How to Become a Water Resources Engineer

How to Become a Water Resources Engineer: Step-by-Step Guide

Here are the essential steps for becoming a water resources engineer:


1. Excel at geometry, algebra, calculus and physics in high school

2. Determine if this field will suit you

3. Pursue a bachelor’s degree in civil or environmental engineering

4. Get work experience as a student via an internship

5. Get an entry-level job after graduation

6. Get professional certification


Below we've expanded on these points, to give you a good idea of what you'll need to begin a career as a water resources engineer in the United States or Canada. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as an overview of salary level expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!




What Education Will I Need?

You typically need a bachelor’s degree in civil or environmental engineering to become a water resources engineer. While you’re in high school, doing well in algebra, geometry, calculus, biology, physics, and chemistry will serve as excellent preparation for this career, and will help you qualify for engineering schools. 






What is a Water Resources Engineer?

A water resources engineer is an engineer who specializes in water-based projects. These projects typically deal with the provision of clean water, disposal of waste water and sewage, and prevention of flood damage. Water resources engineers often have a background in civil or environmental engineering.




What Does a Water Resources Engineer Do?

A water resources engineer is responsible for designing, executing and supervising projects that involve the distribution of freshwater, wastewater and sewage disposal, as well as prevention of flood damage. 


Asset management plays a major part of their job. This involves repairing, maintaining and building structures that control water resources, such as sea defence walls, pumping stations and reservoirs.




What are a Water Resource Engineer’s Job Duties?

Water resource engineers are typically responsible for the following tasks:


• Establishing quality assurance programs that cover the delivery of services, monitoring, feedback and compliance with regional legislation and regulations as well as company policies

• Coordinating the implementation of various water resource programs and projects with regulatory agencies, partners, sponsors and member municipalities

• Submitting recommendations to senior management concerning corrective or remedial action and new or revised policy measures

• Assisting with development and management of the day-to-day functioning of such programs as dam/erosion/ice control structures operation and maintenance

• Monitoring the implantation of water resource projects according to established terms of reference and timetables

• Identifying and implementing best practices in storm water management, and erosion and sediment control




What Experience Will I Need to Become a Water Resources Engineer?

Entry-level water resources engineering jobs typically don’t require any work experience above what is gained as part of completing an undergraduate engineering degree. Mid and senior-level roles however, often require 3-5 years of experience working in lower-level roles, with progressive amounts of responsibility in those roles.




What Licensing/Certification Will I Need?

You will need to be licensed as a Professional Engineer (“PE” - United States; “P.Eng.” - Canada) in order to exercise direct control of public projects, and to supervise other engineers and technicians. You will also need to have a designation in order to sell your own engineering services publicly.


If you are not licensed however, you can still work on engineering projects under the supervision of a licensed engineer. 




How Do I Become Licensed?

Although the licensing requirements for Professional Engineering designation can vary by region, it typically involves completing an undergraduate engineering degree, working for a certain number of hours under the supervision of a Professional Engineer, and passing a licensing exam.




Am I Suited For This Career? What Traits Do I Need?

A career as a water resources engineer might appeal to you if you have the following characteristics:


• You’re well organized, and can manage your time effectively 

• You love to design better ways of doing things

• You have excellent study skills

• You do well in math and science

• You have patience and comfort when dealing with detailed work

• You have an interest in solving problems in renewable energy and quality of living standards





Who Hires Water Resource Engineers?

Water resource engineers typically work for the following types of organizations:


• Local, regional and national government departments

• Private engineering consulting firms

• Waste management companies

• Utility concerns

• Manufacturing companies

• Conservation groups

• Resource industries (such as oil and gas)

• Research and academic institutions




What is the Salary of a Water Resources Engineer?

Water resources engineers earn a median salary of around $85,000 per year in the United States. Their salary can vary based on factors such as their level of experience and education, the specific region in which they work, level of responsibility involved in the job, and other factors. 




More About Salary Levels

As mentioned above, the salary level you could earn as a water resources engineer can vary, typically depending on the following factors:


• Your level of education

• Your level of experience

• The specific responsibilities of your job

• The size and type of your employer

• The region in which you work

• Many other factors


Unfortunately there are no salary figures specifically available for “Water Resources Engineers” from reliable sources. We can however, get a good idea of what you could earn as a site engineer by looking at the salary level of workers in closely related occupations, such as “Environmental Engineers”.


Water Resources Engineer Salary in Alberta: According to the 2015 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Environmental Engineers occupational group earn an average salary of $98,342 per year. Unfortunately, no reliable salary information is available for the rest of Canada.


Water Resources Engineer Salary in the United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of Americans working in the Environmental Engineers occupational group is $84,560 per year.




What are Careers Similar to “Water Resources Engineer”?

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to Water Resources Engineer; they may be in the same field, or they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and/or responsibilities:


• Civil Engineer

• Energy Engineer

• Environmental Engineer

• Environmental Lawyer

• Hydrographer

• Hydrologist

• Wastewater Operator




Scholarships for Becoming a Water Resources Engineer

All of the scholarships on our Civil Engineering Scholarships and Environmental Engineering Scholarships pages are relevant for becoming a water resources engineer.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!




Please consult the following resources to learn more about what it takes to become a Water Resources Engineer:


• Job Profile: “Water Engineer”, AGCAS editors (December, 2016). Prospects. Retrieved January 28, 2017.

• Career Profile: “Water Resources Engineering” (n.d.). Institution of Civil Engineers. Retrieved January 28, 2017.

• Occupational Profile: “Environmental Engineer.” (n.d.). Alberta Government - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 28, 2017.

• Occupational Outlook Handbook: “Environmental Engineers.” (n.d.). United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved January 28, 2017.




Majors in Our System Relevant for this Career

We have career guides for over 60 university majors in our system. Below we've outlined those that are most relevant to becoming a water resources engineer. Click on the link(s) to see what else you can do with these majors!


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