Become a Sanitary Engineer: Career Roadmap

Aug 01, 2018

Find out how to become a sanitary engineer. Research the education requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in sanitary engineering.

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  • 0:03 Sanitary Engineer Career Info
  • 1:02 Earn Bachelor's Degree
  • 1:35 Gain Job Experience
  • 2:04 Consider Certification
  • 2:52 Get Licensed
  • 3:39 Consider Graduate Degree

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Sanitary Engineer Career Info

Sanitary engineers ensure the safe handling and treatment of wastewater and sewage. Many conduct quality control tests on samples obtained from sewer water, soil, nearby rivers, and groundwater. Some may help with designing treatment facilities and assessing guidelines for disposing of hazardous waste. This job can include both office and field work. Depending on the job, some sanitary engineers may also have the opportunity for overtime work. Sanitary engineers may have good job prospects as aging infrastructure begins to require repair, expanded maintenance, and even replacement.

Degree Level Bachelor's degree required; some employers prefer a graduate degree
Degree Fields Civil engineering, environmental engineering or a related field
Licensure and Certification Licensure as a Professional Engineer (PE) may be required; specialty certification is optional
Experience Varies by employer, but may be from 1-5 years of experience
Key Skills Understanding of math, computer-aided design software, compliance/regulatory and programming language software, word processing software, and various tools, such as temperature monitors and meters
Salary (2015) $84,600 per year (Median salary for all health and safety engineers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Job postings by employers

Earn a Bachelor's Degree

That same bureau also stated that most engineering positions required a bachelor's degree. Related majors include civil, electrical, or environmental engineering. Such programs cover topics in hydraulics, sewer planning, technical systems, and environmental issues. Many programs include a focus on water and sewage treatment that provides a strong background for sanitary engineers. Bachelor's degree programs in engineering typically last four years. Prospective engineers should seek schools approved by ABET.

Gain Job Experience

In addition to formal education, employers typically prefer candidates with significant engineering or sanitation experience. Those new to the field may qualify for entry-level positions with local or state agencies responsible for waste management. Utility companies and construction firms also employ sanitary engineers. Introductory engineering jobs may include responsibilities for smaller projects, such as researching design plans or testing water and sewage samples.

Consider Certification

Aspiring sanitary engineers might also consider earning professional certification. Several certifying organizations exist, such as the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and the American Society of Sanitary Engineering, that provide specialized credentials for sanitary engineers. Professionals may demonstrate proficiency in the field and an understanding of engineering and environmental standards through certifications designed for hazardous or solid waste handling, wastewater management, and backflow suppression.

Earning a designation may require a bachelor's degree in a relevant major, the successful passing of exams and possible membership in the organization, along with payment of any fees. An engineering license may be necessary, but alternative designations may be available for those without the credential.

Get Licensed

All states require engineers performing public services to be licensed. State regulations vary for obtaining an engineering license, but most require a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution.

College graduates initially take the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam and, after passing, are referred to as engineers-in-training (EITs). EITs with at least four years of work experience are able to take the second licensing exam, the Principles and Practice of Engineering. If one successfully completes the exam, he or she will earn the designation of Professional Engineer (PE). Many states offer reciprocal licensure, allowing sanitary engineers to work in multiple states. Continuing education may be required to renew a license.

Consider Graduate Degree

Though not always required, employers frequently prefer applicants who hold a graduate degree. A master's degree in engineering with a focus on water resources usually includes coursework in groundwater studies, advanced hydraulics, and wastewater treatment.

Again, sanitary engineers are typically required to have a bachelor's degree as well as licensure, though earning certification and a graduate degree can also help individuals to move up in the field.

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