How to Become a Wastewater Operator

How to Become a Wastewater Operator: Career Path Guide

If you want to become a wastewater operator, you need to begin by determining if this career if right for you.


If you’re interested in a stable career that allows you to operate mechanical equipment, and work with other professionals to ensure the cleanliness of our water supply, this career path may be right for you.


Below we've outlined what you'll need to succeed in a career as a wastewater operator. We've also included helpful information for a wastewater operator career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Education Needed to Become a Wastewater Operator

Typically, the minimum requirement for an entry-level job in wastewater operations is a high school diploma or equivalent.


Many employers prefer candidates who have a college diploma or associate’s degree in fields such as water quality management or wastewater treatment technology because, it reduces their need for on-the-job training.


Some university degree programs, such as chemistry, environmental science or environmental engineering will offer applicable background knowledge to this career. This education may be of great benefit for those who want to advance to management or supervisory positions in wastewater operations.




Wastewater Operator Job Description

Wastewater operators work in in treatment plants for the purpose of collecting, treating and disposing of municipal wastewater. Wastewater operators are responsible for managing the system of machines, often through the use of control boards, that are used to transfer and treat wastewater.



Wastewater Operator Job Duties

• Maintain inventory and stock

• May supervise and support other staff and contractors

• Operate data control and security systems

• Operate pumps, valves, equipment and chemical feeding systems

• Take samples of wastewater before and after treatment for testing purposes

• Perform laboratory tests and interpret and keep record of the results

• Test and adjust chemical feed rates to ensure quality for disinfection, taste, odor and suppressants

• Read and interpret meters, gages and other sensing devices to monitor plant operation

• Ensure that wastewater meets regional environmental standards



Work Experience Needed to Become a Wastewater Operator

Wastewater treatment plant and system operators typically need related work experience to become wastewater operators. They often gain experience working as trainees or in other entry-level positions in the plant.



Special Training and Certification for Wastewater Operators

Most provinces and states require certification for wastewater collection and treatment operators. Operator certification typically has three requirements: education, work experience, and a written exam.


Wastewater operators who want to move into supervisory or management roles, additional training and certification are typically needed. The level of additional training and certification also usually depends on the size of the treatment plant they will be working at.


For example, a wastewater operator that works in a small treatment plant in a small village will typically require less certification and training than his or her counterpart who plans to become the manager of a very large facility. Some treatment facilities may require their supervisory and management candidates to have post-secondary education in a related field.


Please Note: Training and certification requirements vary from plant to plant, and municipality to municipality. Please contact your municipal treatment plant to inquire about specific requirements.





Who Hires Wastewater Operators?

There are many organizations (both public and private) that are involved with the production, collection, treatment and disposal of wastewater at some level, many of whom employ wastewater operators. These organizations include:


• Municipal governments

• Public inspection agencies

• Private utility companies

• Organizations in other industries that generate wastewater, such as pulp and paper, oil and gas, and mining

• Environmental and engineering consulting firms

• Regional water or wastewater boards

• The federal government (for example, in the Canadian Forces)

• Private utility companies

• Provincial/state parks

• Operator training services


Please Note: Operators in small towns may be employed part time or have additional responsibilities



Wastewater Operator Salary

The salary level for wastewater operators can vary depending on many factors, such as their level of education, their level of experience, where they work and many others.


Wastewater Operator Salary Alberta: According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Water and Waste Plant Operators occupational group earned on average from $22.76 to $26.81 an hour.


Wastewater Operator Salary United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers in the Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant and System Operators occupational group earn a median salary of $40,770 per year.






Careers Related to Wastewater Operator

Listed below are jobs that are similar in nature to Wastewater Operator, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Air Pollution Monitor

Environmental Engineering Technician

Hazardous Waste Technologist

Sanitation Engineer

Wastewater Treatment Engineer

Water Quality Control Manager



References: Wastewater Operator Career

Please use the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a Wastewater Operator.


Occupations in Alberta:Water and Wastewater Operator.” (March 1, 2009). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 15, 2020.

Production:Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant and System Operators.” (December 11, 2018). Bureau of Labor Statistics - United States Government website. Retrieved January 15, 2020.

Career Profiles:Wastewater Collection and Treatment Operator.” (n.d.). ECO Canada website. Retrieved January 15, 2020.



Scholarships for Becoming a Wastewater Operator

Scholarships listed for majors that apply to becoming a Wastewater Operator can be found on the following pages:


Chemistry Scholarships

Environmental Engineering Scholarships

Environmental Science Scholarships


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!



Becoming a Wastewater Operator: Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming a wastewater operator. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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