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Top 11 Wastewater Operator Certifications

This article provides an overview of the most popular wastewater operator certifications and their associated requirements.

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Brenna Goyette
Certified Professional Resume Writer, Career Expert

Published 19 min read

Certifications for a wastewater operator are important in the job market because they demonstrate knowledge and expertise in the field. Certification shows potential employers that the individual has a strong understanding of the regulations, standards, and practices related to wastewater operations and management. It also demonstrates that they have the skills necessary to safely operate and maintain wastewater systems. By obtaining certifications, wastewater operators can differentiate themselves from other applicants and show their commitment to staying up-to-date on industry best practices. Ultimately, certifications can help wastewater operators stand out to potential employers and increase their chances of getting hired.

The purpose of this article is to review the top certifications for Wastewater Operators and explain how they can help to advance a wastewater operator's career.

What are Wastewater Operator Certifications?

Wastewater operator certification is a process by which wastewater operators demonstrate that they have the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to safely and effectively manage wastewater treatment systems. Wastewater operators must meet certain educational and experience requirements in order to be certified. Certification is typically provided by state or local governments, and can vary from one jurisdiction to another.

Having a certified wastewater operator can help ensure that all safety standards are met in the operation of a wastewater treatment system. In addition, having a certified operator on staff can also provide assurance for customers that their water is being treated according to best practices. Certified operators often have access to more advanced training opportunities than those without certification, allowing them to stay up-to-date on the latest developments in wastewater management. Finally, having certified operators may help reduce insurance costs associated with operating a wastewater treatment plant.

Pro Tip: If you are seeking a wastewater operator certification, it is important to research the specific requirements of the state or municipality in which you are applying. Each state has different requirements for certification and some may require additional exams or certifications beyond the basic wastewater operator certificate.

Related: What does a Wastewater Operator do?

Top 11 Wastewater Operator Certifications

Here’s our list of the best certifications available to Wastewater Operators today.

1. National Association of Boards of Certification (NABC) Wastewater Operator Certification

The National Association of Boards of Certification (NABC) Wastewater Operator Certification is a voluntary certification program for wastewater operators in the United States. It is designed to ensure that wastewater operators have the necessary skills and knowledge to safely and effectively operate wastewater treatment facilities. The NABC certification is recognized by many states as a requirement for wastewater operator licensing.

The NABC Wastewater Operator Certification process typically takes about 6-12 months to complete, depending on the individual’s experience level and the complexity of their facility. To obtain the certification, applicants must first pass an online exam administered by NABC. This exam covers topics such as safety, operations, maintenance, laboratory analysis, and regulatory compliance. After passing the exam, applicants must then submit a portfolio which includes evidence of their experience in operating a wastewater treatment plant.

Once all requirements are met, applicants will receive their certification from NABC. The cost of obtaining the NABC Wastewater Operator Certification varies based on factors such as location and experience level. Generally speaking, it can range anywhere from $100-$500 USD.

2. National Environmental Training Accreditation Program (NETAP) Wastewater Operator Certification

The National Environmental Training Accreditation Program (NETAP) Wastewater Operator Certification is a program that provides certification for wastewater operators who have successfully completed the necessary training and education requirements. The certification recognizes an individual's knowledge, skills, and abilities in the operation of wastewater treatment facilities.

The NETAP Wastewater Operator Certification is valid for five years from the date of issue. To obtain certification, individuals must complete a minimum of 40 hours of approved training courses in areas such as safety, process control, laboratory analysis, maintenance practices, and regulations. Additionally, applicants must pass an exam administered by the National Environmental Training Accreditation Program.

The cost of obtaining NETAP Wastewater Operator Certification varies depending on the number of courses taken and the type of courses taken. Generally speaking, it can cost anywhere from $500 to $2,000 or more to become certified.

To maintain certification status after five years, individuals must complete at least 20 hours of continuing education every two years. This continuing education requirement helps ensure that operators remain knowledgeable about current industry trends and regulations.

