How to Become a Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant and System Operator
For beginners, all it takes to become a Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant and System Operator is a high school diploma, and a license to work. This profession also requires on-the-job training. However, employers prefer those applicants who are either certified Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant and System Operators or hold an associate degree in wastewater treatment technology or environmental science. This is because a certified professional requires fewer hours of on-the-job training. While a degree in wastewater treatment technology or environmental science is typically offered in community colleges. A certificate in such field is offered by trade associations and technical schools. Some community colleges may also offer this certification.
Water Treatment Certifications Online
Water treatment and waste water treatment certificates are offered under different titles, but most of them, more or less, have the following curriculum:
Water Treatment Plant Operation Specialist Certificate
This certificate may be available both on-campus and online. If you choose the online option, you would study at your own pace, which would help you strike a balance between your academic ambitions and job and family commitments. This certificate may comprise of three courses:
Small Water System Operation and Maintenance – The objective of this course is to train operators to effectively and safely maintain and operate treatment plants and small water systems.
Water Treatment Plant Operation I – The objective of this course is to train operators to effectively and safely maintain and operate drinking water treatment plants.
Water Treatment Plant Operation II – This course is the continuation of the above-mentioned course and is designed to train operators to effectively and safely maintain and operate drinking water treatment plants.
Upon successful completion of these courses, you will be awarded a Water Treatment Plant Operation Specialist Certificate.The credits that you earn, while pursuing this certificate, may or may not be transferable to other institutions, especially if you are pursuing a degree.
Once you are certified, you will be able to sit for your state’s licensing exam, which is mandatory to pursue a career in this field.
Wastewater Treatment Plant Operation Specialist Certificate
This certificate, too, may be available in a traditional classroom setting and online. If you do not have work and family commitments and can freely commute to campus, then choose the on-campus option. Otherwise, the online option would suit you.
The number of courses and their corresponding credit hours will differ from institute to institute. Therefore, the following is being stated for informational purposes only.
Wastewater Treatment Plant Operation Specialist Certificate can be successfully obtained upon completion of the following courses:
Operation of Wastewater Treatment Plants I – This course is designed to train operators to effectively and safely operate and maintain wastewater treatment plants.
Operation of Wastewater Treatment Plants II – This course is the continuation of the above-mentioned course.
Advanced Waste Treatment – This course is designed to teach operators how to analyze and solve operational problems.
Should you become a water and wastewater treatment plant and system operator?
Having an interest in environmental sciences, a high school diploma and your state’s license, to successfully pursue a career in this field, is not enough. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), you should have the following qualities to be a successful water and wastewater treatment plant and system operator.
Mechanical Skills – These skills are essential as these professionals work with machines. Therefore, they should know how to maintain, repair and operate equipment.
Math Skills – These professionals must know how to apply data to formulas, which is essential in determining treatment requirements, concentration and flow levels.
Detail Oriented – Tap water and wastewater are tightly regulated by EPA and therefore professionals working in this field must have an eye for detail while performing their duties.
Analytical Skills – These skills are necessary since these professionals regularly conduct tests on water and wastewater and evaluate the results.
If you believe that you possess these skills then consider the following information.
What is the work schedule like?
Most water and wastewater treatment plants operate round the clock, therefore most professionals in this field work full-time as well. If you are working at a small plant, then you are likely to work during the day and be on call during nights and weekends. Since medium and large-size plants operate round the clock, therefore professionals work in shifts. Furthermore, these professionals may also be asked to work during emergencies.
Is it safe to be a water and wastewater treatment plant and system operator?
This profession could be physically challenging as well. These professionals work both indoor and outdoors. They may be exposed to noise and unpleasant odors. The work becomes challenging when a professional is working at a location that is unclean and hard to access.
Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operator’s work becomes hazardous when they are exposed to slippery walkways, malfunctioning equipment and dangerous gases. Therefore, be mindful of the fact that the occupational illness and injury rate in this profession is much higher as compared to other occupations.
Pay & Job Outlook
The following information is based on data published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The salary data reflects the amount of median annual salary of these professionals in May 2016, while the prospective job growth in the field reflects the period 2014 to 2024.
Job Title Salary Job Growth
Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operator
Plant and system operators
To summarize, if you are interested in becoming a water and wastewater treatment plant and system operator, then follow the below mentioned steps:
Obtain a high school diploma or GED
Get licensed in the state you want to work in
Get certified for better job prospects
Go through on-the-job training
Pursuing a career in water and wastewater treatment is both important and beneficial. It takes a lot of hard work to get clean water into people’s homes. Similarly, releasing used water back into the environment when it is safe, is also a complicated task.