Clean water is one of life's essentials. Water technicians help ensure that drinking water is free from contaminants that can cause illness. The title "water technician" can apply to a number of jobs within the water testing and treatment industry. Working as a water technician can mean wearing several different hats all in the same day.
Water Technician Job Description
The City and County of San Francisco's Department of Human Resources describes a civil service water technician position as involving both collection of water samples and laboratory testing. A water technician collects water samples from water treatment facilities as well as from lakes, sewers, pools and wells. The technician may perform simple laboratory tests in the field or more sophisticated tests in a laboratory. Since careful record keeping is essential, the water technician must also maintain meticulous records of the collection areas, methods and results and report abnormal findings to the proper authorities. She must also know and follow safe laboratory practices, including calibrating and maintaining equipment and using sterile techniques to avoid contaminating samples.
Typical Educational Requirements
A water technician must have at least a high school diploma, although in many cases employers prefer to hire a person with either an associate degree or higher in biology, chemistry or a related field. In lieu of a degree, the City and County of San Francisco's Department of Human Resources accepts one year of verifiable experience working as a field or laboratory technician in a water or waste water utility for a water quality technician I position. Some positions may require certification showing proficiency in laboratory procedures. For government positions, a water technician may have to pass a civil service examination.
Where They Work
Many water technicians work for government facilities, either at a local or national level. Others work for independent water-testing companies. A water technician will work under the supervision of scientists or laboratory directors. Approximately 27 percent of environmental science technicians, a category that includes water quality technicians, work in state or local government positions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. About 23 percent work for consulting firms, and 13 percent work in testing laboratories.
Salary and Job Opportunities
Environmental science technicians in general made a median salary of $18.83 per hour or $41,240 per year in May 2012, according to the BLS. Job growth in this field will increase by 19 percent per year, or faster than projected average growth for all jobs, the BLS predicts. Salaries are highest for those working in local government agencies and lowest for those working in testing laboratories.
Much of the work a water technician does requires spending time outdoors, no matter what the weather conditions. A water technician may often drive from one site to another to collect samples.
2016 Salary Information for Environmental Science and Protection Technicians
Environmental science and protection technicians earned a median annual salary of $44,190 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, environmental science and protection technicians earned a 25th percentile salary of $34,270, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $58,280, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 34,600 people were employed in the U.S. as environmental science and protection technicians.