Become a Water Conservation Specialist: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Research the requirements to become a water conservation specialist. Learn about the job description and duties and see the step-by-step process to start a career in water conservation.

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Should I Become a Water Conservation Specialist?

Water conservation specialists manage the use of water and provide assistance to agencies and individuals concerned with using water in the most conservative and effective manner available. Work consists of outdoor data collection followed by testing, analysis and guidance relative to protection and preservation of water quality from contamination.

These professionals work full-time and should be comfortable working outdoors with water supplies. Though water conservation specialists make a higher-than-average salary, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that growth in the field will be slow over the 2012-2022 decade.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree for most positions
Degree Fields Forest sciences, conservation, environmental science or similar field
Certification/Licensure Voluntary
Experience Entry-level with bachelor's degree
Key Skills Use of industry tools such as analytical and scientific software, database query and spreadsheet programs, Soil and Hydro-Environmental Decision Support System (WATERSHEDSS) program
Salary (2014) $61,860 per year (Median annual wage for conservation scientists)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O NET Online, Work for Water (joint project of American Water Works Association and Water Environment Federation).

Step 1: Earn an Undergraduate Degree

According to the BLS, most jobs in conservation require a bachelor's degree. Degree programs may focus on soil and water conservation, ecology or natural resources management. Courses may include water conservation management programs, water and soil conservation, hydrology, issues in water quality and data analysis.

Success Tip:

  • Complete an internship program. The purpose of completing an internship is to gain work experience, which many entry-level jobs in water conservation require. During an internship, students apply data collection and analysis skills learned in undergraduate courses. Schools often have resources for finding internships that are part-time or full-time, paid or unpaid. In some cases, credit is awarded for internship experiences.

Step 2: Find Entry-Level Work

Federal, state and local government agencies are a good place to look for work. Some private firms hire entry-level water conservation specialists as well. Examples of job duties associated with a position as a water conservation specialist include promoting water conservation development and practices, as well as collecting and analyzing samples and writing reports.

Success Tips:

  • Join a professional association. Membership benefits from an association such as the American Water Works Association (AWWA) provides perks that include access to industry resources and publications, as well as events such as conferences, meetings and webinars. Members also have the opportunity to network with other working professionals.
  • Take continuing education courses. As work experience is gained, it is important for a water conservation specialist to continue taking courses or attend conferences in water conservation. Continuing education courses help water conservation specialists keep up to date with new research information and methods, as well as provide preparation for certification, which is administered by the AWWA.
  • Consider certification. Although voluntary, certification may enhance job prospects and future advancement opportunities. The AWWA administers the State Operator Certification Program and provides information for all states nationwide. Eligibility requirements are based on criteria that include education and work experience.

Step 3: Consider Graduate Education

According to the BLS, some candidates may consider pursuing graduate-level education at the master's or Ph.D. level. Acquiring an advanced education may present opportunities for water conservation jobs in the areas of research or higher-level management positions. Colleges and universities typically have these types of job opportunities. Those employed at universities often have the opportunity to conduct research and train the next generation of water conservation professionals simultaneously.

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