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Career Examples

This page gives some examples of the careers of people who have started out in hydrogeology in the UK relatively recently. The hope is that these examples will give those who are interested in a career in hydrogeology some idea of the ways in which people started out and the way that their career paths have subsequently developed.

Young member 1

Current Position: Hydrogeologist in the British Geological Survey
Age: 26
Gender: Female

Groundwater is hidden resource beneath the Earth’s surface, but it is hugely important to both industry and people’s livelihoods around the world. My interest in the subject began during my undergraduate training in Geoscience at the University of St Andrews (2003-2007), and after a work experience placement with the British Geological Survey in 2006 I completed a MSc in Hydrogeology in 2007-2008.

I now work as a Hydrogeologist at the British Geological Survey, where I am involved in both government-funded and commercially commissioned research in groundwater science. The work is for a broad range of clients including environmental regulators, national and local government, water companies and private individuals.

Hydrogeology encompasses a range of disciplines, not just geology, and the work is extremely diverse. Over the last year I have been involved in projects ranging from: a year-long research project funded by the UK Department of International Development (DFID) to examine the resilience of groundwater to climate change in Africa, and the ability of groundwater to support climate change adaptation in Africa; developing a pilot urban groundwater monitoring network in Glasgow; and, sampling groundwater chemistry across Scotland to establish a national baseline dataset.

There is a strong fieldwork component to work in Hydrogeology – from sampling groundwater chemistry to determine the natural quality or pollution of the resource, to assessing the capacity of different rocks to store and transmit groundwater. Fieldwork often brings you into contact with the people who are directly dependent on the groundwater resource, from farmers in UK to rural communities in Africa, and gives a real relevance to the work. Another large area of work in Hydrogeology is groundwater modelling; simulating groundwater flow, recharge, and contamination plumes to help make decisions on how best to manage the resource, or assess likely future impacts of climate change.

Hydrogeology combines many facets of Earth Science and is focused to some of the major environmental issues today. It is an exciting area in which to work, and I would recommend it to anyone considering a career in Environmental and Earth Sciences.

Young member 2

Current position: Technical Officer Groundwater and Contaminated Land
Age: 24
Gender: Female

Having done my BSc (Hons) Environmental Geoscience at St Andrews and MSc in Applied Environmental Geology at Cardiff in quick succession, I needed to find a three month industrial placement in order to complete the Masters degree. I was lucky enough to get a placement with the Environment Agency, in one of their several area Groundwater and Contaminated Land Technical Teams. Shortly after completing this placement and my Masters dissertation, I was even more fortunate to get a permanent position in an area Groundwater and Contaminated Land Team in October 2010.

The Groundwater and Contaminated Land team that I work in covers an extensive geographic area from Leicester through Nottingham and Derby all the way up to Doncaster and Scunthorpe.

As a Technical Officer I provide technical support and guidance to internal and external customers on groundwater protection and land contamination issues on a daily basis. I am involved in determining abstraction license applications including analysis and interpretation of pump tests and groundwater level monitoring.

I also look at other groundwater protection issues including reviewing and providing technical advice on contaminated land planning consultations, assessing applications for discharges of substances including sewage to ground.

Overall, the work is highly varied and technically challenging. The role requires strong organisational skills with being able to prioritise workloads, as I can be working on a number of jobs at any given time. Strong communication skills are also essential, as you can be liaising with members of the public, environmental and hydro-geological consultants, and other regulators on a daily basis.

One of the great aspects about working for the Environment Agency in the area Groundwater and Contaminated Land Team is that the work varies on a day to day basis, keeping you on your toes. I am still at an early stage in my hydrogeology career, however there are always opportunities to shadow colleagues within the Environment Agency and there is always a challenge to take on.

Young member 3

Current position: Hydrogeologist, Atkins
Age: 27
Gender: Female

I remember always being conscious and appreciative of the natural world around me from a very early age. However, it was when I was studying for my GCSEs that a lecturer from a local college visited the school that I attended and informed us about studying earth sciences. I was so inspired by the lecturer’s enthusiasm for the topic, and the expanse of fascinating subject matter that I became instantly hooked!

I went on to study Geology BSc at University College London, which I absolutely adored. I was fortunate enough to be able to pick a module in hydrogeology, which gave me a general overview of the discipline. After graduating from my undergraduate degree I knew I wanted to specialise further in a geological field, so I decided to gain a year of practical experience in industry to determine if hydrogeology was the right career path for me. I gained employment at a consultancy within a contaminated land department. Working within the hydrogeology team helped me to decide that going on to undertake an MSc in hydrogeology was the right decision.

I then went on to study an MSc in Hydrogeology at the University of Birmingham; my MSc thesis was entitled "Real-time observation of DNAPL TCE migration through a chalk fracture using positron emission tomography".

I returned to the consultancy that I had worked for during my gap year and up until now I have written and contributed to a variety of technical reports, including desk studies, environmental impact assessments (EIAs), qualitative and quantitative controlled waters, human health and ground gas risk assessments, and waste classification studies, as well as gaining practical experience in supervising site investigation works and groundwater, vapour and ground gas monitoring.

Within this time I also spent two years working within the Enabling Works team on a large scale construction project in East London as a remediation specialist which involved responding to remediation queries and undertaking supervision of remedial works across the site. Liaising with the contractor and the client became a large part of my role, and I attended meetings with them on a regular basis. I also provided technical support on groundwater remediation related tasks. In addition, I co-ordinated the supervision of invasive species works and managed the borehole permitting process that deals with the decommissioning, protection and drilling of groundwater monitoring locations across the site.