Careers in Water Treatment

Water treatment and our world go hand in hand, even if you don't know it (and many don't, so don't worry, you're not alone). As an industry, taking care of our water has been important since the beginning of civilization. Water treatment consists of more than just your township maintenance person coming to check your water usage levels or to turn the water lines on or off in your neighborhood. Although that is the most visible and most well-known aspect of water treatment, at the Association of Water Technologies (AWT), we represent an entirely different aspect of water treatment personnel. In the commercial and industrial industries, water treatment is viewed as a means of helping a company and their buildings be energy efficient by maximizing heat transfer from one equipment surface to another, as well as by keeping the HVAC system piping clear of potential foulants, like scale, corrosion, and microbiological contamination. Basically, water treatment describes those processes used to make water more acceptable for a desired end-use, which can include use as drinking water or industrial processes, HVAC cooling or heating, or waste processing.

Water treatment can include chemical, mechanical, or physical processes.The goal is for water to be optimally utilized, thus providing energy and financial savings with conservative water usage and reduced energy usage. Maintaining an efficient and successful water treatment program is a team effort. In our industry, you will find that our teams have a plethora of moving parts, not all of which are even science related.

The following is a breakdown of the various career pathways available in industrial water treatment. One thing to note however, is that just like water treatment systems, each water treatment company is unique. Some of the job responsibilities listed may be combined and be completed by a single person within a company, while other jobs may not be required by a company at all. Water treatment companies encompass a variety of products and services, ranging from service providers to testing laboratories to manufacturers of water treatment equipment or products. Choosing the best path to take within the water treatment industry will depend on your personal interests and strengths. Whichever your career choice, you will become part of one large family in the spectrum of water treaters working together toward the same goal.

