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.  

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

  • management and supervision;
  • design and construction;
  • operations and maintenance; and
  • office and administrative support.

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 utilities Median hourly wages, projected employment growth, and typical education and training, all industries Median hourly wage, all industries, 2016
Employment growth, all industries, projected 2014-24 (percent)
Education
Work experience in a related occupation
On-the-job training General and operations managers
Median hourly wage, all industries, 2016: $47.74
Employment growth, all industries, projected 2014-24 (percent): 7.1
Education: Bachelor's degree
Work experience in a related occupation: 5 years or more
On-the-job training: None First-line supervisors of production and operating workers
Median hourly wage, all industries, 2016: $27.78
Employment growth, all industries, projected 2014-24 (percent): -3.1
Education: High school diploma or equivalent
Work experience in a related occupation: Less than 5 years
On-the-job training: None Pipelayers
Median hourly wage, all industries, 2016: $18.74
Employment growth, all industries, projected 2014-24 (percent): 11.4
Education: No formal educational credential
Work experience in a related occupation: None
On-the-job training: Short-term on-the-job training Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters
Median hourly wage, all industries, 2016: $24.74
Employment growth, all industries, projected 2014-24 (percent): 11.5
Education: High school diploma or equivalent
Work experience in a related occupation: None
On-the-job training: Apprenticeship Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators
Median hourly wage, all industries, 2016: $22.00
Employment growth, all industries, projected 2014-24 (percent): 6.0
Education: High school diploma or equivalent
Work experience in a related occupation: None
On-the-job training: Long-term on-the-job training Construction equipment operators
Median hourly wage, all industries, 2016: $21.65
Employment growth, all industries, projected 2014-24 (percent): 10.2
Education: High school diploma or equivalent
Work experience in a related occupation: None
On-the-job training: Moderate-term on-the-job training Utilities meter readers
Median hourly wage, all industries, 2016: $18.72
Employment growth, all industries, projected 2014-24 (percent): -18.0
Education: High school diploma or equivalent
Work experience in a related occupation: None
On-the-job training: Short-term on-the-job training General maintenance and repair workers
Median hourly wage, all industries, 2016: $17.76
Employment growth, all industries, projected 2014-24 (percent): 6.1
Education: High school diploma or equivalent
Work experience in a related occupation: None
On-the-job training: Long-term on-the-job training Construction laborers
Median hourly wage, all industries, 2016: $16.07
Employment growth, all industries, projected 2014-24 (percent): 12.7
Education: No formal education credential
Work experience in a related occupation: None
On-the-job training: Short-term on-the-job training All occupations
Median hourly wage, all industries, 2016: $17.81
Employment growth, all industries, projected 2014-24 (percent): 6.5 Source: 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.

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.

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