Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators
Sign In
Overview
Customize information shown
Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators manage a system of machines to transfer or treat water or wastewater.
Titles for this career often contain these words
OperatorWaterPlantTreatmentTechnicianWasteWastewaterDisposalTenderDispatcherFiltrationSewageSystemsWaterworksFiltererProcessControlSpecialistPumpBasinBiosolidsManagementClarifyingDrinkingFilterIndustrialLeadLiquidOnSiteOpPurificationRadioactiveReliefSCADASupervisoryDataAcquisitionWWTPWWSuperintendentPumperPurifierQualityReclamationSupplySystemWatershedEmployeeStation
Education
Only 11% of water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators have a bachelor's degree or higher.
Education attained by water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Context: workers with bachelor's degrees
Fewer water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators have bachelor's degrees than 68% of other careeers.
Employment
Workforce size
Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators, with 127,100 workers, form a larger workforce than 70% of careers.
Predicted employment growth
Over the next decade, jobs for water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators are expected to shrink by 5%, and should have about 10,600 job openings a year.
Safety from automation
The likelihood of automation for water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators is near the middle of all careers' likelihoods.
Advertisement
Salaries
The median (middle) salary for 53% of all other jobs is higher than the middle salary for water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators. The graph shows inflation-adjusted salaries for most water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators.
This job's median $47KAll jobs' median $39K$47K$38K20142015201620172018$0$20K$40K$60K$80K
Context: Median Salary
Gender
Women account for 5% of water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators -- that's a smaller percentage than 85% of other jobs.
Gender of water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators
Men
Women
Context: Salary inequity
For each career, we compared the median (middle) men's salary to the median women's salary. For water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators, the median men's salary was 16% more the median woman's salary.
Race/Origin
About 14% of water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators are minority, and 6% are foreign-born.
Race/origin of water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators
White
Black
Pacific Islander
Hispanic
Asian
American Indian
Multiracial
Other
Context: Foreign-born workers (6%)
Advertisement
Where are the most jobs?
We ranked the number of jobs in Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant and System Operators per thousand workers in each state, DC, and Puerto Rico. The darker the blue, the higher the job density.
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
Job benefits
Employer or union-sponsored pension plans are offered to 69% of water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators, and 79% have company-sponsored health insurance (13% have dependents enrolled in their employer's health plan).
Employer-provided health coverage for water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators
100% premiums covered
Partial premiums covered
Plan with no cost sharing
No health insurance
Advertisement
Injury and Illness
About 82 water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators become injured or ill for every 10,000 workers, making this job more dangerous than 63% of other careers. The most common specific illnesses or injuries are detailed following.
All cuts, lacerations, punctures
Sprains, strains, tears
Worker concerns
Some jobs are more stressful than others, and some are just plain dangerous. The following list gives the percentages of water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators who report hazardous or difficult situations typically occurring at least once a week.
  • Exposed to Hazardous Conditions (88%)
  • Exposed to Contaminants (88%)
  • Consequence of Error (78%)
  • Responsible for Others' Health and Safety (69%)
  • Time Pressure (65%)
  • Exposed to Hazardous Equipment (47%)
  • Degree of Automation (42%)
SOURCES:24.0 O*NET
Salary and diversity
Salary overview
What do water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators earn?

In this section, we want to give you a clear idea of what you can expect to earn in this career. We use two sources of data here: the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which asks employers to classify their workforce and to report salaries using the SOC-specialty level of reporting, and the American Community Survey (ACS), which asks people to classify their jobs using the broad classifications that ididio uses for career profiles, and to self-report their salaries. For some jobs, the differences in survey approaches between BLS and ACS can paint a very different end-picture. Whenever possible, we provide data from both sources.

