As Australia’s national hydrographic authority the Australian Hydrographic Office employs a range of highly skilled and experienced people. Navy officers and sailors receive specialist training for service in the Surveying ships and Units of the Royal Australian Navy Hydrographic Service. Meanwhile, officers of the Commonwealth Public Service are recruited and trained in a range of unique talents to enable them to compile, maintain and publish Australia’s official charts and associated publications.

What Is Hydrography ?Movie

Click below to find more about careers at Australian Hydrographic Office.

Civilian Careers

Compiling charts using latest technologyCompiling charts using latest technology

Permanent positions

There are currently 100 permanent civilian positions at the Australian Hydrographic Office. These positions are staffed by Commonwealth Public Servants employed under the Public Service Act. They cover a broad range of levels and classifications in the following fields:

  • quality control and nautical data assessment
  • cartography and GIS
  • product control and distribution
  • information technology
  • financial management
  • human resource management
  • records management and librarianship

Current Vacancies

  • None at present

All applicants should visit the Defence Civilian Recruitment website for detailed information on How to Apply.

Officer Careers

Analysing a side scan sonar trace during operations in the East TimorAn officer who sub-specialises in hydrographic surveying has many challenges to meet during a rewarding career. It is a sub-specialisation, which has a proud history of discovery and one upon which both the ADF and the wider maritime community depend for safe navigation and ultimately their safety. Every chart upon which seafarers depend, represents the work of surveying officers at sea. Additionally, the provision of military geospatial information is critical to many Defence operations. Hydrographic surveying officers are classified as ‘Military Geospatial Officers (Hydrography)’.

The primary role of a surveying officer is to collect the information, which is required to make charts and provide the associated services, which help make navigation at sea safe and support Defence operations. Duties include watchkeeping on the bridge of surveying ships, leading survey parties both ashore and afloat in remote locations, and assessing and compiling survey information before it is rendered to the Australian Hydrographic Office, and provision of advice to Defence operational planners and units.

Hydrographic Officers are drawn as volunteers from the Navy’s Seaman Officer Branch. They normally commence sub specialist training after completion of initial seaman officer training and the award of a Bridge Watchkeeping endorsement aboard an RAN ship.

Educational Pre-requisites

All Seaman Officers are eligible for selection as surveying officers. There are no additional educational requirements, though the nature of the specialisation relies on abilities in mathematics and some familiarity with science subjects.

Career Path

Wherever possible, volunteers are posted to a survey ship for experience prior to being posted to the RAN Hydrographic School at HMAS PENGUIN in Balmoral, Sydney. Officers undertake an intensive six-month course that covers the practical aspects of hydrographic surveying as well as including theoretical and academic studies. Subjects include geodesy, the practical operation of survey equipment including satellite position fixing, depth measurement, hydrographic data logging and processing and the operation of small survey craft. The course carries an international accreditation with the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) as meeting the standards of competence for hydrographic surveyors.

On completion of the course officers are posted to sea for consolidation training, normally as an assistant surveying officer aboard one of the larger survey ships. Subsequent postings may be to sea as Executive Officer aboard a smaller survey ship or to staff positions at the RAN Hydrographic Office in Wollongong.

After several postings, commonly two or three, surveying officers may be posted to the Long Hydrographic Course at HMS DRAKE in England. This is a six-month IHO accredited Category A course which prepares Officers to supervise the conduct of Hydrographic Surveys, a pre-requisite for Commanding Officers of surveying ships.

Possible postings after the Long Hydrographic Course included the Command of smaller survey ships, instructor positions at the RAN Hydrographic School and more senior staff positions such as the Quality Control Officer or Staff Officer Operations at the Australian Hydrographic Office.

All Hydrographic Officers remain Seaman Branch Officers in the RAN and can be called upon for duties in general service both afloat and ashore at any time.


To find out more about Officer Careers as Military Geospatial Officers (Hydrography) contact Defence Recruiting.

Sailor Careers

Side Scan OperationsConducting GPS Observations using Trimble
Sailor Career Opportunities

The specialist sailors in surveying ships are part of the Hydrographic Systems Operator category. They perform many of the essential survey related tasks in the survey and support units of the Hydrographic Survey Force (HSF).

