Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant and System Operators
Operate or control an entire process or system of machines, often through the use of control boards, to transfer or treat water or wastewater.
Sample of reported job titles: Plant Operator, Process Operator (Process Op), Relief Operator, SCADA Operator (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition Operator), Waste Water Treatment Plant Operator (WWTP Operator), Wastewater Operator (WW Operator), Water Control Dispatcher, Water Plant Operator, Water Treatment Operator, Water Treatment Plant Operator
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Tasks | Technology Skills | Tools Used | Knowledge | Skills | Abilities | Work Activities | Detailed Work Activities | Work Context | Job Zone | Education | Credentials | Interests | Work Styles | Work Values | Related Occupations | Wages & Employment | Job Openings | Additional Information
- Add chemicals, such as ammonia, chlorine, or lime, to disinfect and deodorize water and other liquids.
- Collect and test water and sewage samples, using test equipment and color analysis standards.
- Record operational data, personnel attendance, or meter and gauge readings on specified forms.
- Operate and adjust controls on equipment to purify and clarify water, process or dispose of sewage, and generate power.
- Inspect equipment or monitor operating conditions, meters, and gauges to determine load requirements and detect malfunctions.
- Maintain, repair, and lubricate equipment, using hand tools and power tools.
- Clean and maintain tanks, filter beds, and other work areas, using hand tools and power tools.
- Direct and coordinate plant workers engaged in routine operations and maintenance activities.
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- Compliance software — Material safety data sheet MSDS software
- Data base user interface and query software — Data logging software; Database software
- Document management software — Records management software
- Electronic mail software — Microsoft Outlook
- Industrial control software — Human machine interface HMI software; Supervisory control and data acquisition SCADA software ; Wastewater expert control systems
- Office suite software — Microsoft Office
- Presentation software — Microsoft PowerPoint
- Spreadsheet software — Microsoft Excel
- Time accounting software — Timekeeping software
- Word processing software — Microsoft Word
Hot Technology — a technology requirement frequently included in employer job postings.
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- Chemistry — Knowledge of the chemical composition, structure, and properties of substances and of the chemical processes and transformations that they undergo. This includes uses of chemicals and their interactions, danger signs, production techniques, and disposal methods.
- Biology — Knowledge of plant and animal organisms, their tissues, cells, functions, interdependencies, and interactions with each other and the environment.
- Mechanical — Knowledge of machines and tools, including their designs, uses, repair, and maintenance.
- Mathematics — Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
- Production and Processing — Knowledge of raw materials, production processes, quality control, costs, and other techniques for maximizing the effective manufacture and distribution of goods.
- Public Safety and Security — Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.
- Engineering and Technology — Knowledge of the practical application of engineering science and technology. This includes applying principles, techniques, procedures, and equipment to the design and production of various goods and services.
- Administration and Management — Knowledge of business and management principles involved in strategic planning, resource allocation, human resources modeling, leadership technique, production methods, and coordination of people and resources.
- Computers and Electronics — Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.
- Administrative — Knowledge of administrative and office procedures and systems such as word processing, managing files and records, stenography and transcription, designing forms, and workplace terminology.
- Education and Training — Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
- English Language — Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
- Customer and Personal Service — Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
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- Operations Monitoring — Watching gauges, dials, or other indicators to make sure a machine is working properly.
- Operation and Control — Controlling operations of equipment or systems.
- Monitoring — Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
- Active Listening — Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
- Quality Control Analysis — Conducting tests and inspections of products, services, or processes to evaluate quality or performance.
- Critical Thinking — Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.
- Equipment Maintenance — Performing routine maintenance on equipment and determining when and what kind of maintenance is needed.
- Repairing — Repairing machines or systems using the needed tools.
- Speaking — Talking to others to convey information effectively.
- Troubleshooting — Determining causes of operating errors and deciding what to do about it.
- Judgment and Decision Making — Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
- Reading Comprehension — Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents.
- Complex Problem Solving — Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
- Mathematics — Using mathematics to solve problems.
- Systems Evaluation — Identifying measures or indicators of system performance and the actions needed to improve or correct performance, relative to the goals of the system.
- Time Management — Managing one’s own time and the time of others.
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- Oral Comprehension — The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
- Oral Expression — The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
- Near Vision — The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
- Written Comprehension — The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
- Deductive Reasoning — The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
- Perceptual Speed — The ability to quickly and accurately compare similarities and differences among sets of letters, numbers, objects, pictures, or patterns. The things to be compared may be presented at the same time or one after the other. This ability also includes comparing a presented object with a remembered object.
- Problem Sensitivity — The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing that there is a problem.
- Inductive Reasoning — The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
- Information Ordering — The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).
- Selective Attention — The ability to concentrate on a task over a period of time without being distracted.
- Speech Clarity — The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.
- Speech Recognition — The ability to identify and understand the speech of another person.
- Written Expression — The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.
- Control Precision — The ability to quickly and repeatedly adjust the controls of a machine or a vehicle to exact positions.
- Far Vision — The ability to see details at a distance.
- Manual Dexterity — The ability to quickly move your hand, your hand together with your arm, or your two hands to grasp, manipulate, or assemble objects.
