Job description

Water engineers design and oversee construction and operations of all systems involving water and wastewater. This includes projects for distribution of drinking water, flood water reservoirs and sewage treatment.

Water engineers also evaluate and redesign existing systems to incorporate new technology, meet updated standards, solve problems and increase efficiency. They conduct extensive research, such as analysing natural water resources, gathering data on water usage and conducting environmental impact studies.


    • Conduct feasibility studies and cost-benefit analyses of water supply and runoff collection systems
    • Conduct feasibility studies and cost-benefit analyses of waste collection and treatment systems
    • Design municipal or industrial water storage, treatment facilities and distribution networks
    • Evaluate and recommend precise chemical, biological or other water treatment methods
    • Analyse natural water resources, flood patterns, erosion and other environmental issues
    • Interpret water usage data to forecast demand, develop plans for water efficiency programs
    • Conduct water quality testing and environmental impact studies
    • Perform mathematical modelling and design innovative systems for developing new water resources
    • Review and offer assessment of water treatment proposals for government agencies
    • Oversee operations and troubleshoot problems with water distribution and treatment facilities
    • Collaborate with environmental scientists and other engineers on projects
    • Supervise and direct junior engineers and other technical staff

Skills and qualities

Critical thinking
Systems analysis
Reading comprehension
Time management
Attention to detail
Analytical software
Scientific software
Cad software
Project management software
Building and construction
Law and government

Job outlook

Projected growth
The projected growth rate of employment in the US from 2018 to 2028, based on data collected through the BLS Employment Projections (EP) programme. The national average growth rate for all professions is 5%.


New jobs
The number of jobs projected to become available in the US between 2018 and 2028, based on data collected through the BLS Employment Projections (EP) programme.


Automation risk
The probability of computerisation, based on data published in ‘The Future of Employment’, a 2013 working paper by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne.


Career progression

Water engineers typically begin at entry level under the supervision of a licensed PE. As you gain knowledge and work experience, you’ll move on to roles with more responsibility. Earning your master’s can help qualify you for supervisory roles, including project management.

Many water engineers eventually choose a specialty area of the field. Becoming board-certified helps verify your expertise for large projects as well as consulting, teaching and research and development jobs.

Working conditions

Average hours

40h/ week

Typical schedule

Full Time

Overtime work possible

Many water engineers work full time in an office during typical business hours. Overtime hours are sometimes necessary to meet deadlines on large-scale projects. Water engineers may also work in water distribution and treatment facilities. You could spend time outdoors doing research, inspecting sites and overseeing construction projects.

Working in treatment facilities or at construction sites can be hazardous. You’ll need to wear protective clothing and equipment and follow all safety guidelines to mitigate the risks.



Bottom 10%




Top 10%


Annual salary estimates are based on percentile wage data collected through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey of US workers.

Qualifications and training

Education level


Bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering

Study time

4 years

Water engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in environmental, civil, mechanical or chemical engineering. Some employers prefer engineers with a master’s degree, which select universities offer as a one-year addition to their bachelor’s programme. Employers also value experience, so consider a cooperative programme that combines academic study and practical application.

Higher-level jobs require Professional Engineering (PE) licensing. You’ll need a four-year degree from an ABET-accredited school, four years of experience and a passing grade on two exams. Tests are run by your state, but licences typically remain valid throughout the US.

The American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists offers board certification through a stringent exam and review process. Certification is available for general environmental engineering as well as water supply and waste management specialties.

Last Updated: Wednesday, November 2, 2022

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