Hydrographic surveyor
Building Planning & Surveying

Hydrographic surveyors are specialists in the precise positioning and collection of data in marine environments. These environments range from rivers and ports to deep oceans.

Work Activities

Hydrographic surveyors carry out surveys of oceans, ports, harbours and inland waterways and rivers. Surveyors use state of the art technology to measure and map marine environments. This includes high accuracy positioning systems and sensors.

Hydrographic surveyors' work may be used in many areas, for example:

  • mineral resource exploration and recovery
  • dredging
  • exploring for fossil fuels
  • submarine telephone cables and pipelines
  • environmental monitoring

So, for example, a hydrographic surveyor may be involved in a dredging project and will need to survey the area before and after the process. Or, their work could be used in the exploration of fossil fuels like oil and gas.

Many people and organisations rely on the work done by hydrographic surveyors. Therefore, the information they provide must be accurate and reliable.

Hydrographic surveyors often have to work outdoors so need to be prepared for all types of weather. They also have to travel as part of their work, and can be away from home regularly.

Personal Qualities and Skills

Key skills

  • Strong science and maths ability, with a good understanding of technology and computers.
  • Good problem-solving skills.
  • To be accurate and able to pay attention to detail in your work.
  • IT skills.
  • A wide knowledge of marine construction and law.
  • To enjoy working in or near a marine environment.
  • Navigation skills and experience of handling small marine craft.

Pay And Opportunities

Typical employers of hydrographic surveyors

Employers include oil companies, construction and property companies, specialist surveying companies, banks, building societies and insurance companies. Organisations such as Ordnance Survey and Royal Navy Hydrographic Department also employ hydrographic surveyors.

Opportunities for hydrographic surveyors occur with employers in towns, cities and coastal areas throughout the UK.

Hydrographic surveyors must be prepared to be away from home for extended periods, sometimes at short notice.

Hydrographic surveyors can work as independent consultants or in partnership with other specialists in professional practice.


Entry routes and training

The most direct route into this career is to take a relevant degree and then undergo training and work experience in order to become professionally qualified. The most widely recognised qualifications are offered by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors (ICES).

Useful degree subject areas include hydrographic surveying, marine geography, marine navigation, land surveying, marine sciences and cartography.

Alternatively, you can qualify by taking a first degree in a subject such as geography, followed by a postgraduate qualification in hydrographic surveying and relevant work experience.

It is also possible to qualify as a land surveyor, then learn the skills you need to become a hydrographic surveyor.

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