Water/Wastewater Engineers


Employment Prospects


Many water/wastewater engineers work in local governments; others work for the federal government, utility companies, or private sanitary services that operate under contracts with local governments. They may work at state or federal water pollution control agencies, such as the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency. Approximately 55,800 environmental engineers, including water/wastewater engineers, work in the United States, according to the Department of Labor. Jobs are located throughout the country, with the greatest numbers found in areas with high populations. 

Starting Out

Water/wastewater engineers often get started in their careers through an internship or cooperative program while in college, receiving job offers upon graduation. They start in entry-level positions as engineers in training. Ask your school's career services office for help with finding employment opportunities. You can also contact state and local water pollution control agencies and the personnel offices of wastewater treatment facilities in desired locations. Search the careers section of professional associations' Web sites for job referrals. For example, the Water Environment Foundation offers a job bank and other resources, https://www.wef.org/about/careers/.

Advancement Prospects

Water/wastewater engineers advance by taking on more complex projects. With years of experience they may become senior engineers and directors of projects. They may become heads of engineering departments in large companies. They advance by getting licensed, board certified, and going back to school for advanced degrees. They may become college professors and write for engineering journals and publications. Those with many years of experience may increase their level of participation in professional associations, growing their reputation in the field by lecturing at industry-related conferences and teaching workshops and seminars.

Tips for Entry

Get an internship or part-time job in an engineering firm that offers water/wastewater engineering services. Find job listings and career information on these Web sites:

  • https://workforwater.org
  • https://careercenter.awwa.org

If you are in high school, participate in an engineering summer camp to learn more about environmental engineering. Conduct an online search for engineering summer camps at colleges and universities that may be near you.

Attend the American Water Works Association’s Annual Conference and Exhibition (https://www.awwa.org/ace) to network and participate in professional development classes and workshops.  

Read Journal AWWA and Opflow (both are available at https://www.awwa.org/Publications/Periodicals-Proceedings) and Rural Water (http://naylornetwork.com/nrw-nxt) to learn more about the field.

Use social media to stay up to date on industry developments and learn about job openings. Many professional associations use Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter to connect with members and others who are interested in wastewater treatment.