3. Association of Boards of Certification (ABC) Wastewater Operator Certification

The Association of Boards of Certification (ABC) Wastewater Operator Certification is a voluntary certification program for wastewater operators. The program is designed to recognize the knowledge and skills that wastewater operators have acquired through formal education, on-the-job training, and experience. It is also intended to promote public health and safety by ensuring that certified operators are knowledgeable in the operation and maintenance of wastewater treatment systems.

In order to become certified, applicants must meet certain educational and experience requirements, pass an exam administered by ABC, and agree to abide by ABC's Code of Ethics. The amount of time it takes to get certified depends on the individual applicant's background; however, most applicants can expect to spend at least six months studying for the exam before taking it.

To get started with the certification process, applicants should first review the ABC Wastewater Operator Certification Handbook which outlines all of the requirements for certification. After reviewing this handbook, applicants should then contact their local ABC office or visit their website for more information about registering for the exam.

The cost of obtaining ABC Wastewater Operator Certification varies depending on where you live and what type of certification you are seeking. Generally speaking, however, most applicants can expect to pay between $200-$400 in fees associated with taking the exam and applying for certification.

4. American Water Works Association (AWWA) Wastewater Operator Certification

The American Water Works Association (AWWA) Wastewater Operator Certification is a program that provides wastewater operators with the knowledge and skills necessary to safely and effectively operate and maintain wastewater treatment systems. The certification program is designed to ensure that certified operators are knowledgeable in the operation of wastewater treatment processes, safety practices, regulations, and other related topics.

The AWWA Wastewater Operator Certification Program consists of three levels of certification: Class I, II, and III. Each level requires a different amount of experience and training. To become certified at any level, an operator must pass an examination administered by the AWWA.

Class I certification requires one year of experience as a wastewater operator or completion of an approved training course. Class II certification requires two years of experience as a wastewater operator or completion of an approved training course plus one year of experience as a wastewater operator. Class III certification requires three years of experience as a wastewater operator or completion of an approved training course plus two years of experience as a wastewater operator.

To get certified, operators must submit an application to the AWWA along with proof of their work experience or completion of an approved training course. Once their application is accepted they can register for the exam which covers topics such as safety practices, regulations, mathematics, chemistry, biology, operations management, and more.

The cost for taking the exam varies depending on the level being taken but generally ranges from $150-$300 USD per exam attempt. It typically takes 3-6 months to prepare for the exam depending on how much prior knowledge you have in these topics before beginning your studies.

5. Water Environment Federation (WEF) Wastewater Operator Certification

The Water Environment Federation (WEF) Wastewater Operator Certification is a voluntary certification program that recognizes the knowledge, skills, and abilities of wastewater operators. This certification is designed to ensure that wastewater operators have the necessary qualifications to safely and effectively operate and maintain wastewater treatment facilities.

It typically takes between one to three years to get certified depending on your experience level. To obtain this certification you must meet the eligibility requirements, pass an exam, and complete a minimum of 20 hours of continuing education every two years.

The cost for taking the exam varies depending on the type of certification you are pursuing but generally ranges from $100-$300. Additionally, there may be additional costs associated with obtaining continuing education credits or recertification fees.

6. National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Wastewater Operator Certification

The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Wastewater Operator Certification is a certification program designed to ensure that operators of wastewater treatment plants have the knowledge and skills necessary to properly operate and maintain their facilities. It is administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and is required for any facility discharging pollutants into U.S. waters.

It typically takes between 6-12 months to get certified, depending on the state in which you are located. Each state has its own requirements for certification, so it is important to check with your local EPA office or state environmental agency for specific details. Generally, you must complete a certain number of hours of training, pass an exam, and obtain a certain level of experience in order to be certified as an NPDES Wastewater Operator.

In terms of cost, each state may have different fees associated with obtaining certification. These can range from application fees to exam fees and other related costs. It is best to contact your local EPA office or state environmental agency for exact details on what these costs might be in your area.

Overall, obtaining NPDES Wastewater Operator Certification is an important step towards protecting our nation’s water resources and ensuring that wastewater treatment plants are operated safely and efficiently.

