How To Become An Operator

Types of Operators

There are four major types of operators:

  1. Water Treatment Plant Operators treat water using chemicals and filtration to make water safe to drink.
  2. Water Distribution System Operators transport water in distribution pipes and from storage tanks to homes and businesses for drinking and for fighting fires. They keep the distribution pipes clean and under pressure to deliver safe water for drinking.
  3. Wastewater Collection System Operators collect wastewater from homes and businesses and convey the water to a wastewater treatment plant. They keep the collection systems pipes and pumps clean and free from blockages to prevent raw sewage spills and overflows into the environment.
  4. Wastewater Treatment and Reuse Plant Operators treat wastewater using chemicals, physical, and biological means, and reclaim the water for reuse to protect the environment.

You may have already decided which type of operator you would like to become. If you would like to work in a small community, you may need to learn how to be an operator in all four major areas.


To become an operator you need to first check with the certification agency in your state or province for their requirements. Each state has its own certification system. The Water Professionals International (WPI) website is the best place to start.

Most states and provinces require both experience and education before administering a certification exam. You can earn the necessary education qualifications by successfully completing home study courses offered by the Office of Water Programs, but you will need to check with your state agency first to learn which courses are recommended.

Job Opportunities

To learn about job opportunities for operators, refer to the Bureau of Labor Statistics website, search for "Occupational Outlook Handbook" and then search for "Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant and System Operators" for additional information about the types of jobs available in the water and wastewater industries, working conditions, earning potential, and the job outlook.