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- Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards — Using relevant information and individual judgment to determine whether events or processes comply with laws, regulations, or standards.
- Controlling Machines and Processes — Using either control mechanisms or direct physical activity to operate machines or processes (not including computers or vehicles).
- Making Decisions and Solving Problems — Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
- Monitoring Processes, Materials, or Surroundings — Monitoring and reviewing information from materials, events, or the environment, to detect or assess problems.
- Processing Information — Compiling, coding, categorizing, calculating, tabulating, auditing, or verifying information or data.
- Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events — Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
- Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Materials — Inspecting equipment, structures, or materials to identify the cause of errors or other problems or defects.
- Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates — Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
- Documenting/Recording Information — Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
- Getting Information — Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
- Interpreting the Meaning of Information for Others — Translating or explaining what information means and how it can be used.
- Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge — Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.
- Analyzing Data or Information — Identifying the underlying principles, reasons, or facts of information by breaking down information or data into separate parts.
- Repairing and Maintaining Mechanical Equipment — Servicing, repairing, adjusting, and testing machines, devices, moving parts, and equipment that operate primarily on the basis of mechanical (not electronic) principles.
- Working with Computers — Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.
- Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships — Developing constructive and cooperative working relationships with others, and maintaining them over time.
- Estimating the Quantifiable Characteristics of Products, Events, or Information — Estimating sizes, distances, and quantities; or determining time, costs, resources, or materials needed to perform a work activity.
- Repairing and Maintaining Electronic Equipment — Servicing, repairing, calibrating, regulating, fine-tuning, or testing machines, devices, and equipment that operate primarily on the basis of electrical or electronic (not mechanical) principles.
- Judging the Qualities of Objects, Services, or People — Assessing the value, importance, or quality of things or people.
- Training and Teaching Others — Identifying the educational needs of others, developing formal educational or training programs or classes, and teaching or instructing others.
- Developing Objectives and Strategies — Establishing long-range objectives and specifying the strategies and actions to achieve them.
- Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work — Developing specific goals and plans to prioritize, organize, and accomplish your work.
- Performing for or Working Directly with the Public — Performing for people or dealing directly with the public. This includes serving customers in restaurants and stores, and receiving clients or guests.
- Communicating with People Outside the Organization — Communicating with people outside the organization, representing the organization to customers, the public, government, and other external sources. This information can be exchanged in person, in writing, or by telephone or e-mail.
- Coordinating the Work and Activities of Others — Getting members of a group to work together to accomplish tasks.
- Handling and Moving Objects — Using hands and arms in handling, installing, positioning, and moving materials, and manipulating things.
- Monitoring and Controlling Resources — Monitoring and controlling resources and overseeing the spending of money.
- Performing General Physical Activities — Performing physical activities that require considerable use of your arms and legs and moving your whole body, such as climbing, lifting, balancing, walking, stooping, and handling materials.
- Coaching and Developing Others — Identifying the developmental needs of others and coaching, mentoring, or otherwise helping others to improve their knowledge or skills.
- Guiding, Directing, and Motivating Subordinates — Providing guidance and direction to subordinates, including setting performance standards and monitoring performance.
- Thinking Creatively — Developing, designing, or creating new applications, ideas, relationships, systems, or products, including artistic contributions.
- Assisting and Caring for Others — Providing personal assistance, medical attention, emotional support, or other personal care to others such as coworkers, customers, or patients.
- Operating Vehicles, Mechanized Devices, or Equipment — Running, maneuvering, navigating, or driving vehicles or mechanized equipment, such as forklifts, passenger vehicles, aircraft, or watercraft.
- Scheduling Work and Activities — Scheduling events, programs, and activities, as well as the work of others.
- Performing Administrative Activities — Performing day-to-day administrative tasks such as maintaining information files and processing paperwork.
- Resolving Conflicts and Negotiating with Others — Handling complaints, settling disputes, and resolving grievances and conflicts, or otherwise negotiating with others.
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Detailed Work Activities
- Operate chemical processing or water treatment systems or equipment.
- Collect samples of materials or products for testing.
- Test chemical or physical characteristics of materials or products.
- Record operational or production data.
- Inspect production equipment.
- Maintain production or processing equipment.
- Lubricate production equipment.
- Repair production equipment or tools.
- Clean production equipment.
- Clean work areas.
- Direct operational or production activities.
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- Face-to-Face Discussions — 81% responded “Every day.”
- Structured versus Unstructured Work — 62% responded “A lot of freedom.”
- Telephone — 59% responded “Every day.”
- Wear Common Protective or Safety Equipment such as Safety Shoes, Glasses, Gloves, Hearing Protection, Hard Hats, or Life Jackets — 66% responded “Every day.”
- Exposed to Contaminants — 63% responded “Every day.”
- Freedom to Make Decisions — 59% responded “A lot of freedom.”
- Exposed to Hazardous Conditions — 68% responded “Every day.”
- Importance of Being Exact or Accurate — 65% responded “Very important.”
- Indoors, Environmentally Controlled — 72% responded “Every day.”
