Water and Wetlands Resources Management

Water and wetlands resources management is concerned with ecological and environmental issues impacting aquatic ecosystems. Read this article to learn more about academic requirements, salary potential and career prospects for this field.

Is Water and Wetlands Resources Management for Me?

Career Summary

Wetlands are rich ecosystems that support a diverse range of aquatic species and natural resources. Water and wetlands resources management involves actions that restore, protect and preserve the value and function of wetlands and other bodies of water, such as lakes, rivers, swamps, bogs and oceans. Water and wetlands resources managers often focus on the effects of pollution, flooding and recreation on aquatic ecosystems. A passion for the environment, a strong scientific knowledge base and good technical skills are crucial for you to succeed this field.

Employment Possibilities

Careers in water and wetlands resources management range from conservation science to environmental education. Federal government agencies, such as the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and state government agencies employ the majority of individuals in this field. Other employment options you could consider include working for private research firms, engineering and consulting firms, environmental nonprofit organizations and universities.

Job Outlook and Salary Statistics

If you'd like to pursue a career in water and wetlands resources management, job prospects look good. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expected employment of hydrologists to grow by 10%, a rate as fast as the national average, between 2012 and 2022 (www.bls.gov). Jobs for conservation scientists were predicted to grow at a rate of 3% during that same period, which is slower than average. As of May 2013, the median annual salary for hydrologists was $75,710, and that for conservation scientists was $61,220, per the BLS.

How Can I Work in Water and Wetlands Resources Management?

Education Requirements

You can pursue studies in water and wetlands resources management at the associate's to doctoral levels. Associate's degree programs typically provide the practical training needed for more technical jobs in the water industry. A bachelor's degree is commonly required for the majority of jobs in the field; however, many government and private industry research jobs require master's degrees. If you'd like an advanced research position and teaching career at a college or university, you'll probably need a doctoral degree.

Degree Types

Many sea- and land-grant colleges and universities offer degree programs in this field, often under various academic departments like environmental engineering, environmental sciences and oceanography.

Alternatively, a degree in hydrology or natural resource management could also prepare you for a career in the field. Some schools offer online programs in water resources management as well, including certificate programs.

Topics of Study

Coursework generally covers topics in ecology, hydrology, environmental engineering, coastal zone management, water policy, wetland restoration and watershed management. During the course of your studies, you'll likely perform outdoor fieldwork and laboratory experiments as well as complete an internship.

Professional Certifications

Beyond a degree, you may also consider professional certification through such organizations as the Society of Wetland Scientists (SWS) and the American Institute of Hydrology (AIH). Certification through the SWS generally requires a minimum of a bachelor's degree with relevant coursework and at least five years experience in wetland science (www.wetlandcert.org). AIH certification as a professional hydrologist requires a degree with relevant coursework, five years of hydrology-related experience and passing an exam (www.aihydrology.org).

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