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Water Quality Specialist

Water quality specialists study how water quality affects human health while considering the long-term "health" of pipes in the distribution system.


Water is vital for all life on earth. But this essential resource will be strained increasingly during this century as the human population continues to grow and to become more concentrated in urban areas. Water pollution already threatens the health of millions of people and of ecosystems worldwide. As water supplies dwindle in many areas, food production and other key elements of human societies will be more endangered. For this reason, water quality is one of the largest and most diverse environmental career fields.

Specialists can be categorized according to the waters they study. They may focus on ecosystems such as rivers, wetlands, or estuaries, or on human-made systems such as drinking water supplies, wastewater treatment plants, and hydroelectric reservoirs. Where water quality professionals were once employed mostly to run such human-made systems, they now also find work in protecting coastal waters, managing watersheds, and stopping wetland destruction.

Depending on their specialties, water quality specialists spend their time in a variety of ways. They might spend time sampling water for content analysis, studying flows of groundwater or surface water, conducting environmental impact assessments, writing reports and articles, speaking to groups, planning and managing projects, teaching students, and training professionals. In all such daily aspects of their jobs, three priorities are increasingly important to water quality professionals: pollution prevention, ecosystem protection, and sustainable development.

The largest employers of water quality professionals are government agencies such as (in the United States) the Environmental Protection Agency, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, and the Army Corps of Engineers. State agencies in the United States are responsible for inventorying state waters, managing waters for fishing and other recreation purposes, administering state laws to protect the waters, and formulating policy. Municipal agencies manage urban water supplies and wastewater treatment. International agencies like the United Nations and World Bank also employ water quality specialists. The private sector is a growing job market for water quality specialists. Engineering firms, hydrology consulting firms, and manufacturers of water quality control supplies and equipment all employ such specialists. Many industrial firms employ water quality researchers. And water quality consulting firms are growing in number. A water quality specialist might also become an instructor at a technical college or university while working as a consultant.


Educational Requirements

A bachelor's degree is necessary for advancement in the Water Quality Specialist career. Degrees in any number of fields, including biology, chemistry, geology, ecology and engineering are common among these professionals. Internships—available at local public works departments and engineering and consulting firms—provide valuable experience. Of course, masters and doctoral degrees will take one higher in any subfield.


Salary Information 2023

According to, the average salary for a Water Quality Specialist in 2023 was $54,987.


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Information retrieved from Work for Water and Cengage: Water Quality Specialist.


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