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Hydrographic surveyor


Hydrographic surveyors use state-of-the-art technology to produce detailed plans of seabeds, harbours and waterways. They measure and map underwater surfaces and study the construction of the seabed, showing the depth, shape and contours. They specialise in precise positioning, data acquisition and processing in onshore or offshore marine environments.

Average salary*




Typical hours per week


How to become a hydrographic surveyor

There are several routes to becoming a hydrographic surveyor. You can gain the qualifications you need by

completing a university course, on-the-job training through the Royal Navy or an apprenticeship. You should explore the options to find out which is the right one for you. 

You may need a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card to work on a construction site.


You could study for a surveying degree approved by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) or the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB). Relevant subjects include:

  • Hydrographic surveying
  • Marine sciences
  • Civil engineering 
  • Land surveying
  • Computer science or software engineering
  • Geography or cartography
  • Geology
  • Physical, mathematical or applied science.

If you have an existing degree in another subject, you may be able to take an accredited postgraduate qualification in hydrographic surveying or geomatics.

For this you’ll need:


An apprenticeship with a surveying company is a good way into the industry. 

You could complete a civil engineering or surveying apprenticeship and then specialise in hydrographic surveying.

You’ll need:

  • 5 GCSEs (including English, maths and science) at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent
  • 2 - 3 A levels, or equivalent.

Apprenticeships are open to anyone over the age of 16. As an apprentice, you will be fully employed by your company and expected to work a minimum of 30 hours a week. Your time will be split between on-the-job experience and a college or training provider.


You may be able to start your hydrographic career by joining the Royal Navy as a hydrographic, meteorological and oceanographic specialist. Hydrographic training is provided by the Flag Officer Sea Training Hydrography and Meteorology (FOST HM) school.

If you want to become chartered, you need to complete the RICS Assessment of Professional Competence, which requires two years of on-the-job training. There is also an NVQ Level 4 in Spatial Data Management available.

To work offshore you must pass a medical examination every two years. You must also pass an offshore survival course with the Basic Offshore Safety Induction and Emergency Training (BOSIET).

Work experience

Work experience is essential to gaining employment within the construction industry. You could gain this at school, or by working weekends and holidays with a company or relative who works as a hydrographic surveyor. Potential employers will always be pleased to see work experience listed on your CV.


Additional skills which may benefit anyone considering a job as a hydrographic surveyor include: 

  • Good knowledge of navigation systems
  • Great team working skills in pressurised situations
  • A practical approach to problem solving
  • Logical thinking
  • Resourcefulness and resilience
  • A valid UK driving licence.

What does a hydrographic surveyor do?

As a hydrographic surveyor you will be responsible for working with a variety of other department to help monitor and protect the environment on construction projects.

The job role of a hydrographic surveyor involves the following duties: 

  • Working together with planners, ecologists and civil engineers to monitor and protect the environment
  • Exploring and using marine resources in an ethical and sustainable way
  • Studying inland waters and rivers, or ports and oceans 
  • Using specialised technical equipment to collect data for nautical charts and maps
  • Providing reports, managing data and answering technical queries
  • Producing accurate and reliable information for industries such as oil, gas and mineral exploration, dredging, coastal work, seabed telephone cables, pipelines, environmental monitoring, aquaculture and oceanographic research
  • Collecting information about the type of seabed along with the movement of water and waves.


How much could you earn as a hydrographic surveyor?

The expected salary for a hydrographic surveyor varies as you become more experienced.

  • Newly trained hydrographic surveyors can earn £17,000 - £25,000
  • Trained hydrographic surveyors with some experience can earn £25,000 - £45,000
  • Senior, chartered or master hydrographic surveyors can earn £45,000 - £60,000*
  • Self-employed hydrographic surveyors set their own pay rates.

Hours and salary depend on location, employer and any overtime you may do. Salaries and career options can improve with chartered status.

* Salaries have been collected from multiple industry sources


Check out the latest hydrographic surveyor vacancies: 

As these are external websites, the number of vacancies related to your preferred role may vary. New opportunities will be posted as they come up.

Career path and progression

You could become a senior hydrologist, managing and coordinating a team of researchers, hydrologists and engineers.

You might also work as a consultant, advising government departments and businesses on sustainable water use, civil hydro-engineering projects or flood risk management.

If you have gained four or five years’ experience working in a company you could set up as a self-employed contractor/sub-contractor.

Progression Opportunities

Explore the progression opportunities below

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