Hydrogeological Engineer

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Hydrogeological Engineer


For people interested in a scientific engineering career related to water supply and quality, fluid flow through soil and rocks, and environmental protection and monitoring, hydrogeological engineering could be the answer. Hydrogeology is the study of the occurrence, movement, quality and quantity of water in soils and rocks. It is crucial that engineers are involved with studying and researching this phenomenon or else there could be potential structural problems with buildings, including flooding. The hydrogeological engineer also seeks to find hidden subsurface water resources, assess the quality and decide the if there is potential for a reservoir. In addition, the hydrogeological engineer is often directly involved in major assessment studies concerning water pollution or the disposal of chemical and radioactive wastes.

Hydrogeological engineers work in a natural environment developing design criteria for human habitation of the earth in relation to water. They apply science techniques and engineering principles to the study of rocks, soil and ground water. Geological engineers assess the natural foundations for bridges, dams, reservoirs, canals, sewers, tunnels and harbors. On construction sites, they explore the physical and chemical properties of the structural materials and water.

A hydrogeological engineering career could involve groundwater exploration, supply and recharge, surface and subsurface hydrology of lakes and rivers, well testing and sewage seepage. They investigate and report on waste disposal sites which seep into groundwater and try and create new environmental ways to combat this issue. Hydrogeological engineers may work with other engineers, scientists and technicians, pooling their expertise to solve problems. Since this field of engineering crosses with civil, environmental and other disciplines, it is advantageous for hydrogeological engineers to work with engineers in related disciplines. For example, they may work with civil engineers in the design and construction of a bridge.

Hydrogeological engineers use traditional and high-tech tools, such as computer-aided design (CAD) systems to create realistic geometric models of objects which can simulate and analyze the effects and potential problems of designs such as machine malfunction and breakdown. They research and evaluate each project to find the most cost-effective solutions to problems while maintaining recognized standards.
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  Interests and Skills  
Hydrogeological engineers must have excellent communication and interpersonal skills because they constantly deal with technicians, scientists and business clients. They should have a natural aptitude for mathematics and science and be able to visualize three-dimensional objects from two-dimensional drawings, which is not an easy task. They should be able to make quick, logical decisions, adapt from an office environment to a laboratory or construction site and be able to supervise and lead others.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Investigate the engineering feasibility of planned new developments involving soil, rock and groundwater
  • Plan and execute site investigations for proposed major engineering relating to hydrogeology
  • Design measures to rectify water contamination and salination
  • Recommend improvements to foundations of civil engineering projects such as hydraulic channel erosion control
  • Conduct theoretical and applied study of groundwater flow and contamination and develop prescriptions for site selection, treatment and construction
  • Supervise the construction and performance of major engineering works involving the ground
  • Conduct surveys and studies of ore deposits, ore reserve calculations and mine design
  • Play a managerial role and coordinate multi-disciplinary study teams, staff recruitment and matters of work organization
  • Supervise technologists, technicians and other engineers and scientists
  • Perform computer analyses, use computer databases and generate computer-aided designs (CAD).
  • A typical day for a hydrogeological engineer will involve a lot of outdoor work to supervise and teach technicians and conduct investigations and surveys. There will be a small office component which will involve computer design work and research. Also, the job will include quite a bit of traveling, including the possibility of international travel. A general workweek is around 60 hours.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Hydrogeological engineers work in both the public and private sectors. In private companies, they will be employed by consulting engineering companies, electrical utilities, geotechnical consultants, hydrogeological firms, environmental companies and mining and petroleum companies. In the public sector, they generally operate as consultants for government departments, or for educational or research institutions. Some geological engineers are self-employed and own their own consulting engineering firms.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Experienced hydrogeological engineers may decide set up their own consulting businesses or pair up with mining, metallurgical and civil engineers to open up a large consulting firm that specializes in mining, metals and construction. They can also become construction contractors, business engineering analysts, hydrologists, geologists, move into a new speciality area of engineering or become teachers at a postsecondary institution, with additional education.

  Educational Paths  
While still in high school, if this is the career path you are interested in taking, make sure you take courses in mathematics and science. Most university programs will require these subject areas as prerequisites.

Hydrogeological engineers require a bachelor's degree in geological engineering or in a related hydrology and engineering field. Examples of some classes one might take in university include sedimentology, stratigraphy, glacial geology and geomorphology. Then, they must also become registered as a professional engineer (PEng) within an association of professional engineers to secure employment and practice in their field. Some engineers also get master's degrees in a specific area, such as geological engineering.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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