The BLS-compiled salary data is reported by companies for their employees. This data excludes self-employed workers. We first show the distribution of salaries for water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators, and then we show how the middle (median) salary for water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators compares to the BLS-computed median salaries of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators (BLS Salary Data)
$47K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Context: Median salaries across careers (BLS Salary Data)
$47K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
We compiled household data from the ACS to determine the salaries that people working at least 35 hours a week report themselves to earn. Unlike the BLS estimates, this data includes self-employed wages. We first show the full salary distribution for all water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators, and then we show how the median (middle) salary for water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators compares to the median ACS-reported salary of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators (ACS Salary Data)
$48K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Context: Median salaries across careers (ACS Salary Data)
$48K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Employers and salary
A look at employers and corresponding salaries
The donut shares the break-down of workers by employer type, and following we show the salary distributions for these workers based on those employer types. For some careers, the salaries can be vastly different between private, government, and self-employment. As with our salary overview, we view the both the BLS economists' salary profiles and the household-reported salaries from ACS to get a thorough understanding of where water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators work and for what salary. We have the great faith in the accuracy of economist-vetted BLS data; however, the BLS restrictions on which employers are surveyed skews the data a bit (read more in the sources), and the ACS responses provide different and useful categorizations of employers and salaries.
Employers of Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators (ACS)
Private for-profit (31.3%)
Private not-for-profit (3.1%)
Local government (57.5%)
State government (4.8%)
Federal government (2.7%)
Self-employed incorporated (0.2%)
Self-employed not incorporated (0.2%)
Working without pay (0.0%)
Distribution: Salaries of water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators by type of employer (ACS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type calculated by aggregating individual household survey responses.
$48K$47K$51K$45K$47K$46K$0$20,000$40,000$60,000$80,000$100,000Federal governmentState governmentLocal governmentPrivate not-for-profitPrivate for-profitAll
Distribution: Salaries of water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators by type of employer (BLS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type as reported by BLS based on large employer-focused surveys. We note that smaller employer categories are not included by BLS.
$47K$60K$47K$45K$54K$0$20,000$40,000$60,000$80,000$100,000Federal governmentState governmentLocal governmentPrivateAll
Age and career advancement
Salary growth for water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators

Is this a job that rewards experience, or is this job most likely a part of a career ladder? This first chart suggests how much this job rewards experience with increased salaries.

Now let's dive a little deeper. Take a minute a look at how much you might expect your salary to increase with each five years' experience, as well as how the numbers working at each age change. Does this seem to be a job for the young or the old, or could it be a career offering steady salary growth for many years?

We only provide this data when there are enough consistent ACS survey responses to allow a reasonable margin of error, so for some careers you will see gaps in our reporting of salary by age.

$48K$47K$56K$53K$53K$55K$39K$31K$43K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100KSalary distribution20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64
05K10K15KNumber employed20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Gender and Equity
Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators and gender

With 5% women, this occupation has a lower percentage of women than 85% of careers.

Context: Women in the workforce
5%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Gender of Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators
Men (95%)
Women (5%)
Distribution: Salaries by gender

As we'll illustrate at the bottom of this section, the median salary for all full-time male workers in the US exceeds the full-time median salary for women by 21%. The situation is a little better for water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators, with the median salary for men 16% higher than the median salary for women. This chart shows you the salary range for most workers by gender.

$42K$49K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100KWomenMen
Context: Salary Inequity

Nationwide there are twenty careers for which men do not have a higher median (middle) salary than women. The chart below shows the salary inequity, the percentage by which the median men's salary is higher than the median women's salary, for most jobs. Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators have one of the middle percentage increases for men's salary, with the increase for the men's median salary over the women's median salary in this job higher than that for 47% of other jobs.

16%0%20%40%60%80%100%

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Race/Origin
Race and origin of water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators

The representation of minority and foreign-born workers is quite different between careers, and the relative pay of those workers also varies significantly between careers. There is a smaller percentage of minority water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators than for 76% of other careers. As with minority workers, there is also a smaller percentage of foreign-born workers in this career than in most other careers.

Race/origin of water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators
White (84% )
Black (8% )
Other (2% )
Multiracial (2% )
Asian (2% )
American Indian (1% )
Hispanic (1% )
Pacific Islander (0% )
Context: Representation of minorities in the workforce
14%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Context: Representation of foreign-born workers
6%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Distribution: Salaries for water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators by race/origin

For some careers, there is a pay disparity depending on race or origin, though this is not prevalent. We calculate standard errors for all of our calculations, and when the error is high we do not show results. Therefore, for some jobs will have omitted race/origin categories.

$37K$41K$47K$49K$50K$54K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120KAmerican IndianBlackOtherWhiteMultiracialAsian
Distribution: Salaries for water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators by nativity
$48K$48K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100KAll native citizensAll foreign-born

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Part-time/Full-time
Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators and Part-time/Full-time employment

We've found that somes jobs hava a huge number of part-time workers, and that typically most who are working part-time are doing so because they cannot find full-time work or the job they have cannot provide full-time hours. With 3% part-time workers, this occupation has a lower percentage of part-time workers than 87% of careers.

Context: Part-time workers in the workforce
3%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Why workers are part-time
Full-Time is less than 35 hours a week
Retired/Social Security limit on earnings
Could not find full-time work
Seasonal work
Slack work/business conditions
School/training
Health/medical limitations
Child care problems
Other family/personal obligations
Other reasons
Distribution: Salaries by part-time/full-time status

The salary distributions for full-time and part-time water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators is shown following.