Water Technology Career Descriptions

  • Office Manager (OM) — An OM in the water treatment industry is responsible for developing and implementing new administration systems, such as record management, and for reviewing and updating health and safety policies. The OM is likely to manage a team of staff, often including administrative assistants. They often manage, for example, the reception area, mailroom, and security personnel. Their role might also include recruitment, training and induction of new staff, and ensuring adequate labor coverage at all times. Managing event and meeting planning could also be included in the duties of an OM, as companies often host training or holiday events for their customers. In most instances, an associate degree is required for the position of OM, although a bachelor's degree in arts or business may be preferred.
  • Administrative Assistant (AA) — An AA in the water treatment industry performs basic office operations relating to documents and files. The primary duty is to assist in everyday basic office operations. This can range from document filing for HR, accounting, or correspondence reports; office organization; telephone operations; recordkeeping; and miscellaneous projects, as necessary. An AA will typically report to the office manager and would be trained in water treatment at a basic introductory level. A high school diploma is generally required to be an AA, although an associate or bachelor's degree in arts or business may be preferred.
  • Sales Manager (SM) — An SM is responsible for maintaining customers and bringing on new accounts, selling prospective clients on cost savings, and providing customers with efficient and friendly service. The SM can be either an entry or experienced level position. An effective SM requires basic water treatment training, which may be provided on the job. As an SM, you can expect to become familiar with everyday processes in the water treatment industry and use this knowledge to cold call new account prospects and continuously follow up with potential prospects to help ensure the successful acquisition of new accounts. A sales position within a water treatment company typically involves traveling in and around the company's operational area. It is desirable that an SM have a bachelor's degree, preferably in business or marketing, along with 3 to 5 years of experience as a sales representative.
  • Service Technician (ST) — The primary duty of an ST is to service water systems for existing accounts. This is typically an entry level position. Initial and continued training is provided by the company throughout the ST's career as techniques and technology evolve in the industry. The job often involves handling chemicals and installing and maintaining water treatment equipment. ST's are typically responsible for testing water treatment systems to ensure proper chemical levels and completing service reports using the test results. Being an ST with a water treatment company often requires traveling in and around the company's operational area. To become an ST, either an associate or bachelor's degree in chemistry, biology, environmental science/engineering, or chemical engineering is preferred.
  • Water Treatment Specialist (WTS) — A WTS is a position in the water treatment industry that requires experience. A WTS begins as an ST and works up to a specialist position within the industry. After five years of experience and combined training provided by a water treatment company and the AWT, a service technician can potentially learn enough to obtain their Certified Water Technologist (CWT) designation. Obtaining the CWT designation denotes that the performance of an individual reflects current best practices of the industry and that the individual possesses outstanding knowledge in the industry regarding application and treatment programs. Upon obtaining this certification and becoming a WTS, an individual may draft reports and quotations and interpret and discuss results of service visits with clients. As WTSs begin as STs, the preferred requirements for this career path are to have an associate or bachelor's degree in chemistry, biology, environmental science/engineering, or chemical engineering, followed by at least five years of ST experience.
  • Customer Service Representative (CSR) — Being a CSR requires the ability to handle multiple tasks. Usually, a CSR will handle incoming telephone calls from customers regarding order placement, service visit requests, and complaints. CSRs may also make calls to customers and suppliers regarding order status and inventory updates, and to obtain miscellaneous information, as necessary. A pleasant and accommodating CSR is a valuable asset to a water treatment business. In most instances, a high school diploma is required to work as a CSR, although an associate degree in arts or business may be preferred. In today's fast paced workplace, having knowledge or experience in computer-based systems such as Microsoft Office and other technological applications is incredibly helpful in making order entry and tracking efficient. It is beneficial for a CSR to be a skilled typist and to have good organizational skills to ensure efficient data entry and competency in managing office tasks.
  • Laboratory Technician (LT) — An LT works in a laboratory setting to perform water-testing assays on samples obtained by STs or WTSs. This position is typically entry level, with initial and continuous training provided by the water treatment company. LTs may be responsible for handling laboratory chemicals and analysis equipment, maintaining laboratory inventory, and completing analysis sheets with test results. LTs often report to a laboratory analyst. Preferably, an LT will have a degree in chemistry or another analytical science.
  • Laboratory Analyst (LA) — An LA position in the water treatment industry is one that requires both training and experience. The LA position is often filled by someone who has worked a number of years as an LT, and after obtaining experience and expertise in interpreting results, is promoted to be an LA. Responsibilities of an LA include overseeing the laboratory activities, managing LTs, and training the LTs in proper analysis techniques and data recording. A critical part of an LA's job is to interpret analytical results from various analyses and to provide reports for STs and WTSs, including recommendations. Like the LTs, LAs will typically have a degree in chemistry or another analytical science, but they continue to earn continuing education credits in science and management related courses to progress in their careers.
  • Manufacturer Technician (MT) — MTs in the water treatment industry often work at water treatment equipment manufacturing plants. An MT is responsible for aspects of the manufacturing process such as building, testing, and inspecting products or product subassemblies for quality or functionality. An MT may also work to troubleshoot problems with products or equipment. In addition to their production responsibilities, MTs may be expected to document production logs, operating procedures, and maintain productivity reports while keeping inventory of materials required for production. Some MTs are encouraged to assist in new product or prototype development as advances in technology occur in the ever-evolving water treatment industry. Some MTs help find ways for operations to run more efficiently. MTs are a valuable asset to the water treatment industry, as their knowledge and skills help to provide service technicians and water treatment specialists with the necessary technical support to effectively and efficiently maintain customers' systems. In most instances, an MT will have a mechanical, electric, environmental, or computer engineering degree.
  • Product Developer (PD) — PDs in the water treatment industry are often found at water treatment product (chemical) manufacturing or blending plants. A PD typically has a background in engineering or chemistry and works closely with other personnel in the industry, including marketers, accountants, other scientists, executives, service technicians, and water treatment specialists. They are responsible for the safety, functionality, cost, and style of the products being manufactured. PDs are responsible for conducting research to support a product gaining competitive advantage over other similar products in the market while maintaining cost effective production. In addition, PDs are responsible for coordinating with other personnel to create operational, safety, and labeling documentation for newly developed products.
  • Plant Manager (PM) — PMs in the water treatment industry have similar roles to those of office managers, except that they operate in the manufacturing setting as opposed to the office setting. PMs supervise the daily operations of equipment or product manufacturing plants and oversee employees, production, and efficiency. They are responsible for making sure the plant is running smoothly, quickly, and safely. They are responsible for creating and keeping work and production schedules; hiring and training new employees; collecting and reviewing data to identify waste or potential for improvement; maintaining worker and plant safety; and monitoring production equipment for quality, wear, and repair and replacing equipment as necessary. PMs are responsible for quality control prior to manufactured products leaving the plant. They serve as the communicator between departments, so effective communication skills are a must. PMs generally require a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering, business administration, or a similar discipline, although occasionally an experienced MT or an experienced PD becomes a PM after taking management classes.
  • Marketing Specialist (MKTS) — An MKTS assists in marketing the products and services of the company to its customers. An MKTS is trained to research habits and trends of the customer and uses this information to develop ideas for creative and effective marketing campaigns. They determine the most efficient means of reaching and communicating with the industry's target customer. Because of their unique skillset, MKTSs are often called upon to assist OMs in planning corporate event functions, often coordinating with familiar external vendors. An MKTS generally requires a bachelor's degree in marketing or communications.
  • Human Resources Specialist (HRS) — An HRS is the office personnel responsible for recruiting, screening, interviewing, and placing workers within the water treatment company. Depending upon the size and structure of the company, they may also handle employee relations, payroll, benefits, and training. HRSs have similar job duties to those of an OM and may aid in planning, directing, and coordinating the administrative functions of an organization. They often consult with executives on strategic planning and serve as a liaison or negotiator between a company's management staff and its employees. The HRS is required to handle confidential information in a professional manner. Generally, an HRS must be good at multitasking, as they are often required to handle a number of responsibilities simultaneously. A bachelor's degree in human resources, business, or a related field is required to be an HRS.
  • Accounting Specialist (AS) — An AS for a water treatment company has the responsibility of providing accounting support for accounts payable, general ledger accounting, and account reconciliation. An AS may also be responsible for handling payroll or maintaining a balanced corporate financial portfolio for the company. To work as an AS for a water treatment company, a bachelor's degree in accounting or finance is required.

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