Wastewater treatment operators are critical for maintaining healthy and clean lakes and streams. To become a wastewater treatment operator, you have several options. Many universities and community colleges have wastewater treatment courses or certificates. You can also choose to get your certificate online from a school with wastewater treatment courses. Finally, you may select the traditional route and apprentice yourself to an operator already working in the field.

College Degree and Certificate Programs

Many universities and community colleges have certificate programs or associate degrees for wastewater treatment. Many employers prefer to hire people with degrees because they require less on-the-job training and have proven that they are truly interested in the field by obtaining their degrees. If you are interested in becoming a manager, you might consider a bachelor's degree in engineering to demonstrate that you are trained in designing and maintaining treatment systems. Some examples of schools that offer programs in wastewater treatment are Eastern Biological Wastewater Operators School in Raleigh, North Carolina, Los Angeles Trade-Technical College in Los Angeles, California, and the City of New York College in New York, New York. Your state is sure to have many such schools and programs.

Online Certificate Programs

Many students prefer the convenience of online training programs. Many online schools and training centers offer courses in wastewater management. It is important to make sure the school is accredited and offers a certificate that will be valid in your state, otherwise you will still have to undergo the certification training required by your state of residence. However, online courses may be a convenient way to get started in the wastewater treatment field, particularly for those entering the field as a second career. One example, Water Environment Federation, offers a variety of courses on wastewater treatment with a general certificate of completion at the end when the program is successfully completed.

On the Job Training

The traditional option for becoming a wastewater treatment operator is through apprenticeship. Apprentices learn by maintaining and repairing equipment in order to learn about the system. Trainees take samples of the wastewater and record the measurements, and read and record the metering results in the plant. Apprenticeship programs are becoming less common as the competition for jobs increases, however. Now, many larger wastewater treatment plants have their own training programs that new operators are required to complete before they are allowed to work in the plant.

Funding your Education

There are many options for funding your education in the wastewater treatment area, from traditional education loans to grants. One popular grant designed to aid students and new or apprentice wastewater treatment operators is the Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator On-Site Assistance Training Program, offered by the EPA. This program is a provision of the Clean Water Act that is designed to fund training for new and existing operators working in small municipal water treatment facilities.