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Hydrographic Surveyors

What’s it like working as a Hydrographic Surveyor?

Hydrographic Surveyors take charge of the measurement, mapping and study of the world’s seabed. Without their work, navigation, dock installations, offshore engineering, port construction, and dredging operations would be difficult, if not impossible to undertake.

Hydrographic Surveyors work in a range of watery environments, from inland waters and rivers, to ports and the deep oceans in living and working environments that can be cramped and uncomfortable. Offshore workers can be expected to spend long periods living away from home and regularly work unsocial hours determined by tides and daylight. Onshore Hydrographic Surveyors keep more normal working hours, although on-call duties mean that weekend work is sometimes a necessity.

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What kind of work can I do?

Specializing in precise positioning, data acquisition and processing, Hydrographic Surveyors measure and map the world’s underwater surfaces for a number of end uses. These include the production of charts for navigation, dredging, and locating offshore oil and gas resources. Hydrographic Surveyors use technical software, global positioning systems, and sonar and echo sounders to provide data for the production of nautical charts and maps. They may also use remotely operated and autonomous underwater vehicles to gather data in deep oceans. Specialized technical software and geographical information systems are employed to manage the processing and presentation of data.

Beyond the technical side of the role, Hydrographic Surveyors need to be able to deal directly with clients, produce reports, and be willing to work in a wide range of differing situations and applications.

Where can I work?

Jobs are available across the globe at port, coastal and offshore sites. Key employers include national charting agencies, port and harbour authorities, contract survey companies, client survey companies, and equipment and software companies. Oil and gas exploration currently provides many opportunities in countries such as Norway, the Arabian Gulf, China, the Pacific Rim, Venezuela, Mexico, United States, West Africa and Angola.

A Hydrographic Surveyor has a truly international job, which can take him/her to unique and inspiring places.

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How big is this sector?

Openings for graduate placements direct with surveying companies are a common route into this industry, and a degree in hydrography, marine geography, marine sciences, ocean exploration or geomatics is generally a pre-requisite for this technical job. There are a limited number of shore-based and managerial roles, and training is generally all in-house. There are also considerable openings for experienced freelance surveyors and consultants, who can often find work through specialist recruitment agencies.