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.

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What Is the Average Salary for a Hydrographic Surveyor?

Hydrographic surveyors earned a median salary of $65,590 as of May 2020. The bottom 10% earned about $37,690, and the top 10% earned more than $109,010 during this time.*

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

What Is the Job Demand for Hydrographic Surveyors?

The job demand for surveyors in general is projected to increase just 2 percent between 2020 and 2030.* 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.

*2020 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary figures and job growth projections for surveyors reflect national data not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed September 2021.

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