Need a Career Boost?

The Water Environment Federation offers scholarships to help aspiring and established operators improve their skills and ascend the licensing ladder.

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Continuing education and training are important. We all know it. But they also cost money, and not every community or utility picks up that expense for the operator workforce.

So, what can an operator do who aspires to more knowledge and a higher level of licensing or certification? One possibility is to apply for an operator scholarship from the Water Environment Federation.

I must apologize for letting the 2022 application window (January 15 to April 1) slip by this year without my notice. But there’s always next year, and it’s not too soon to think about giving it a shot.

A financial boost

The aim of the program is to provide financial support for people who want water sector operator education, training or certification, whether to get a start in the industry or to advance their skills and credentials.

Scholarships of up to $5,000 support professional development in municipal and industrial water and wastewater treatment, water reuse, wastewater collection, drinking water distribution and stormwater. WEF awarded 15 scholarships in 2021.

As you might imagine, some requirements and restrictions apply. For example, you can’t apply for funds to cover types of training and education that your employer typically pays for. You can’t receive a scholarship for training already started or completed.

You can apply the money toward the cost of a bachelor’s or master’s degree, provided the schooling is directly related to your advancement in water and water resource recovery operations. For example, a degree in water technology to enter or advance in the profession would be eligible, and so would a degree in business administration to support promotion into a management role.

Scholarships are not restricted to college or technical courses; they can be used to support attendance at a training school or industry conference, so long as you can justify how it will help advance your career. Expenses such as airfare and lodging can be included.

Making your case

In your application, you should clearly describe how the training or certification will help advance your career. It’s helpful to mention affiliations with industry groups and related activities such as the WEF Operations Challenge and water-related community volunteer service.

A committee of WEF volunteers and staff will review the applications and award the scholarships based on applicability and need. Points are awarded for criteria including:

- Clear and concise application

- Clarity and relevance of the relevance and purpose of the request

- Two 500-word essays

- Supporting data such as a resume and lists of memberships affiliations and certifications

To be eligible for a scholarship, you must be a member of WEF and your state or regional water environment association. Depending on your qualifications, you can choose a professional operator or student membership.

If you receive a scholarship, you should plan to use the funds within 12 months of receiving it. WEF maintains diversity, equity and inclusion as core principles of its mission, which board of trustees members, volunteer leaders and staff share responsibility to uphold.

Whether or not you pursue a scholarship, WEF offers a variety of resources to help you develop your career. They include the Wastewater Treatment Fundamentals series and Get Started resources for your state and surrounding region on website

Your local member association likely provides training and tools and annual meetings or conferences. Then there’s the annual WEFTEC national water conference, offering more than 100 technical sessions and nearly 1000 exhibitors — a great venue for education, networking and gaining continuing education credits.

As for the scholarships, what do you have to lose by applying? To find out more, visit or contact WEF staff member Tori Cox at or 703-684-2400, ext. 7070.   


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