Australia’s charting area extends from Antarctica to the equator and from midway across the Indian Ocean to halfway to New Zealand. This area comprises approximately one eighth of the Earth’s water surface.


Hydrographic Systems Operator (HSO) sailors experience a varied work environment both ashore and at sea. Much of the work is outdoors, often in remote areas of Australia’s north but as far south as Antarctica. HSO sailors are part of the Seaman department in any ship. As well as their specialist duties they participate in all general seamanship activities.

Hydrographic Systems Operator’s (HSO) specialist duties include:

  • Survey Systems Operator (SSO)

    Monitoring digital data logging systems that are at the centre of a modern hydrographic survey. The systems operator monitors numerous ship sensors including echo-sounders, sonar, GPS and other navigation systems. An appreciation of the systems involved and computer operation is required.

  • Survey Motor Boats (SMB’s)Survey Motor Boat (SMB) ? Coming Alongside

    HSO category sailors provide the crews for Survey Motor Boats (SMB). SMB’s are carried in the larger survey ship’s and work close inshore with a four man crew. Able Seaman fulfil the duties of the Bowman who works the deck of the boat and operates the survey systems.

    Leading Seamen are usually called upon to act as the coxswain of an SMB where they are responsible for the overall operation of the boat, supervising the bowman and boats technician and ensuring the boat is maintained and ready on a day to day basis.

    Senior Sailors may also work with SMB’s in overall charge of the boat and are responsible for conducting survey operations in the boat.

  • Survey Operation’s AshoreConducting leveling observations

    Assisting with fixing survey sites ashore using theodolites and electronic distance meters, establishing differential GPS reference stations and erecting tide poles are a few of the typical duties HSO sailors will be called upon to conduct ashore.

  • Hydrographic / Seamanship Evolutions

    HSO sailors assist with survey related seamanship tasks including seafloor sampling, observing water clarity and laying current meters or tide gauges from the ship.

  • Detached Survey Camp Party

    Camps are often set up in areas where SMB’s need to work independently of the ship. On these occasions MS sailors may spend several weeks or longer working from camps ashore, where data from the days boatwork is processed each night.

Sea Duty

Surveying ships often operate well away from their home port for periods of up to three months at a time and many surveys take place in remote areas otherwise rarely visited by ships.

Specialist Training

All seaman branch General Entry (GE) sailors undergo an initial 15 weeks training at HMAS CERBERUS in Victoria. Those who have joined as Hydrographic Systems Operator sailors then undergo a 10 week Basic Hydrographic Systems Operator course at HMAS PENGUIN, set on the Sydney harbour foreshore, before being posted to sea to consolidate the technical and professional knowledge. Sailors who join another branch such as the Bosun’s Mate category may apply to transfer to the HSO Category later in their careers.

HSO sailors undergo Intermediate and H2 Hydrographic Surveying courses at HMAS PENGUIN. These courses are pre-requisites for promotion to Leading Seaman and Petty Officer respectively. Those that successfully complete the H2 course receive IHO Category B accreditation.


Promotion to Leading Seaman requires a minimum of 4 years service as an Able Seaman and completion of the Intermediate Hydrographic Systems Operator Category Course (8 weeks) and other professional Naval courses.

Promotion to Petty Officer requires a minimum of four years service as a Leading Seaman and completion of the H2 Hydrographic Surveying (25 weeks) and other professional Naval courses
Promotion is competitive and determined primarily on merit


Hydrographic Systems Operator sailors can expect to be posted to any of the HSF units, which include:

  • The Hydrographic Office, located at Wollongong.
  • Two Hydrographic Ships (HS's) based in Cairns:
  • Four Survey Motor Launches (SML’s) based in Cairns:Preparations for Deployment of the Light Utility Boat (LUB)
  • The Laser Airborne Depth Sounder (LADS) Flight, based in Cairns.
  • The Deployable Geospatial Support Team (DGST) (formerly known as HODSU), based at Wollongong, but operating around Australia, the South Pacific and in Antarctica.
  • The RAN Hydrographic School, HMAS PENGUIN in Balmoral, Sydney.


To find out more about Hydrographic System Operator Sailor Careers contact Defence Recruiting.