studies, opportunities in this career path,  accreditation and other issues impacting on hydrogeologists and water management.


AIG Career Session 2; Niche Geoscience Services – Hydrogeology, Engineering Geology, Geochemistry, Geophysics (63 mins)

A panel of experienced geoscientists in hydrogeology, engineering geology, geochemistry, geophysics and the consulting sector talk about what they do each day, how they broke into the industry, transferring between industry sectors, demand for geologists in their sector and interesting aspects of their work.

Fact Sheets

See also sheets for related career paths