Frequently Asked Questions
Are you thinking about becoming a water or wastewater Operator, but unsure about where to start? Then you’ve come to the right place!
To help you get started in your new career as an Operator, we’ve answered your most frequently asked questions below, and provided links to additional resources for more information on particular topics.
THE BASICS ABOUT OPERATORS
What is an Operator?
Operators are the people responsible for ensuring the safe and continuous operation and maintenance of our water systems.
While water is provided by nature, we rely on a complex network of pipes, equipment, and people to safely deliver clean water, and remove used water, from our homes and businesses. Find out more about how our water systems work.
Who can be an Operator?
Anyone can be an Operator. All that is required is proof of completion of high school, an adult graduation diploma, or a post-secondary diploma.
Find out how to order your high school transcript, to include in your application to the Environmental Operators Certification Program (EOCP).
If you are not a high school graduate, learn more about your options.
Where do Operators work?
At facilities that treat, distribute, and collect water and wastewater. These facilities can be large or small, depending on the population size they are serving, and may be owned by a municipality, regional district, private company, or individual.
See examples of facilities and read about what they do.
What does an Operator do?
The duties of an Operator are hands-on and include tasks such as testing and treating water samples, testing and fixing equipment, and monitoring and tracking equipment sensor data. Specific tasks and the equipment and technology used in a facility will vary depending on the size, type, and location of the facility.
For more examples of typical Operator duties, check out page 23 of the EOCP Program Guide.
What types of Operators are there?
Operators are certified to work at a specific type of facility, and at a particular level.
There are a four primary types of facilities that an Operator can become certified to work at:
- Water treatment: cleans and treats water to ensure it safe to use and drink
- Water distribution: distributes clean, treated drinking water to residents and businesses
- Wastewater collection: collects dirty wastewater from residents and businesses
- Wastewater treatment: cleans and treats wastewater before it is sent back into our environment
Small water and wastewater systems also do all of the above, but serve a maximum of 500 people.
Operators obtain their certification level based on their experience and skills. These levels are:
- Operator in Training (OIT): optional for new Operators that have relevant education or hands-on experience. Obtaining an OIT certification may provide job applicants with an advantage over other applicants, but it is not required to become a Level I Operator.
- Level I to Level IV: operators that work in facilities, progressing from Level I to Level IV as they gain experience and skills.
- Small systems or multi-utility: operators that work in facilities serving small populations.
For more information on certification, check out page 12 of the EOCP Program Guide.
Where can I get a job as an Operator?
As of 2015, there are approximately 3,300 Certified Operators and 2,000 facilities in BC and the Yukon. You can start your job research by looking into the following options:
The local government system in British Columbia is made of up of 27 regional districts and 162 municipal governments. They provide services such as water and wastewater, and also own the infrastructure and are responsible for maintaining it.
- Municipalities – check out the website for your city or the cities close to you. You may also want to visit Civic Info BC, which has a careers page that includes job opportunities for all municipalities in BC.
- Regional districts – examples include:
- Metro Vancouver – formerly known as Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD)
- Regional District of Central Okanagan
- Regional District of Nanaimo
- Regional District of Central Kootenay
- Regional District of East Kootenay
- Regional District of Fraser-Fort George (Northern BC)
- Private utilities – these are companies that design, build, own, and/or operate water and wastewater facilities. Examples include:
- Improvement districts – these are the local authorities, usually located in rural areas, responsible for providing services to small subdivisions and larger communities. Services include water, fire protection, street lighting, dyking, drainage, garbage collection, and parks, etc.
- Beaver Creek Improvement District
- Genelle Improvement District
- Gillies Bay Improvement District
- Glenmore-Ellison Improvement District
- Lund Waterworks Improvement District
- North Cedar Improvements District
- Ootischenia Improvement District
You can search for Operator positions in these districts through the BC Public Service.
- Other options include:
- Parks, resort, and campgrounds
- Industrial plants and pulp mills
- Remote camps for LNG and oil – packaged water and wastewater treatment plants are installed for the employees of these camps
HOW TO BECOME AN OPERATOR
How long does it take to become an Operator?
It depends on your level of experience and training, and what Operator level you want to start your career at.
- Operator in Training (OIT) is an optional certification for new Operators, but it is not required to become a Level I Operator. OITs require three months (500 hours) of hands-on experience or 90 continuing education units/hours (9.0 CEUs) of training through a directly applicable, approved course. To find current courses offering 9.0 CEUs, please contact the EOCP Office.
- Level I Operators require 12 months (1,800 hours) of hands-on experience. The experience must be verified in the Application for Certification and you must now be in BC or the Yukon.
If you want to become a small system or multi-utility Operator, please contact the EOCP Office to find out more about the requirements.
What course(s) should I take?
Course work is not required to become a certified Operator, but completing a course that is directly applicable to the EOCP certification you want is an excellent way to prepare for the certification exam and work towards higher levels of certification more quickly. For example, if you been approved to take the Wastewater Treatment (WWT) Level I exam, you may want to take a course approved for WWT Level I. For a list of courses offered throughout BC and Yukon, please visit the EOCP Training Registry.
How do I get certified as an Operator?
Once you have met the experience or training requirements for an Operator in Training (3 months of work experience) or a Level I Operator (1 year of work experience), submit an Application for Certification Form to the EOCP. The application process can take up to three weeks from the date the application is received by the EOCP.
If your application is approved, the next step is to register for, write, and pass an EOCP certification exam at one of the testing sites in BC or the Yukon.
Can I apply my previous experience?
Yes. If you have municipal water and wastewater experience, it will apply to the training and experience required to become a certified Operator.
The following related experience may be substituted for up to half of the experience required for a Level I exam:
- Maintenance, laboratories, other water and pollution control positions.
- Other similar operating positions.
- Allied trades (such as plumber, millwright, or other certification categories).
Only directly related experience can be used to qualify for an Operator in Training exam.
Do I have to go to school?
Yes. To become a certified Operator you are required to provide proof of completion of high school, an adult graduation diploma, or a post-secondary diploma with your application.
No additional formal education in water and/or wastewater is required to become a certified Operator.
Where can I go to school or get training?
For a full list of recognized providers, visit the EOCP Training Registry. Many recognized training providers are available, including:
- BC Municipal Safety Association (BCMSA)
- BC Water and Waste Association (BCWWA)
- Maintenance Training Systems (MTS)
- Thompson Rivers University (TRU)
- Yukon College
Do I have to take an exam?
Yes. Once you have met the experience or training requirements, you will need to submit an Application for Certification Form to the EOCP. The application process can take up to three weeks from the date the application is received by the EOCP.
If your application is approved, you will need to register for, write, and pass an EOCP certification exam at one of the testing sites in BC or the Yukon.
What is the difference between the EOCP and the BCWWA?
The Environmental Operators Certificate Program (EOCP) manages Operator certification exams and continuing education unit (CEU) requirements for over 3,500 Operators, and is the organization that Operators get their certification from.
The BC Water and Waste Association (BCWWA) is a not-for-profit organization that represents over 4,600 water professionals in BC and the Yukon; many EOCP-certified Operators are also members of the BCWWA. The BCWWA is one of several EOCP-approved training providers for Operators in BC and the Yukon, where Operators can take a course to prepare for certification exams or obtain CEU credits, and advance their careers.