In the 1980s, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that American industrial facilities generate and dispose of approximately 7.6 billion tons of industrial solid waste a year. But who is actually responsible for the disposal of all this waste? Employees of an industrial waste facility, of course!
Industrial Waste Management Careers & Degrees
Industrial waste employees generally work in local government and water, sewage, and other systems facilities. These operators work to remove pollutants and hazardous materials from industrial worksites.
Whether they are removing liquid or solid waste, these operators work to ensure that workplaces are safe and inhabitable. Operators ensure that the systems are running properly by performing tests and monitoring the processes that remove and destroy harmful materials and chemicals.
Additionally, industrial waste workers apply principles of environmental engineering to test equipment and devices used in the prevention and control, and removal of environmental waste. Because plants operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, workers in this industry may have unusual hours, as well as on-call days in the evening, at night, or on weekends.
This also depends largely on the size of the plant. A medium sized plant that requires constant monitoring may employ workers in three 8-hour shifts. Whereas a larger plant, which relies heavily on computerized monitoring, may have several operators working one shift, each with their own specialty. Oftentimes operators may be required to work weekends and holidays, as well as overtime.
Industrial Waste Management Careers Path
In order to have a career in industrial waste, a high school diploma is generally required. Completion of an associate’s degree or a one-year certification program in waste management or environmental safety will be highly beneficial to those considering this career, as it may help applicants find a job and advance more quickly.
These programs are usually offered by community colleges, technical schools, and trade associations. Though occasionally, a degree can be substituted for work experience, having this advanced training looks excellent to employers, as it minimizes the amount of training an employee would need on-site.
Industrial waste operators usually start out as operators-in-training or attendants who work under supervision. The operators-in-training or attendants learn through experience and observation by reading the meters, taking samples, and performing other simple maintenance techniques. Since these investigators must analyze the quality of water through the collection of large sets of data, basic competency in math, chemistry, and biology are highly regarded, as well as a familiarity with computers.
Additionally, all plants are regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. While specific regulations may vary from state to state, all treatment facilities must be familiar with these regulations to ensure that the highly enforced standards are met.
Since standards vary widely, industrial waste employees must be certified by the specific state they will be working in.
Industrial Waste Management Careers: Compatible Personality Traits
Mechanical aptitude, good problem-solving skills, analytical, observant, enjoy working outdoors
Industrial Waste Management Careers: Salary Expectations
Water and wastewater treatment plant and systems operators earned a median salary of $40, 770 per year in 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
All of these jobs were located throughout the country. In addition to their annual salaries, industrial waste workers generally receive excellent benefits that include a 401k, health and life insurance, and educational reimbursements for job-related courses.
Industrial Waste Management Careers: Job Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of water and liquid waste treatment and system operators is expected to grow by 12% between the 2010-2020 decade, which is as fast as the average for all careers. This growth spurt is due to the increasing population, and the increasingly suburban geography in the United States.
As new plants are built to meet the new demand for water and wastewater treatment services, so too will the amount of open positions for water and wastewater treatment plant system operators.
Additionally, the number of applicants for these positions is generally pretty low, and with the large number of upcoming retirements expected, job opportunities in this field will be excellent.