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A hydrographic surveyor measures and maps the world’s underwater surfaces and studies the construction of the seabed.

Average salaries are in the region of £16,000.00 to £45,000.00. Salaries will vary depending on location / employer

Career Profile

A Hydrographic Surveyor (or marine surveyor) measures and maps the world’s underwater surfaces and studies the construction of the seabed. They can work on anything from inland waters and rivers to ports and oceans and may be onshore or offshore.

What they do

They work together with planners, ecologists and civil engineers to monitor and protect the environment. They usually work for government organisations, oil companies, private research groups and shipping companies.

Career progression

This is one of the most fascinating careers in construction. A graduate hydrographic surveyor helps with charting and recording underwater environments.

Graduate marine surveyors must explore and use marine resources in an ethical and sustainable way. The effects of wind and waves – including changing land and sea levels – mean the coast needs to be protected. These specialist surveyors design maps of the ocean floor, lakes and riverbeds and track changes in water levels and the composition of the soil.

Hydrographic Surveyors work on a wide range of interesting sites and exciting projects. They can find themselves studying inland waters and rivers, or ports and oceans. The work may be onshore or offshore, depending on the kind of area they specialise in. They are usually employed by government organisations, oil companies, private research groups and shipping companies.

Their role includes: 

  • Using specialised technical equipment to collect data for nautical charts and maps
  • Helping to manage projects on land and water
  • Working with clients
  • Providing reports
  • Managing data
  • Answering technical queries

They also produce accurate and reliable information for people working in: 

  • Oil, gas and mineral exploration
  • Dredging 
  • Coastal work
  • Seabed telephone cables
  • Pipelines
  • Environmental monitoring
  • Aquaculture (underwater farming)
  • Oceanographic (sea geography) research and bridge construction. 

Marine surveyors collect information about the type of seabed along with the movement of water and waves. 

Salary & Hours:

  • Newly trained hydrographic surveyors can earn in the region of £16,000 - £22,000
  • Trained with experience hydrographic surveyors can earn in the region of £22,000 - £44,000
  • Senior, chartered or master hydrographic surveyors can earn in the region of £44,000 - £50,000
  • Exact working hours are often ruled by tides, daylight and the weather. In the UK offshore work tends to be between April and October, with the winter used for training and taking the holiday earned during the busiest months.

Salaries depend on location, employer and level of responsibility, and salaries and career options can improve with chartered status. 


Further information on careers in Surveying can be found at  Become a Surveyor.

Learn more about construction careers – and some of the misconceptions surrounding them – with our Mythbusters.

Take our Personality Quiz to find out which construction career is right for you.

Qualifications & Training

Most people complete a degree in surveying accredited by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) or the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB). When considering which degree to choose, subjects such as hydrographic surveying, marine sciences, civil engineering and land surveying may be useful.

To get onto a degree course, you typically need at least four GCSEs (grades A to C) or equivalent, and two A-levels (or equivalent such as Scottish Highers or the Welsh Baccalaureate). Maths and IT skills are essential.

If you have a degree in another subject like geography, you could do a post graduate course in hydrographic surveying or geomatics. Some people also enter the profession through a military career, especially through the Royal Navy.

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.


You can enter a job with some subjects at Standard grade or National 5 and Highers and then study part-time for a Higher National Certificate (HNC) or Higher National Diploma (HND). This is accompanied by a period of supervised structured on the job training (Assessment of Technical Competence) as an Associate member of the RICS (AssocRICS).

Entry requirements for an HND are 2 Highers, and for a degree, 4 Highers. English and Maths are preferred.

There are other factors to consider.

You need good IT skills, including using computer-aided design (CAD) software and surveying technology.

To work offshore you must pass a medical examination every 2 years.

You must also pass an offshore survival course such as the Basic Offshore Safety Induction and Emergency Training Certificate (BOSIET).

To become a senior or principal hydrographic surveyor you need to add the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) to your qualifications. This requires at least two years of on the job training.

Want to find out more?

Try our Matching Service for work experience opportunities in your local area, with new opportunities being added on a regular basis. 

Looking for a vacancy? 

Here are some construction vacancy websites you may find useful: 



The number of jobs vacancies related to your preferred job role may vary daily, as these are external websites. Check regularly to see new opportunities as they are posted.

Career trends and forecasts

4210 additional staff needed

According to the latest Construction Skills Network research, the UK construction industry will need an additional 4210 Surveyors (which includes Hydrographic Surveyors) every year for the period 2017 - 2021.  The highest demand will be in the South East followed by West Midlands, Wales, North East and North West.

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