State Water Board Wastewater Certification

How to Become a Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator

To work in a public wastewater treatment plant or a private wastewater treatment plant regulated by the PUC, you must have a valid wastewater treatment plant operator certificate or an operator-in-training certificate. The wastewater certification program is administered by the State Water Resources Control Board. There are three major things that you must do to get certified:

  1. You must take courses related to the profession. Several California universities and community colleges offer programs dedicated to training wastewater operators. The State Water Board Wastewater Operator Certification Program (WWOCP) can also accept coursework from a nonprofit organization in math, wastewater, physics, engineering, chemistry or biology. The number and difficulty of classes you take depends on the certificate grade you want.
  2. You must pass a written exam given by the State Water Resources Control Board. Wastewater treatment plant operator certification exams are given twice each year, once in mid-April and once in mid-October. Exams for all five grades are given at the same time at several locations throughout the state. To take an exam, you must show that you meet the minimum educational requirements and submit a fee and application. Please see this sheet for the WWOCP fee schedule.
  3. You must meet experience requirements and submit a fee and an application for a certificate. Your experience must be in the operation of a wastewater treatment plant with a valid operator certificate or operator-in-training certificate. You may submit your application for a certificate up to four years after you pass the written exam.

If you have no experience as an operator, you must apply for an Operator-in-Training (OIT) Certificate. The owners of the facility do the hiring of operators, usually a city, county or special district. Watch the CWEA job board for OIT job openings or internships.

The State of California Office of Operator Certification administers the certification program for wastewater treatment plant operators who work for publicly or privately owned facilities. The California Water Environment Association administers the certification program for operators of privately-owned industrial wastewater pre-treatment facilities (these are usually private companies that use water in some manufacturing process and discharge the wastewater into a sewer system).

More Information About Operator Careers:

For information about previous State Water Board revisions to the operator certification program, please see the CWEA E-Bulletin >

Educational Resources

For more wastewater operator educational opportunities download Wastewater Operator Training Directory [PDF].


State Water Resources Control Board
Office of Operator Certification

P.O. Box 944212
Sacramento, CA 94244-2120
Attn: Wastewater Op Cert
Telephone: (916) 341-5819
Fax: (916) 341-5734

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