Water career trends and growth very promising

For water quality technicians, employers are looking for workers who can combine hands-on, field sampling skills gained from a technical school or direct work experience, with the analytical skills typically gained through a bachelor’s degree program. Click to enlarge.

By Jennifer Schultz

Careers in water quality are not just in high demand, they are also undergoing rapid changes. Climate change, population growth and urbanization create new challenges that professionals must address to reduce negative impacts on water resources. To determine the current status and future growth of Canada’s water quality workforce, Environmental Careers Organization (ECO) Canada conducted a recent study, titled Careers in Water Quality.

Current demand

In 2013, Canada had an estimated 1.8 million workers who used environmental skills as part of their work activities. Some 500,000 apply water quality skills in their work, while roughly 83,500 professionals work in core water quality careers. While most industries have a demand for water quality practitioners, the three most likely to hire water quality practitioners are government, consulting firms and water utilities.

Educational requirements,
skills and competencies

The water quality job market is shifting to higher educational requirements. Nearly 75% of new job openings in water quality require a bachelor’s degree. However, only 25% of the water quality labour force has one. Across most water quality occupations, water quality practitioners require similar environmental skills and competencies such as:

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  • Analyzing or interpreting environmental samples and data.
  • Liaising and partnering with stakeholders.
  • Presenting expert information on environmental matters.
  • Developing sustainable development indicators, plans or strategies, and implementing or monitoring sustainable development strategies or programs.
  • Conducting environmental assessments.
  • Developing or implementing environmental communications and awareness programs.

Water career options and salaries

Research shows that most water quality jobs involve eight broad practice areas:

  • Integrated water resources and watershed management.
  • Protection of groundwater from contamination.
  • Protection of surface water.
  • Marine water quality.
  • Aquaculture and food processing.
  • Municipal water systems, including water treatment, water distribution, wastewater treatment and wastewater collection.
  • Green building.
  • Water quality education, communication, policy and planning.

Career pathways

Water resources engineers, water quality scientists, and professionals in water quality communications, education, policy and planning often begin with a bachelor’s degree. For water quality technicians, it is at least a three-year diploma.

Typically, the listed professionals make lateral career moves between different types of roles and employers, such as NGOs, governments, private industry, or consulting.

Engineers, water systems operators, and green building professionals, follow more vertical career pathways. These workers progress from entry-level to senior level positions and through progressive management roles.

Municipal water systems operators follow a more narrowly defined career path through four classes of certification. Based on their certification level and experience, these practitioners move up into system supervisor, operations manager, or facility manager positions.

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