$16K$48K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100KPart-time workersFull-time workers
Pathways to this career
Education requirements and salary
Education attained by water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators typically hold a high school diploma or equivalent.

Sometimes the typical education identified by the BLS differs a bit from the reality of the how much education current workers actually have. The donut shows the education level held by people currently working as water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators as reported in responses to the American Community Survey. Following, we investigate whether education level influences salary for water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators.

Education attained by water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators
None
High School
Some College
Associate's Degree
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Deg/Doct
Doctorate
Details: Education and training recommended for water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators

Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators typically need a high school diploma or equivalent to become operators. Employers may prefer applicants who have completed a certificate, an associate’s, or a bachelor’s degree program in a related field such as environmental science or wastewater treatment technology.

Details: Licensing and certification recommended for water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators

Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators must be licensed by the state in which they work. Requirements and standards vary widely depending on the state.

State licenses typically have multiple levels, which indicate the operator’s experience and training. Although some states will honor licenses from other states, operators who move from one state to another may need to take a new set of exams to become licensed in their new state.

Distribution: Salary by education level

What level of education is truly needed for water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators? Below we see the distribution of water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators salaries based on the education attained. These comparisons are based on all survey responses by those who identified themselves as water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators, and are not intended as a statistical analysis of salary differences that would correct for non-educational factors that could contribute to high or low earnings.

$33K$45K$51K$51K$54K$59K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100KNone (4%)High School (38%)Some College (34%)Associate's Degree (13%)Bachelor's Degree (10%)Master's Degree (1%)
Certificate/Associate's degree pathways
Switching Careers
Most common new jobs
The most common next careers for water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators

What jobs will most water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators hold next year?

The data in this chart comes from person interviews for the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. The survey interviews households eight times over a two-year period, allowing us a glimpse into how people move from job to job. You can see more details from the results of the survey in our last tab in this section, and you can read about our methodology in our source descriptions.

Here we see all of the jobs that at least 1% of water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators reported holding in their second year's survey. Is your future job on this list?

Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operatorsFirst-line supervisors of production and operating workersHand laborers and freight, stock, and material moversProduction workersScience techniciansManagers (specialized areas)General and operations managersEnvironmental engineersJanitors and building cleanersChief executives and legislatorsGrounds maintenance workersChemical techniciansWord processors and typists
Lateral career moves
Lateral job transitions for water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators

A lateral career transition is a move to a job with similar pay and responsibilities. A move to such a job can offer a change of pace without an increase in stress or a decrease in pay. The following table simply identifies all 5 jobs which were held by at least 1% of survey respondents before working as water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators as well as 1% of respondents after working as water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators. Select a row to investigate the job's full description and determine if it truly offers an opportunity for a lateral transition.

Full prior and next career listings
Prior and next careers for water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators: full listings

What do people typically do before and after they work as water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators? Here are the full lists of all jobs that at least 1% of water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators surveyed reported as holding a year earlier or later.

Choose which type of transition to view
Prior jobs
Next jobs
Read about water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators
Responsibilities and activities
Responsibilities and activities

Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators typically do the following:

  • Add chemicals, such as ammonia or chlorine, to disinfect water or other liquids
  • Inspect equipment on a regular basis
  • Monitor operating conditions, meters, and gauges
  • Collect and test water and sewage samples
  • Record meter and gauge readings and operational data
  • Document and report test results to regulatory agencies
  • Operate equipment to purify and clarify water or to process or dispose of sewage
  • Clean and maintain equipment, tanks, filter beds, and other work areas
  • Follow U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations
  • Ensure safety standards are met

It takes many steps to get water from natural sources—reservoirs, streams, and groundwater—into people’s houses. Similarly, it is a complicated process to convert the wastewater from drains and sewers into a form that is safe to release into the environment.

The specific duties of plant operators depend on the type and size of the plant. In a small plant, one operator may be responsible for maintaining all of the systems. In large plants, multiple operators work the same shifts and are more specialized in their duties, often relying on computerized systems to help them monitor plant processes.

Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators must be able to manually operate the equipment if there is a plant malfunction due to power outages or electrical issues.

Water treatment plant and system operators work in water treatment plants. Fresh water is pumped from wells, rivers, streams, or reservoirs to water treatment plants, where it is treated and distributed to customers. Water treatment plant and system operators run the equipment, control the processes, and monitor the plants that treat water to make it safe to drink.

Wastewater treatment plant and system operators remove pollutants from domestic and industrial waste. Used water, also known as wastewater, travels through sewer pipes to treatment plants where it is treated and either returned to streams, rivers, and oceans, or used for irrigation.

Personality and skills
Personality and skills

Can you see yourself in the ranks of water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators? Here are the skills and traits that could lead to success.

