What is a Hydrographic Surveyor?

Hydrographic Surveying is the process of mapping geographical features of the world's seas, sea floors, and coasts.

What Does a Hydrographic Surveyor Do?

Hydrographic Surveyors utilize specialized equipment on survey vessels to determine the geography of a body of water, including the depth, tide measurements, shoreline obstacles, and physical features of the body's floor. They often take the data collected on survey vessels and transform them into hydrographic models, which can be used for a wide variety of purposes. Most Hydrographic Surveyors use techniques like multibeam sonar and light detection to perform their jobs more accurately than ever.

Where Does a Hydrographic Surveyor Work?

Hydrographic Surveyors spend the majority of their time working out in the field, which is typically an outdoor environment. Hydrographic Surveyors will be required to work in adverse weather conditions and spend extensive time out on boats managing heavy measuring equipment. At times, Hydrographic Surveyors doing onshore work may be called offshore to handle any issues that may arise with a project. International and overseas work is not uncommon in the profession. Most Hydrographic Surveyors work full-time on regular schedules, but may be required to work longer hours during the summer, when weather is idea for fieldwork. Any surveyors maintaining GIS systems without fieldwork generally stay on the same schedule.

What Is the Average Salary for a Hydrographic Surveyor?

Hydrographic Surveyors earn $39,670 a year on average, with the highest 10% earning around $65,870 and the lowest 10% earning around $24,180.

Most Hydrographic Surveyors work for private engineering or mapping services. However, state and local governments may also hire Hydrographic Surveyors for other purposes.

StateTotal EmploymentBottom 25%Median SalaryTop 75%
Alabama880$27,580$34,940$43,350
Alaska200$48,480$57,810$65,990
Arizona1,500$36,340$45,990$55,910
Arkansas430$27,670$35,580$47,340
California2,900$48,250$61,580$77,800
Colorado1,460$39,990$48,890$58,580
Connecticut290$37,010$47,380$59,680
Delaware140$33,690$40,960$47,570
Florida4,570$28,660$36,560$46,110
Georgia1,580$30,470$37,890$49,550
Hawaii160$34,140$43,700$53,800
Idaho260$29,820$39,750$52,190
Illinois1,170$35,930$45,630$57,080
Indiana930$31,770$36,750$44,450
Iowa230$34,740$43,020$51,640
Kansas400$28,710$37,620$46,900
Kentucky600$24,040$33,000$43,770
Louisiana1,500$28,880$38,190$48,250
Maine200$32,540$38,110$44,730
Maryland660$38,310$46,500$57,850
Massachusetts560$34,690$44,190$57,210
Michigan940$31,550$38,580$47,840
Minnesota630$43,240$52,270$59,550
Mississippi630$25,910$33,360$44,510
Missouri890$32,760$45,920$59,700
Montana300$34,590$43,480$54,250
Nebraska290$27,690$33,890$42,220
Nevada200$40,430$54,040$65,990
New Hampshire210$35,470$42,600$49,390
New Jersey430$34,190$40,680$51,520
New Mexico510$28,690$35,700$45,200
New York1,660$33,750$42,020$53,010
North Carolina2,330$29,630$36,200$44,840
North Dakota160$34,040$39,500$54,140
Ohio1,430$33,550$39,800$48,730
Oklahoma1,470$34,620$49,570$62,340
Oregon800$40,900$46,500$57,350
Pennsylvania1,330$30,850$39,260$49,620
Puerto Rico120$17,580$19,910$26,670
Rhode Island70$27,800$31,540$46,080
South Carolina820$32,870$39,180$47,840
South Dakota150$30,840$35,920$43,900
Tennessee1,040$29,450$37,000$48,160
Texas7,360$27,280$36,010$48,440
Utah330$33,180$45,940$56,110
Vermont60$34,780$39,740$45,940
Virginia1,400$30,800$39,870$50,560
Washington990$40,650$50,390$57,900
West Virginia350$24,700$31,250$43,530
Wisconsin380$35,620$44,760$54,050
Wyoming180$35,170$43,300$51,250

Table data taken from BLS (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes173031.htm)

What Is the Job Demand for Hydrographic Surveyors?

The job demand for Hydrographic Surveyors is expected to increase by 14% in the next 10 years, which is average among all occupations. New technologies in map making has made accurate, information-rich mapping easier than ever before, leading to a new boom in the industry. In addition, expanding cities and nations will require advanced maps to properly plan infrastructure expansions.

What Hydrographic Surveying Degree Options Exist?

Many Hydrographic Surveyors only possess a high school diploma and learn the majority of industry-specific information by accumulating work experience. Some may take on an apprenticeship later in their careers. However, advancing into actual mapping positions may require degrees from institutions in higher learning, such as a bachelor's degree in geomatics or GIS.

Though licensures and certifications are not required, credentials from the National Society of Professional Surveyors or GIS Certification Institute can increase the chances of getting hired.

Other Degrees Related to Hydrographic Surveyors

What Kind of Societies and Professional Organizations Do Hydrographic Surveyors Have?

Hydrographic Surveyors and those who wish to become Hydrographic Surveyors can look to the following websites for guidance:

  • The Hydrographic Society of America (THSOA) THSOA is a non-profit professional organization that attempts to further the hydrography field through educational efforts and conferences. Members gain access to THSOA-sponsored events, industry-specific international conferences, and the Hydro International Magazine.
  • National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS) is a professional organization that encourages dialogue between professional surveyors from different fields across the country. They facilitate the exchange of ideas by holding meetings, sponsoring student chapters, providing opportunities for continuing education, and publishing industry-specific journals that members can access.