7. United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Wastewater Operator Certification

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Wastewater Operator Certification is a program that provides certification for wastewater operators who work in the operation and maintenance of wastewater treatment plants. This certification is required for those who are responsible for the safe and effective operation of these facilities.

The certification process typically takes about six months to complete, depending on the state in which you are applying. The process includes completing an application, passing a written exam, and submitting proof of experience in the field.

To get certified, you must first submit an application to your local USEPA office or to an authorized third-party certifying organization. Once your application is approved, you will be sent an exam packet with instructions on how to prepare for and take the written exam. After passing the exam, you must then submit proof of experience in the field by providing documentation such as job descriptions, resumes, and letters of recommendation from past employers or supervisors.

The cost of obtaining a USEPA Wastewater Operator Certification varies by state but generally ranges from $100-$200. In some states there may also be additional fees associated with taking the written exam or submitting proof of experience in the field.

8. State Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) Wastewater Operator Certification

The State Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) Wastewater Operator Certification is a certification program for wastewater treatment plant operators in the United States. The certification is designed to ensure that wastewater treatment plant operators have the necessary knowledge and experience to safely operate and maintain wastewater treatment plants.

In order to obtain SEPA Wastewater Operator Certification, individuals must complete an approved training program, pass an exam, and meet certain experience requirements. Training programs vary in length depending on the type of certification sought, but typically range from one week to three months. Most states also require applicants to have at least two years of experience working with wastewater systems prior to taking the exam.

To get certified, applicants must submit an application and fee to their state's SEPA office. The application fee varies by state but typically ranges from $50-$100. After submitting the application and fee, applicants must take an exam which covers topics such as water chemistry, wastewater regulations, safety procedures and equipment operation. Once the applicant passes the exam they will receive their certification card which is valid for five years.

The cost of obtaining SEPA Wastewater Operator Certification varies depending on the type of certification sought and where it is obtained. Generally speaking, however, it can cost anywhere from $200-$1000 for all associated fees including application fees, training costs, and examination fees.

9. International Association of Operative Engineers/International Union of Operating Engineers (IAOE/IUOE) Wastewater Operator Certification

The International Association of Operative Engineers/International Union of Operating Engineers (IAOE/IUOE) Wastewater Operator Certification is a certification program that provides wastewater operators with the knowledge and skills necessary to safely and effectively operate wastewater treatment facilities. The program is designed to ensure that wastewater operators have the proper training and experience needed to protect public health, safety, and the environment.

The certification process typically takes between one and three years depending on the operator's experience level. To become certified, applicants must complete an approved training program, pass a written exam, and demonstrate their ability to perform specific tasks related to operating a wastewater treatment facility.

To get started, applicants should contact their local IAOE/IUOE chapter for information about approved training programs in their area. They may also be able to find online courses or webinars offered by IAOE/IUOE-affiliated organizations. After completing an approved training program, applicants must then pass a written exam administered by IAOE/IUOE or an affiliated organization. Finally, they must demonstrate their ability to perform specific tasks related to operating a wastewater treatment facility through hands-on testing or other methods as determined by IAOE/IUOE or an affiliated organization.

The cost of obtaining the IAOE/IUOE Wastewater Operator Certification varies depending on the type of training program chosen and other factors such as travel expenses associated with taking the written exam or attending hands-on testing sessions. Generally speaking, however, most applicants can expect to pay several hundred dollars in total for all expenses associated with becoming certified.

10. National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) Wastewater Operator Certification

The National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) Wastewater Operator Certification is a voluntary certification program for wastewater treatment plant operators. This certification is designed to recognize the knowledge and skills of wastewater operators in the operation and maintenance of wastewater treatment plants.

The program consists of two parts: a written exam and an on-site practical assessment. The written exam covers topics such as water chemistry, biology, mathematics, safety, regulations, and operations. The practical assessment tests the operator's ability to safely operate and maintain a wastewater treatment plant.

To become certified, an individual must pass both the written exam and the on-site practical assessment. It typically takes between six months to one year to complete all requirements for certification.

