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In order to become a water plant operator, you will need to have an aptitude for math and science, possess a high school diploma and obtain appropriate certification as required by your state or region. The certification process varies from state to state within the United States, with each requiring different levels of testing and field experience. Outside of the United States, countries that require certification to become a water plant operator have their own standardized licensing process. Most of the knowledge necessary for working as a water plant operator is obtained through on-the-job training after you are hired, with your work responsibilities increasing with experience.
Generally, water plant operators are hired by local and regional governments, utility companies, sewage treatment centers and private water suppliers. A high school diploma is the lowest level of education you need to become a water plant operator, but it might be easier to find employment with the addition of an associate's degree or the completion of a certified environmental studies program. These programs are sometimes offered by community colleges and trade schools. Often, years of relevant work experience can be substituted for formal education requirements.
Some job opportunities to become a water plant operator might require that you first pass the written portion of the certification process before being formally hired. In these cases, you would be provided with study material and testing procedure information. Many certification processes will include issuing a temporary license after passing one part of the test, which will allow you to work and obtain the required experience for complete certification.
Though the specific licensing process does change from place to place, there are four general standard levels of certification. Each additional level requires more experience and grants increasing responsibility and work capability within a water treatment plant. The first step to become a water plant operator is working toward obtaining the first and most basic level of certification. Not every water plant requires employment of all four levels of certification, with smaller plants only needing basic levels, because there is a smaller scope of duties that are needed to be performed.
The job of a plant operator requires operating and monitoring equipment, reading meters and gauges and recording pertinent data and information. As such, it is necessary for you to have a strong foundation of mathematics, biology and chemistry to become a water plant operator. Treatment plants operate around the clock, seven days a week, so you will also need to have a flexible schedule and be able to work odd hours and on the weekend. Additionally, there might be emergencies that require you to be called into work unexpectedly.