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Online Degrees for a Career in Wastewater Treatment

Even without population growth, the demand for clean water for public, commercial and agricultural use would create a need for professionals trained in wastewater treatment. Online associate's degree programs in wastewater treatment are available for high school graduates. Though rare, online master's degree programs are also available.

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Essential Information

The most common online degree in wastewater treatment is an associate's degree. A hybrid format combines online courses in systems and theories with site visits to treatment plants. Associate's degree programs cover the practical skills to maintain and operate wastewater treatment systems, and also include general education courses like technical mathematics that enhance the major curriculum. Required professional certification for wastewater treatment technicians includes an exam that is not offered through online portals.

A few online master's degree programs in wastewater treatment may suit working civil engineers considering a career move into water treatment. These do not require any onsite or on-campus attendance. Graduate-level electives allow for a focus on technical or policy aspects of water treatment.


Overview of an Online Associate's Degree in Wastewater Treatment

An online associate's degree program in wastewater treatment applies principles from chemistry, physics and biology to the purification of water to make it fit for human consumption. Students acquire practical knowledge about filtration and treatment systems and technical skills necessary for monitoring and maintaining equipment. A high school diploma or GED is the minimum requirements for enrollment in an associate's degree program.

Program Information and Requirements

Online associate's degree programs in wastewater treatment are a hybrid of online and traditional instruction, because some courses require students to visit a treatment plant site to observe day-to-day operations. Readings, lectures and other materials in the online portion may be accessed around the clock through the school's website and finished assignments and exams may be submitted through the same portal. The minimum technical requirements for participation in an online course include a personal computer and Internet access. An associate's degree is typically earned in two years.

List of Common Wastewater Treatment Associate's Degree Courses

Associate's degree programs generally include a liberal arts component. However, courses in a wastewater treatment program that aren't specifically about the topic, such as technical math or environmental science, may still be closely related.

Wastewater Technology Introductory Course

Students review basic concepts in the treatment of water and wastewater. Course work covers water management infrastructure and the role it plays in the collection, storage, processing, discharge and distribution of water.

Treatment Plant Operations Course

Students learn common practices and procedures used in wastewater treatment plants. Topics covered include water testing and equipment monitoring and calibration.

Purification Systems Course

The fundamental concepts and principles in the pretreatment and purification of water are the focuses of this course. Aeration, filtration, disinfection and flocculation (process whereby soil forms lumps) are among the topics covered.

Career Information for Wastewater Treatment Associate's Degree Graduates

Graduates of an online associate's degree program in wastewater treatment are qualified for entry-level positions as technicians in municipal and industrial wastewater treatment facilities. Employment of wastewater treatment technicians is projected to increase 20% over the years 2008-2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Population growth will drive demand for clean water, in turn requiring new water treatment facilities and personnel to staff them. As of May 2009, the median salary of wastewater treatment facility operators was $39,850.

Continuing Education Information

All states require wastewater treatment technicians to be certified. Although some states honor the certifications conferred by other states, workers who move may have to pass a new set of exams to become recertified. Certification exams are not offered online.


Overview of an Online Master's Degree in Wastewater Treatment

Online master's degree programs in wastewater treatment are relatively rare. Programs provide an in-depth review of engineering principles essential to the design and operation of wastewater treatment facilities. Students also become well acquainted with the water cycle, hydrology and the chemical and physical processes that govern the interaction of water with its environment. Admission to an online wastewater treatment program requires a bachelor's degree, preferably in engineering or one of the natural sciences and a 3.0 undergraduate grade point average.

Program Information and Requirements

Course work in an online master's degree program in wastewater treatment can be completed exclusively online. A master's degree is typically earned in two years. Students have 24-hour access to course readings, lectures and other materials through a school's website and submit finished assignments via the same portal. Online forums and e-mail are the primary medium through which students interact with instructors and other students.

A networking-capable personal computer and productivity software, such as Microsoft Office, are the minimum technical requirements for participation in an online program. Some programs recommend that computers be wireless capable.

List of Common Wastewater Treatment Master's Degree Courses

Wastewater treatment master's degree programs may be divided into a small set of core courses and a larger selection of electives. Students can choose electives that focus on the technical aspects of water treatment or on policy making and planning.

Environmental Resources Management Course

Students investigate systems analysis and theories of economical engineering with the aim of applying them to air, water and soil quality management. Risk analysis and optimization are among the topics covered.

Soil Dynamics Course

Course examines the composition of soil and the combined affect of soil composition and environmental factors on the diffusion of water and other substances through soil. Topics covered include mineralogy, phase change behavior and soil-water electrolytes.

Treatment Process Design Course

Students learn about the hydraulic design concepts for water distribution, wastewater collection and treatment systems. Coursework covers such treatment processes as ion exchange, ozonization and carbon adsorption.

Storm Water Monitoring and Analysis Course

The water cycle as a biological, chemical, physical and thermal process is the focus of this course. Field sampling, water chemistry analysis and reuse of rainwater runoff are considered.

Career Information for Wastewater Treatment Master's Degree Graduates

Graduates of an online master's degree program in wastewater treatment are qualified to move into areas of engineering that specialize in water treatment and wastewater management, either as an on-staff civil engineer or as a consultant. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) foresees strong employment prospects for civil engineers in general driven by the need to build new infrastructure and maintain existing infrastructure. Population growth will increase the demand for freshwater in particular and by extension wastewater treatment facilities. Employment of civil engineers should grow 24% over the years 2008-2018. As of May 2009, the median salary of civil engineers was $76,590.

Continuing Education Information

Wastewater treatment experts who want to conduct advanced research or teach at the postsecondary level can consider a doctoral program in civil engineering with a wastewater treatment emphasis. Most doctoral programs in civil engineering are not available online.

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