To get started with the NSF Wastewater Operator Certification program, individuals must first register with NSF International and pay a registration fee. After registering, individuals will receive access to study materials that can help them prepare for both the written exam and the on-site practical assessment.

The cost of becoming certified varies depending on which level of certification an individual is seeking (Level I or Level II). The registration fee is $250 USD plus additional fees for each level of certification attempted (Level I = $400 USD; Level II = $500 USD).

11. American Society for Testing and Materials International (ASTM International) Wastewater Operator Certification

ASTM International Wastewater Operator Certification is a certification program that provides wastewater operators with the knowledge and skills necessary to safely and effectively operate wastewater treatment plants. The program is designed to meet the requirements of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for operator certification in the United States.

The certification process typically takes about 6-12 months to complete, depending on the individual’s experience level and the type of certification sought. To get certified, applicants must first complete an approved training course, which may be taken online or in-person at a local college or university. After completing the course, applicants must pass a written exam administered by ASTM International before being awarded their certification.

The cost of obtaining ASTM International Wastewater Operator Certification varies depending on the type of certification sought and whether or not any additional training courses are required. Generally speaking, most certifications cost between $200-$500. Additional costs may include fees for registration, examination fees, and any other associated expenses such as travel costs or books/materials required for study purposes.

Overall, obtaining ASTM International Wastewater Operator Certification can be a lengthy but worthwhile process that can open up new career opportunities in wastewater operations and provide individuals with valuable knowledge and skills related to this field of work.

Do You Really Need a Wastewater Operator Certificate?

Whether or not you need a wastewater operator certificate depends on your career goals. If you want to work as a wastewater treatment plant operator, then having a wastewater operator certificate is absolutely essential. Wastewater operators are responsible for ensuring that treatment plants comply with all federal, state, and local regulations. Without certification, it can be difficult to find employment in this field.

A wastewater operator certificate will also make you more marketable and increase your earning potential. The coursework required to obtain a certificate covers topics such as the operation and maintenance of wastewater treatment systems, safety procedures, and regulatory compliance. It also provides an understanding of the chemistry involved in water treatment processes. With this knowledge, you will be able to troubleshoot problems quickly and efficiently without putting yourself or others at risk.

Finally, having a wastewater operator certificate provides personal satisfaction and pride in knowing that you have achieved a professional milestone. Being certified shows employers that you are knowledgeable about the industry and have taken the necessary steps to ensure their facility meets all requirements.

In short, if you want to work in the wastewater industry, obtaining a wastewater operator certificate is highly recommended. It will demonstrate your commitment to the profession and help ensure your success as an operator.

Related: Wastewater Operator Resume Examples

FAQs About Wastewater Operator Certifications

1. What is a Wastewater Operator Certification?

Answer: A Wastewater Operator Certification is a certification issued by a state or local regulatory agency that recognizes an individual's knowledge, training and experience in the operation and maintenance of wastewater treatment facilities. It is designed to ensure that operators have the necessary skills and qualifications to safely operate wastewater treatment systems.

2. How Can I Obtain a Wastewater Operator Certification?

Answer: In order to obtain a Wastewater Operator Certification, you must complete an approved training program, pass a written exam, and meet all other requirements set forth by the certifying agency.

3. What Are the Benefits of Being Certified as a Wastewater Operator?

Answer: Becoming certified as a wastewater operator provides several benefits. It can lead to increased job opportunities, higher wages, professional recognition and advancement potential within the industry.

4. How Long Does it Take to Become Certified as a Wastewater Operator?

Answer: The length of time it takes to become certified as a wastewater operator varies depending on your educational background, experience level and state requirements. Generally speaking, it usually takes between one and two years to complete the necessary training and exams required for certification.

5. Do I Need Recertification After Becoming Certified as a Wastewater Operator?

Answer: Yes, most states require wastewater operators to renew their certification every three years in order to maintain their active status. This can be done through continuing education courses or additional testing requirements set forth by the certifying agency.