Hydrologic Sciences & Policy

What is Hydrological Sciences and Policy?

Hydrology is a science dealing with the occurrence, circulation, distribution, and properties of the waters of the solid earth and its atmosphere. Many of the significant environmental problems that society is facing today are related to hydrologic or water issues. These include the hydrologic impact of climate change; the transportation of hazardous materials in both ground and surface water; the maintenance of high quality water for human consumption, industry, irrigation, recreation, energy generation, and agriculture; the understanding of geological hazards; and the management of important aquatic environments. Because water is important to and affected by physical, chemical, and biological principles, the curriculum of the B.S. degree in Hydrologic Sciences is multidisciplinary.

The main focus of the hydrologic sciences and policy major is to provide students with the scientific training needed to understand and solve complex hydrologic problems at local, regional, and global levels. The goal of the hydrologic sciences curriculum is to provide a rigorous framework for students to examine the hydrologic process in our environment. Although the program is housed within the Environmental Studies Program, the curriculum for this degree is offered cooperatively by the departments of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology; Chemistry and Biochemistry; Geography; and Earth Science. Lower-division courses concentrate on the physical and natural sciences. In the upper division, students complete a core group of hydrology courses and then select one of the following three emphases: biology and ecology, physical and chemical sciences, or policy.

Students who graduate with a B.S. degree in hydrologic sciences and policy are prepared to do graduate work in such fields as environmental science, biology, ecology, chemistry, geography, geology, environmental engineering, and a variety of specialty programs in hydrology.

Hydrologic sciences students are also often qualified for positions in environmental consulting and planning, water quality analysis, aquatic resource management, waste water treatment, as well as a variety of jobs with state and federal agencies. Students who are interested in pursuing a career in the hydrologic sciences are encouraged to visit the environmental studies peer advisor's office for additional information pertaining to jobs and careers in the hydrology field.

General Major Information

How Can I Tell If I Would Like Hydrological Sciences and Policy?

Students who have either a general or professional interest in the environment and who wish to be able to evaluate scientific, economic and social aspects of environmental problems will appreciate this major. An interest in water and the fluidity are also embodied in the major. Hydrological Sciences and Policy majors should have a proficiency in math and the sciences.

What Are Potential Topics Within This Major?

Although the following list can provide students with topics that may be covered in this major, look at the UCSB catalog and consult with the undergraduate advisor for more detailed information about requirements and course offerings.

Form, Process and Human Use of Rivers
Water Policy
Environmental Ecology
Ecosystem Restoration
World Agriculture, Food, and Population
Aqueous Transport of Pollutants
Tracer and Contaminant Hydrology

To learn more about whether you might enjoy this major, check with a peer in the Career Resource Room for details on:

- Focus 2 to explore college majors and careers.

- The Strong Interest Inventory®, an assessment that compares your interests against six broad categories of work. This assessment helps match your interests and suggests potential careers to explore.

What Can I Do To Make My Major More Marketable?

  • Pursue relevant work, internship, volunteer, and/or research experience.
  • Choose a complementary minor.
  • Specialize in an area; take courses in related fields.
  • Develop your computer skills.
  • Learn a foreign language.
  • Study abroad.
  • Join professional associations.
  • Get involved in student clubs.
  • Participate in community organizations.
  • Seek out leadership positions.
  • Research specific prerequisites for different positions.
  • Network with others in fields that interest you.


General Career Information

What Are Some Possible Career Options?

Note: On its own, your major does not dictate what your job will be.  The following list provides only a handful of possibilities Hydrological Sciences and Policy majors with strong liberal arts background may pursue career options in many fields.  Depending on experience, specialized coursework, and possible graduate study options include:

Environmental Science
Environmental Engineering
Hydrology and Water Resources Science
Oceanography, Chemical and Physical
Environmental Impact Assessor
Water Management
Environmental Consultant
Renewable Energy
To learn more about these and other occupations, please visit:
O*Net Online
Occupational Outlook Handbook
Come visit the Career Resource Room to see our vast collection of career books and resources.
See what other UCSB alumni are doing with their major on LinkedIn


Graduate and Professional Schools

This is a comprehensive website that provides information about where graduate programs are offered throughout the nation.

Geoscience Education: A Recommended Strategy Detailed overview of the graduate education strategies for all careers in the geosciences.

This is a database to help find where graduate programs are offered throughout the U.S.

Come to the Career Resources Room to view the CHOICES lab version of graduate schools.


Experience Search Strategies

Indeed Job Search Engine
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Idealist (Non-Profit Jobs)
Search for volunteer opportunities, events, and other concrete ways to get involved.

UCSB Career Services “Job Links” section
Check out job links in the following categories: Local/CA, National, International, Industry Specific, UCSB Careers by Majors and Diversity.

Professional Associations

International Association of Hydrological Sciences
A worldwide organization affiliated with the IUGG (International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics) designed to promote the study of hydrology.

International Association of Hydrogeologists
An international organization for scientists, engineers and other professionals working in the fields of groundwater resource planning, management and protection.

American Institute of Hydrology
Organization dedicated to enhancing and strengthening the standing of hydrology as a science and a profession.

International Association for Environmental Hydrology
A worldwide association for hydrology and the environment, dedicated to cleanup of fresh water resources.

Association of California Water Agencies
The Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) is the largest statewide coalition of public water agencies in the country. Its nearly 450 public agency members collectively are responsible for 90% of the water delivered to cities, farms and businesses in California.

American Water Works Association

Soil and Water Conservation Society

National Groundwater Association



UCSB Resources