How to Become a Hydrographic Surveyor

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Hydrographic surveys involve measuring and describing a variety of characteristics that affect marine construction, maritime navigation, offshore oil exploration, and a variety of marine tasks. Hydrographic surveyors are highly trained professionals that survey many different types of bodies of water.


Hey, I'm Joshua T. Osborne

In 2015, I said goodbye to 16-hour days and hauling boxes up and down stairs for a living (I was a mover). I became a full-time entrepreneur, and I made my money by helping business owners make money.

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What does a hydrographic surveyor do?

Hydrographic surveyors map a variety of bodies of water such as oceans, lakes, streams, and rivers. They determine the topography of the bottom, the depth of the water, shorelines, and other characteristics. They often use many types of sophisticated tools and equipment such as sound navigation, global positioning systems (GPS), and sonar equipment to construct topographical maps. They also track changes in the levels of the water and the composition of soil. Hydrographic surveyors often study the same area frequently and they determine what causes many different changes such as climate change, erosion, and biological activity. Hydrographic surveyors typically work for government organizations, oil companies, private research groups, and shipping companies.

What kind of training does a hydrographic surveyor need?

Hydrographic surveyors must have at least a bachelor degree in hydrogeology, geography, geophysics or other related field. Most employers prefer applicants with a master or doctorate degree. Many colleges and universities offer a variety of degree programs for prospective hydrographic surveyors. Many aspiring hydrographic surveyors complete internships while pursuing their education to gain practical experience in the field. Some hydrographic surveyors started their careers as members of survey teams and advanced to surveyor positions as they gained the necessary skills and experience. All states require hydrographic surveyors to be licensed. Licensing requirements typically include minimum education and experience and passing a written examination. Hydrographic surveyors often complete continuing education throughout their careers to maintain their licenses, keep their skills up to date, and stay abreast with advancements in the field.

What are the prospects for a career as a hydrographic surveyor?

Employment of hydrographic surveyors is expected to grow faster than average for all professions, increasing 19% from 2008 to 2018 (1). The increased demand for hydrographic information will drive job growth.

Job prospects should be good, especially for hydrographic surveyors with extensive experience. Many job openings will stem from the need to replace hydrographic surveyors that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do hydrographic surveyors make?

As of April 2010, the average annual salary for hydrographic surveyors is $52,000; average annual hydrographic surveyor salaries vary greatly on location, employer, education, experience, and benefits (2).

A career as a hydrographic surveyor is an excellent choice for individuals with a strong interest in performing survey tasks on a variety of bodies of water. Hydrographic surveyors must have a solid understanding of the policies and procedures related to hydrographic surveying. Good vision, detail orientation, patience, accuracy, and precision are necessary characteristics. Hydrographic surveyors must have good communication and interpersonal skills and the ability to work effectively as part of a team.

Joshua T Osborne

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