- Sounds, Noise Levels Are Distracting or Uncomfortable — 59% responded “Every day.”
- Indoors, Not Environmentally Controlled — 47% responded “Every day.”
- Consequence of Error — 50% responded “Extremely serious.”
- Contact With Others — 45% responded “Constant contact with others.”
- Frequency of Decision Making — 57% responded “Every day.”
- Outdoors, Exposed to Weather — 30% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
- Responsible for Others’ Health and Safety — 37% responded “Very high responsibility.”
- Work With Work Group or Team — 51% responded “Very important.”
- Electronic Mail — 65% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
- Impact of Decisions on Co-workers or Company Results — 44% responded “Very important results.”
- Importance of Repeating Same Tasks — 42% responded “Extremely important.”
- Time Pressure — 42% responded “Every day.”
- Exposed to Hazardous Equipment — 34% responded “Every day.”
- Duration of Typical Work Week — 74% responded “40 hours.”
- In an Enclosed Vehicle or Equipment — 21% responded “Every day.”
- Coordinate or Lead Others — 25% responded “Important.”
- Spend Time Standing — 44% responded “About half the time.”
- Very Hot or Cold Temperatures — 33% responded “Once a month or more but not every week.”
- Outdoors, Under Cover — 30% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
- Responsibility for Outcomes and Results — 45% responded “Moderate responsibility.”
- Deal With External Customers — 34% responded “Important.”
- Degree of Automation — 43% responded “Slightly automated.”
- Pace Determined by Speed of Equipment — 31% responded “Not important at all.”
- Physical Proximity — 43% responded “Slightly close (e.g., shared office).”
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|Title||Job Zone Three: Medium Preparation Needed|
|Education||Most occupations in this zone require training in vocational schools, related on-the-job experience, or an associate’s degree.|
|Related Experience||Previous work-related skill, knowledge, or experience is required for these occupations. For example, an electrician must have completed three or four years of apprenticeship or several years of vocational training, and often must have passed a licensing exam, in order to perform the job.|
|Job Training||Employees in these occupations usually need one or two years of training involving both on-the-job experience and informal training with experienced workers. A recognized apprenticeship program may be associated with these occupations.|
|Job Zone Examples||These occupations usually involve using communication and organizational skills to coordinate, supervise, manage, or train others to accomplish goals. Examples include hydroelectric production managers, travel guides, electricians, agricultural technicians, barbers, court reporters, and medical assistants.|
|SVP Range||(6.0 to < 7.0)|
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Percentage of Respondents
|Education Level Required|
|42||High school diploma or equivalent
|21||Some college, no degree|
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Interest code: RC Want to discover your interests? Take the O*NET Interest Profiler at My Next Move.
- Realistic — Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.
- Conventional — Conventional occupations frequently involve following set procedures and routines. These occupations can include working with data and details more than with ideas. Usually there is a clear line of authority to follow.
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- Integrity — Job requires being honest and ethical.
- Dependability — Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
- Attention to Detail — Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
- Independence — Job requires developing one’s own ways of doing things, guiding oneself with little or no supervision, and depending on oneself to get things done.
- Concern for Others — Job requires being sensitive to others’ needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.
- Initiative — Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.
- Cooperation — Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
- Leadership — Job requires a willingness to lead, take charge, and offer opinions and direction.
- Adaptability/Flexibility — Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.
- Analytical Thinking — Job requires analyzing information and using logic to address work-related issues and problems.
- Self-Control — Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
- Stress Tolerance — Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high-stress situations.
- Achievement/Effort — Job requires establishing and maintaining personally challenging achievement goals and exerting effort toward mastering tasks.
- Persistence — Job requires persistence in the face of obstacles.
- Innovation — Job requires creativity and alternative thinking to develop new ideas for and answers to work-related problems.
- Social Orientation — Job requires preferring to work with others rather than alone, and being personally connected with others on the job.
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- Support — Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees. Corresponding needs are Company Policies, Supervision: Human Relations and Supervision: Technical.
- Independence — Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions. Corresponding needs are Creativity, Responsibility and Autonomy.
- Achievement — Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment. Corresponding needs are Ability Utilization and Achievement.
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Wages & Employment Trends
|Median wages (2020)||$23.60 hourly, $49,090 annual|
|Employment (2020)||122,100 employees|
|Projected growth (2020-2030)||Decline (-1% or lower)|
|Projected job openings (2020-2030)||10,500|
|Top industries (2020)||
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics 2020 wage data and 2020-2030 employment projections . “Projected growth” represents the estimated change in total employment over the projections period (2020-2030). “Projected job openings” represent openings due to growth and replacement.
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Job Openings on the Web
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Sources of Additional Information
Disclaimer: Sources are listed to provide additional information on related jobs, specialties, and/or industries. Links to non-DOL Internet sites are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement.
- American Water Works Association
- National Rural Water Association
- Occupational Outlook Handbook: Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators
- Water Environment Federation
- Work for Water
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This page includes information from O*NET OnLine by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (USDOL/ETA). Used under the CC BY 4.0 license. O*NET® is a trademark of USDOL/ETA.