Water Treatment Degree Programs and Career Options

Courses at the certificate and associate's degree levels cover the basics of the water treatment process and the science behind it. Students study topics like plant operations as well as water treatment systems and technologies.

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Essential Information

Water treatment involves purifying water resources, eliminating the contaminants in a water supply to make it healthy, safe and clean for a community and the natural environment. Workers in water treatment typically have a water treatment certificate or associate's degree. Certificate programs are brief, requiring a few months of courses. Associate's degree programs take two years of study and also require general education courses in topics such as English composition and mathematics. Bachelor's degrees can also be found in this field. All applicants to water treatment degree and certificate programs will be need to hold a high school diploma or equivalent.


Certificate in Water Treatment

At the certificate level, courses in water treatment serve as an introduction, covering the technologies, systems and other fundamentals of the process. Students gain knowledge of the science involved in water treatment and training in the operations of a water treatment plant. Certificate programs in water treatment provide both knowledge of water treatment and hands-on experience at water treatment plants. Courses typically cover the basic structure of the process, along with relevant scientific topics such as hydraulics and bacteriology. Courses include the following:

  • Plant operations
  • Water treatment systems
  • Chemistry and bacteriology
  • Water treatment technologies

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Associate Degree in Water Treatment

Water treatment tends to be covered by associate degrees in wastewater technology or water equipment technology. Classes focus on the technologies, operations and procedures of water treatment plants. Similar to the classes in the certificate program, courses for the associate's degree involve the operations and systems of water treatment plants. Courses in an associate's degree program include the following:

  • Laboratory skills and procedures
  • Water and wastewater technology
  • Plant operations
  • Water treatment systems

Popular Career Options

Typical entry-level careers in water treatment are at water treatment or wastewater treatment plants, which keep a community's water source clean and safe. State water treatment plants have several levels of additional certification, and also require operators to pass an examination. Popular roles include:

  • Water treatment supervisor
  • Water treatment plant operator
  • Wastewater treatment plant operator

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

Most work in water treatment is at government water treatment plants, on the local level, although private firms run an increasing number of plants. Water treatment operators earn a median salary of $44,790 a year, according to a 2015 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics survey. Job prospects are should increase about 6% from 2014-2024 because population growth will drive demand for water treatment and many experienced workers are expected to retire.

After completing a certificate or associate's degree in water treatment, students will have a grasp of the science around water treatment and its application in real-world contexts. Many careers in the field will be for the government, with graduates working to keep a community's water safe and clean.

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