U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Water work: Jobs related to water utilities

| April 2017

More than 70 percent of the earth’s surface is covered in it.

We use most of it for purposes other than drinking.

We need it to survive.

It’s water, of course. But less than 1 percent of this essential compound is accessible for our consumption. We rely on workers in water and wastewater treatment to keep the supply we do have clean and safe—and available to us.

Chemical addition process in water treatment plant

Industries related to water utilities include local government utilities; water, sewage, and other systems; and water and sewer system construction. As chart 1 shows, employment in local government utilities and water, sewage, and other systems has been relatively stable over the past decade. Water and sewer system construction employment, like construction employment as a whole, has fluctuated.  

chart image_water utility jobs chart 1

These industries employ workers in a variety of jobs, including those in:

As table 1 shows, compared with all occupations, many of the selected occupations offer either higher pay or better job prospects, or both. And you can enter most of the occupations shown in the table with a high school diploma and on-the-job training.

Table 1. Median hourly wages, projected employment growth, and typical education and training, all industries, for selected occupations related to water utilities.

Table 1. Selected occupations related to water utilitiesMedian hourly wages, projected employment growth, and typical education and training, all industriesMedian hourly wage, all industries, 2016Employment growth, all industries, projected 2014-24 (percent)EducationWork experience in a related occupationOn-the-job trainingGeneral and operations managersMedian hourly wage, all industries, 2016: $47.74Employment growth, all industries, projected 2014-24 (percent): 7.1Education: Bachelor's degreeWork experience in a related occupation: 5 years or moreOn-the-job training: NoneFirst-line supervisors of production and operating workersMedian hourly wage, all industries, 2016: $27.78Employment growth, all industries, projected 2014-24 (percent): -3.1Education: High school diploma or equivalentWork experience in a related occupation: Less than 5 yearsOn-the-job training: NonePipelayersMedian hourly wage, all industries, 2016: $18.74Employment growth, all industries, projected 2014-24 (percent): 11.4Education: No formal educational credentialWork experience in a related occupation: NoneOn-the-job training: Short-term on-the-job trainingPlumbers, pipefitters, and steamfittersMedian hourly wage, all industries, 2016: $24.74Employment growth, all industries, projected 2014-24 (percent): 11.5Education: High school diploma or equivalentWork experience in a related occupation: NoneOn-the-job training: ApprenticeshipWater and wastewater treatment plant and system operatorsMedian hourly wage, all industries, 2016: $22.00Employment growth, all industries, projected 2014-24 (percent): 6.0Education: High school diploma or equivalentWork experience in a related occupation: NoneOn-the-job training: Long-term on-the-job trainingConstruction equipment operatorsMedian hourly wage, all industries, 2016: $21.65Employment growth, all industries, projected 2014-24 (percent): 10.2Education: High school diploma or equivalentWork experience in a related occupation: NoneOn-the-job training: Moderate-term on-the-job trainingUtilities meter readersMedian hourly wage, all industries, 2016: $18.72Employment growth, all industries, projected 2014-24 (percent): -18.0Education: High school diploma or equivalentWork experience in a related occupation: NoneOn-the-job training: Short-term on-the-job trainingGeneral maintenance and repair workersMedian hourly wage, all industries, 2016: $17.76Employment growth, all industries, projected 2014-24 (percent): 6.1Education: High school diploma or equivalentWork experience in a related occupation: NoneOn-the-job training: Long-term on-the-job trainingConstruction laborersMedian hourly wage, all industries, 2016: $16.07Employment growth, all industries, projected 2014-24 (percent): 12.7Education: No formal education credentialWork experience in a related occupation: NoneOn-the-job training: Short-term on-the-job trainingAll occupationsMedian hourly wage, all industries, 2016: $17.81Employment growth, all industries, projected 2014-24 (percent): 6.5Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics program (wages) and Employment Projections program (projections, education, experience, training).

In addition to opportunities arising from growth, opportunities are expected from the need to replace workers who leave these occupations permanently. Chart 2 shows selected occupations related to water and wastewater treatment that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects to have higher-than-average replacement rates through 2024.

chart image_water utility jobs chart 2

Learn more about these and other occupations in the Occupational Outlook Handbook. Detailed industry and occupation projections are available from the Employment Projections program.  

Related Career Outlook articles:

Elka Torpey is an economist in the Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections, BLS. She can be reached at torpey.elka@bls.gov.
Suggested citation:

Elka Torpey, "Water work: Jobs related to water utilities," Career Outlook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 2017.