Liquid Waste Treatment Technician Careers: Job Description & Salary

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What are the pros and cons to being a liquid waste treatment technician? Is it worth the training requirements and risks? See real job duties and get the truth about career prospects to learn if becoming a liquid waste treatment technician is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Liquid Waste Treatment Technician

Water treatment plant and systems technicians, who are also known as waste-water treatment plant and systems operators, remove harmful chemicals and pollutants from liquid waste so that it can be safely returned to the environment. You can read about various pros and cons of being a liquid waste treatment technician below.

Pros of Becoming a Liquid Waste Treatment Technician
As the population grows, so will employment opportunities in this field*
Options to join a union (40% of these workers were unionized in 2010)*
Different educational options to choose from: postsecondary study or extended on-the-job training*
Advancement opportunities in a four-level licensed system*

Cons of Becoming a Liquid Waste Treatment Technician
May be on call 24/7*
State license is required to work in waste-water treatment*
May work weekends, holidays and overtime hours*
Hazardous and offensive work conditions with smelly gases, faulty equipment and slick walkways*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description and Salary Information

Career Duties

Water that has been contaminated with domestic and industrial pollutants and wastes is received at a facility where it goes through various treatment pipes. Liquid waste treatment technicians work to see that certain safety standards have to be met when treating this water and that regulations set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are followed. They examine equipment regularly and monitor various gauges and meters during water processing. This data is collected and stored. Various work areas such as filter beds and tanks have to be cleaned by liquid waste treatment technicians.

Salary and Job Growth Info

The BLS reported that the average annual income for water and waste-water treatment plant and system operators in May 2014 was $46,140, which calculates to about $22.18 an hour. For this vocation, the top ten percentile of wage estimates were about $70,270 annually. The top-paying states for liquid waste treatment technicians were California, Washington, Nevada, the District of Columbia, and Alaska.

Jobs in this field are expected to grow as fast as average, at 8% in the 2012-2022 decade, reports the BLS. These jobs are expected to increase as the population increases. You might also find additional job opportunities due to the low number of applications for these jobs.

What Are the Requirements?

Education and Training

Typically, a GED or a high school diploma is needed to become a liquid waste treatment technician. However, associate degree and certificate programs are also available in waste-water treatment technology or water-quality management. These educational options can help reduce the amount of training you'll need. Look for these programs at trade associations, community colleges and vocational schools.

After you've been hired, you'll enter a job-training program. This is a process that starts you off as an operator-in-training. You'll observe and learn under the guidance of a liquid waste treatment operator. This training period might be combined with some study programs in an informal or formal setting, depending on your employer's preference.


Every state requires liquid waste treatment technicians to be licensed. This is to ensure that people are properly trained to eliminate impurities in water before re-circulation occurs. Licensing requirements vary from state to state. Generally, examinations have to be completed to test your knowledge of liquid waste treatment. There are four levels of licensing. Your level of training and the amount of time you've been working determines which licenses you qualify for. In some cases, one state might honor another state's license if you have to relocate. If another state's license isn't accepted, then you'll need to go through the licensing procedures again.

What Do Employers Want?

Some postsecondary education is becoming increasingly preferred by many employers. Mathematical and mechanical skills are valued as well. Employers are looking for liquid waste treatment technicians capable of following data formulas used for concentration and flow levels. If you're already familiar with different types of tools, you will be better prepared to repair, operate and maintain liquid waste treatment machinery. You can look below at some information taken from real job postings in April 2012.

  • In Illinois, a laboratory sought waste-water operator applicants who had at least two years of postsecondary education.
  • A South Carolina waste-water treatment facility needed a liquid waste treatment technician that had previous experience working with high purity water equipment.
  • A waste-water treatment facility in Illinois had a technician opening that called for someone with record-keeping experience.
  • In Louisiana, a treatment company was looking for a waste-water treatment operator who was willing to work outdoors and could carry up to 50 lbs.

How to Stand Out in the Field

Attending a leadership program or conference with a professional organization in this field can help you learn more and be noticed as a serious waste treatment technician. Organizations such as the American Water Works Association (AWWA) offer leadership programs. The length of these programs can vary, but some take up to two weeks.

As a part of attending this program, a trained professional gives you a personal assessment of your skills. By acknowledging what your strengths and weaknesses are, you know what to work on to help you stand out from your peers. Additionally, you'll get the chance to network and learn new management techniques. These skills can assist you in finding promotional or better job opportunities in liquid waste treatment.

Alternative Vocational Choices

Stationary Engineer/Boiler Operator

If you enjoy working in a plant operation, but you don't like the idea of working with liquid waste, then you might become a stationary engineer or boiler operator instead. In this occupation, you'll work in an industrial plant and gauge various systems and machinery. This is done to ensure that turbines, pumps, compressors, generators and boilers are functioning correctly. You'll perform routine repairs on these machines and do emergency repairs as necessary. The BLS found in May 2011 that stationary engineers and boiler operators earned roughly $54,000 annually on average.

Power Plant Operator

Alternatively, consider a career as a power plant operator. Power plants help generate electricity and require specialized operators. As a power plant operator, you would distribute power amongst generators by using specialized control boards. You would regulate this flow of power across substations and generation stations. Power plant operators made an average yearly salary of roughly $64,000 in May 2011 according to the BLS.

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