PhD Programs in Hydrology

Those interested in the field of hydrology, especially those who wish to become qualified researchers or educators in the field, should consider a Ph.D. program in Hydrology. Explore this type of degree, including general program information, common courses, and admissions requirements.

Ph.D. in Hydrology Program Information

Students in these programs will study the various facets of hydrology, such as the water table, the water cycle, the movement and flow of water in large systems, and the chemical properties and impacts of water. These programs can take anywhere from about 3.5 to 5 years to complete, although this can depend on the individual program timeline and the level of experience and academic qualification a student has upon entrance into a program. In addition to research and work on the dissertation, students will generally spend much of their time completing a number of courses in the field, some examples of which are described ahead.

Surface Water Hydrology

Discussion in this course will generally cover the movement, cycle, and storage of water in surface-level environments such as forest lands or ranges, and may also delve into studies on topics such as the transport of water through the atmosphere, snow dynamics, river systems, and boundary layer dynamics. Students in this course will likely study the hydrologic cycle and its various stages, including evaporation, transpiration, and precipitation. Students may also study the relationship that surface water hydrology has with groundwater hydrology both in terms of saturated flow and unsaturated flow, and the interchange of water between the surface and subsurface.

Groundwater Hydrology

Students will study the various macroscopic and chemical factors that impact and influence groundwater flow, as well as the influences and impacts that groundwater flow has on the hydrologic cycle, the geologic processes, and related physical geography within these systems. Students may also study water quality, and quality testing methods and metrics, the interrelated influences that surface water systems and groundwater systems have on one another, and water chemistry. This course may also instruct students on the various physical laws that govern the flow, recharge, and transportation of water in subsurface environments, as well as methods for mapping and analyzing groundwater systems.

Fluid Dynamics

Students in this course will typically study fluid dynamics with a hydrologic approach. Studies can cover the physical laws and principles that dictate the non-atmospheric part of the hydrologic cycle. Topics of study can include viscous flow, inviscid flow, turbulent flow, laminar flow, porous mediums, and vortex dynamics. These topics may also be studied in terms of practical impacts, such as sediment transport, and the flow of water in real-world systems, and erosion modeling.

Water Quality

A course on water quality can help students learn about the testing of water quality, and the impact that various types of land use can have on it. Students may explore the predictive, and prescriptive/management aspects of water quality, in terms of modeling and guiding human activity as it relates to wastewater, watershed, and runoff, including the production of material goods, the extraction of natural gas, the growing of food crops, and the raising of livestock. Students may study the modeling of groundwater pollution, and the planning, and management thereof.

Environmental Chemistry

This course will generally instruct students on the physical balances and chemical equilibriums in both closed/synthetic and natural water systems. Students will typically learn about acids and bases including their chemical reactivity and their associated roles in ph balance of water systems. Topics may also include thermodynamics studied from an environmental chemistry approach, carbonate systems, precipitation reactions, metal separation, and redox reactions.

Common Admission Requirements for Ph.D. Programs in Hydrology

Admission into a Ph.D. program in hydrology might require completion of a master's degree, but can also require an undergraduate degree with demonstrated academic accomplishment in areas of study related to hydrology. Prospective students might also need to provide the admissions department with letters of recommendation. A personal statement or essay or description of research interests is also a common requirement. Prospective students could be asked to provide a resume or curriculum vitae to demonstrate their individual experience in the field of hydrology or related technical experience or academic history. Students will also typically need to provide transcripts. GRE scores are commonly required by some schools.

In short, there are a number of common courses in this degree field including surface water hydrology, fluid dynamics, and water quality. Admissions requirements generally include the completion of an undergraduate degree, or, for some programs, a master's degree, as well as other requirements, such as letters of recommendation, a personal statement, transcripts, and GRE scores.