Water/Wastewater Engineers


Education and Training Requirements

High School

Take classes in chemistry, biology, mathematics (including algebra, trigonometry, and calculus), social sciences, business, and computers; welding or electrical training may be helpful as well. Other characteristics that employers look for include mechanical aptitude and the ability to perform mathematical computations easily. English and communications classes are also useful for honing research and writing skills that will be needed for preparing documents and reports.

Postsecondary Training

Water/wastewater engineers usually have a bachelor's degree in civil, mechanical, chemical, or environmental engineering. Degree programs cover general engineering, design, computer science, mathematics, and physical and life sciences, as well as laboratory and field studies. Students may also have opportunities to participate in cooperative programs, in which they gain practical experience while in school. Some colleges and universities offer five-year programs which lead to a bachelor's and master's degree.

Employers may prefer to hire water/wastewater engineers with a degree from an ABET-accredited school. ABET accredits engineering programs in U.S. colleges and universities. Find information at https://www.abet.org.

Other Education or Training

Water/wastewater engineers continue learning throughout their careers. They must keep up with new and emerging technologies and business practices in their industry. Most state water pollution control agencies offer training courses. Professional associations such as the American Water Works Association, Water Environment Federation, and the National Rural Water Association also provide continuing education classes and webinars.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Water/wastewater engineers who provide services to the public are required to be licensed. Employers may also require engineers to be licensed. There are different licenses for different levels of engineering experience. There is the engineer intern (EI) license, the engineer in training (EIT) license, and the professional engineer (PE) license. Each state issues its own licenses and requirements vary by state. Some states require engineers take continuing education courses to maintain their license. In general, to receive the PE license, engineers must have graduated from an ABET-accredited engineering program, pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam and the Professional Engineering exam, and have four years of relevant work experience. PEs are able to supervise other engineers and sign off on projects. After licensing, environmental engineers may receive board certification in areas of specialization from the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Water/wastewater engineers usually have internship experience or have participated in a cooperative program while in school, have four years of relevant work experience, and are licensed as professional engineers. The job requires strong knowledge of mathematics, engineering principles and procedures, building and design methods, and technology. The skills used every day in this line of work include complex problem solving, critical thinking, active listening, and analyzing information and making decisions. Familiarity with the provisions of the federal Clean Water Act and various state and local regulations is also essential. Clear communication skills and the ability to work well with groups and teams is important. People who do best in this field are detail oriented, honest, ethical, reliable, and cooperative.