Analytical skills
Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators must conduct tests and inspections on water or wastewater and evaluate the results.
Detail oriented
Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators must monitor machinery, gauges, dials, and controls to ensure everything is operating properly. Because tap water and wastewater are highly regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, operators must be careful and thorough in completing these tasks.
Math skills
Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators must have the ability to apply data to formulas that determine treatment requirements, flow levels, and concentration levels.
Mechanical skills
Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators must know how to work with machines and use tools. They must be familiar with how to operate, repair, and maintain equipment.
Trends in employment
Salary trends
Distribution and trends: Salaries for water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators
Choose actual dollars or inflation-adjusted dollars to view
Adjusted for inflation
Historic dollars

In 2018, the median (middle) for 53% of all other jobs were higher than the median (middle) salary for water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators. This graphic shows how the salary distribution (adjusted for inflation) has changed for this job over recent years. The gray line, as a comparison, shows the median salary of all US workers.

This job's median $47KAll jobs' median $39K$46K$38K200420052006200720082009201020112012201320142015201620172018$0$20K$40K$60K$80K
Projected versus actual employment
Exploring actual employment trends versus projected trends

Currently, jobs for water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators are anticipated to shrink by 5%. over the next decade; 86% of jobs are projected to grow more.

The projected employment for water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators is the best guess created by talented economists and statisticians at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, as you look through several careers you'll notice that the projections are heavily influenced by past performance and may miss current trends. No one can tell the future, and as new information and better techniques are developed, actual counts and future projections may change. Here's a glimpse at the actual counts versus the projections over time.

2000201020202030050,000100,000150,000
Employment counts
Actual measured employment
BLS 10-year predictions
Variation by state
Employment
State-by-state employment numbers

Some careers tend to be centered in specific parts of the country. For example, most jobs in fashion are in New York or California. Let's see if your dream job is easy to find in your dream location! We have a few choices for viewing the data that can help you get a full employment picture.

Job density versus job count

Which states hire the most water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators? We wonder if that's a fair question since states come in all sizes, so instead let's start with the question of which states have the highest density of people working as water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators. You can choose to view the number of jobs per state if you prefer.

BLS vs ACS data

This map defaults to employment information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which provides job totals carefully compiled for accuracy and with a primary focus on how employers describe their workers. The BLS job totals do not count self-employed workers. We've also compiled totals using the Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS) which are based on how workers describe themselves. Sometimes ACS results are quite a bit different from the employer-based BLS data.

Choose the metric to review
Jobs per 1000 working
Number of jobs
Use this data source
BLS
Number of Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant and System Operators per 1,000 workers (BLS)
Select a state to see local area details
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
0.00.51.01.52.02.5
Salary
Salaries by state
Let's get a feel for where water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators earn the highest salaries. There are several choices for which data we consider and how we view that data, and each can lead to different conclusions, so please read on...
Median salary versus state ratio

We use two methods to compare salaries across states:

  • In-state comparisons: the ratio of median (middle) salaries for water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators compared to the median salary for all people working in each state, or
  • Median salary: the unaltered median salaries for water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators.

We hope the ratio allows perspective about how salaries may compare to the regional cost-of-living.

BLS vs ACS data

We have two sources for statewide salary information with important distinctions. The BLS data is created by surveying companies, missing individuals who are self-employed or work for smaller companies. The ACS data is compiled from multi-faceted household surveys and may reflect the inconsistencies that people may have in reporting information.

Choose the metric to review
Location-adjusted median salary
Median salary
Use this data source
BLS
Location-adjusted median salary for Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant and System Operators (BLS)
The darkest shading corresponds to states in which water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators earn the highest salary when compared to other jobs in the state. We think this ratio might be a better indicator than the actual salary for your buying power as a state resident.
Select a state to see local area details
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
$0$20K$40K$60K$80K
Compare to similar jobs

If this job interests you, then use the dots below to find other jobs you might like. The dots closer to the top represent jobs that are like Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators (shown with a blue star). Look for the dots to the right to find the best salaries! (We pulled salary data from BLS, and they give a top salary value of just over $200K to protect privacy, so our graph would go much higher if the salaries were not top coded.)

How should the career similarity be computed

There are a number of ways to measure the similarity of jobs, here are a few we provide:

  • Interests: Also known as a Holland Code - Are you a thinker? A helper? What fits your personality?
  • Environment: Are there hazards? Will you be comfortable? Will it be stressful?
  • Knowledge: What do you need to know the most about?
  • Physical Abilities: Do you need to especially strong or coordinated?
Advertisement
mmmmmmmmmmllimmmmmmmmmmlli