How to Become a Hydrographic Surveyor

Posted 24 June 2020

What is a hydrographic surveyor?

A hydrographic surveyor (or hydrographer) is someone who produces accurate maps of the seabed, riverbed or other waterways to achieve various aims. Modern hydrographic surveyors typically use multibeam echosounders to acquire bathymetric data, which can then be processed and used to complete multiple objectives. 

  • For a port or harbour authority, the bathymetry will provide information on the dredged depth, which is vital information for safe navigation of vessels in and out of the port.
  • Coastal engineering projects will require accurate bathymetry to assist with construction planning decisions. 
  • Oil and gas operators use this data to both plan installation of new assets, move jack-up barges or rigs safely, and to monitor existing pipelines, platforms and other assets.
  • Offshore wind developers need bathymetric information to both plan wind farm development activity and monitor movement of seabed sediments across the site.
Asset Inspection Data - 3D Scanning sonar, Multibeam echo sounder, laser scanner data.
Asset Inspection Data - 3D Scanning sonar, Multibeam echo sounder, laser scanner data.
' Pulsar', SEP Hydrographic's dedicated road transportable survey vessel.
' Pulsar', SEP Hydrographic's dedicated road transportable survey vessel.
Hydrographers help others to understand the offshore and coastal natural and built environment.
Hydrographers help others to understand the offshore and coastal natural and built environment.

Studying to become a hydrographic surveyor

The field of Hydrographic Surveying is entirely different from the other routine sciences and study. There are distinct requirements which need consideration when deciding to be a Hydrographic Surveyor.

By choosing a career as a Hydrographic Surveyor, you have the opportunity to travel the world aboard specialist survey vessels utilising the latest in survey technology to measure the topography of the seabed and much more. Data processing and charting is another specific task performed by a hydrographic surveyor; meaning there are opportunities for land-based roles within this career pathway.

The traditional route to becoming Hydrographic Surveyor is to complete a Hydrography bachelors degree, or in an applicable science such as geography, geophysics or hydrogeology and to supplement this with a postgraduate degree - several UK Universities offer both undergraduate and masters courses, including The University of Plymouth.

Practical applications

A Hydrographic Surveyor also needs to have hands-on practical experience in the profession to gain knowledge and understanding.

Newly qualified hydrographic surveyors will typically complete an RYA Powerboat course, Seamanship training, offshore survival such as a BOSIET, as well as needing to pass a medical examination every two years. 

Continued Professional Development as a hydrographic surveyor

Becoming a member of a recognised chartered or professional membership is also encouraged to progress your skills and keep up with the latest industry trends as a hydrographic surveyor. Institutions such as the Hydrographic Society host regular events and webinars, as well as providing industry news and job postings.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors offers a clear route to becoming a chartered surveyor; which can undeniably enhance your career prospects.  

Keeping up to date with the latest technology. 

A Hydrographic Surveyor needs to be highly skilled in using the latest GNSS, Inertial Navigation, acoustic positioning and sonars. These are just a few of the systems that will need to be integrated into the survey software suite to perform a successful survey. At SEP Hydrographic, in addition to using multibeam echosounders to map the seafloor, we conduct detailed asset inspection surveys by combining a mechanical scanning sonar with this data below the waterline and integrating this with laser and photogrammetry data above the waterline. There is a drive for autonomy within the industry to advance efficiency and reduce risk. 

A successful Hydrographic Surveyor needs the ability to continually evolve and innovate using the latest improvements in technology or integrating techniques from other professions.

If you have any comments or feedback on this topic, please get in touch with one of the team

Related Pages: Pulsar Asset Inspection Surveys Geophysical Survey Services Oceanographic and Environmental Services