Become an Irrigation Technician: Education and Career Roadmap

Jul 10, 2020

Should I Become an Irrigation Technician?

Irrigation technicians install, maintain and repair sprinklers, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes and other parts common to irrigation systems. These technicians, also known as grounds maintenance workers, are commonly employed in landscaping businesses, hotels and golf courses. They use hand tools like shovels, spades, cutters and rakes and also operate larger machinery and power tools, such as trenchers and drills. Irrigation technicians also use tools and machinery to perform services like excavating, filling trenches and repairing breaks. The work can be physically demanding, and technicians often work outdoors in inclement weather conditions. Technicians travel to different locations to perform their work.

Career Requirements

Education No degree required; formal education can be beneficial
Training On-the-job training provided
Certification Voluntary certification available
Experience Varies; related experience may be required
Key Skills Self-motivation and stamina, as well as critical-thinking, active-listening and verbal communication skills, familiarity with controlling and using equipment, such as cultivators, draglines and land levelers
Salary (2014) $35,219 per year (median)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, American Backflow Prevention Association, Employer job postings (January 2013), O*Net Online, PayScale

Step 1: Complete a Postsecondary Education Program

Although some employers may only require a high school diploma or its equivalent, others may prefer candidates with some training in irrigation design, systems and repair. Interested candidates may consider certificate and associate's degree programs in a related area, such as turfgrass and landscape management. Program instruction generally includes topics like irrigation pumps, electronic system controls and installation sessions that allow students to gain experience with electrical wiring methods, connections and motors.

Step 2: Acquire Work Experience

Although some positions require a candidate to have relevant work experience for consideration, entry-level positions with no experiential requirements are available. Entry-level irrigation technicians may look for employment with irrigation service companies, government facilities and college campuses. An employer often requires the applicant to have a valid driver's license and clean driving record. New hires generally perform simple tasks like servicing and fixing sprinklers, valves and backflow devices, as well as complete on-the-job training. Advanced irrigation technicians may be responsible for ordering replacement parts, enforcing safety practices among workers and monitoring the work of other technicians.

Step 3: Develop Effective Skills and Leadership

An aspiring irrigation technician might consider taking some supplemental courses designed to improve verbal and writing skills. These types of courses can be found at technical and community colleges, as well as online. Some areas of study to consider include customer service, communications or business writing. Developing such skills can expand opportunities for professional advancement in the field. Advancement can mean becoming a crew leader, supervisor or starting a business as an independent contractor.

Success Tips:

  • Consider obtaining voluntary certification. There are various organizations that offer professional certifications for the fields of landscaping and grounds maintenance. Employers seeking irrigation technicians might prefer candidates with certifications from organizations, such as the American Backflow Prevention Association (ABPA). Certification usually requires a combination of work experience, formal training and passing an examination.
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