Wastewater operators may be the world’s ultimate recyclers—they take the substance most plentiful on earth (water), purify it by removing chemicals and solid waste, then filter it back to Mother Nature. Throughout their day, wastewater operators may work with water samples, generate computer reports and treat water with chemicals for testing.
Wastewater operators earned an average of $41,580 per year across the country in 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics’ wages report. Operators seeking higher salaries should check into industries such as pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing, offering an annual mean wage of approximately $54,320, much higher than the national average. The Federal Executive Branch of the government also offered its wastewater employees a higher salary, at $52,630.
The key to earning the highest wastewater salary may be heading west. The western part of the country offered some of the highest salaries for wastewater operators, with Nevada leading the country at $58,520. California earned second place with its wastewater operators earning approximately $57,620. In third place was the District of Columbia, paying $53,620. Back on the West Coast, Alaska at $53,570 and Washington state at $51,890 rounded out the top five.
While graduation from high school is technically the only requirement for earning a salary in wastewater operations, prospective candidates may find enrolling in a community wastewater-treatment technology or water-quality degree or diploma program separates them from the pack. Otherwise, training is provided on the job. All wastewater operators are required to be certified by their respective state; each state’s guidelines vary.
Wastewater operators looking to earn a salary in their field should expect a heavy flow of potential, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS reports the field is expected to grow by 20 percent, or 22,500 jobs, through the year 2018, much faster than other occupations. The BLS suggests that operators who possess problem-solving skills and mechanical aptitude will be the most likely to secure salaries.