How to Become a Sanitation Engineer in the US

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Sanitation or sanitary engineers work to maintain the environment and enhance public health. They develop the systems that are used to dispose wastewater and sewage from homes, businesses and industrial plants. If you are an innovate person who loves to care for the environment, this is the career that could suit you.

What Do Sanitation Engineers Do?

The primary duties of sanitation engineers include:

  • Collaborating with civil engineers to design sanitation systems that are effective and environmentally sustainable
  • Testing existing designs for flows and making necessary modifications
  • Conducting maintenance inspections on sanitary systems and supervising maintenance specialists, such as engineering technicians and plumbers
  • Providing engineering support during the construction of wastewater treatment facilities
  • Inspecting public places, such as recreational parks, to measure sanitation and hygiene levels
  • Advising industrials plants on cost-effective methods to treat and discharge industrial waste.

Work Environment

Sanitation engineers typically work from 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. When creating designs and writing reports, they spend time in their offices. And when conducting inspections or supervising maintenance operations, they spend time outdoors.

This job can be physically challenging, because these engineers may be required to work in confined spaces.

Sanitation engineers sometimes secure contracts outside the country. In such a scenario, you must be prepared to be away from your family for some time.


This table shows the average annual salary for sanitation engineers:

Job title

Average annual pay

Sanitation engineers


Source: Indeed

Entry Requirements

To become a sanitation engineer, you must attend undergraduate school and pursue a bachelor’s degree in one of the following fields:

  • Sanitary engineering
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Civil engineering

It is essential to note that compared to other programs, a degree in sanitary engineering significantly improves your suitability to the job. So it should be your first priority.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a good example of a college that offers a sanitary engineering degree that is approved by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.

After earning your degree, you can complete the Fundamental of Engineering Exam to become a licensed Engineering Intern.

Important Qualities

To become a successful sanitary engineer, you should have:

  • Detailed knowledge of hydraulic systems
  • Excellent drawing skills
  • Good technical and analytical skills
  • Good problem solving skills
  • Good computer skills – For using computer-aided design programs
  • Manual dexterity
  • An interest in improving public health
  • The ability to work effectively with other engineering professionals
  • Good speaking and report writing skills.

Career Development

As a newly hired sanitary engineer, you will begin by working on simpler tasks such as writing technical reports. You will be supervised by senior engineers, who may also double up as mentors. As you gain more experience, you will be allocated complex tasks.

After gaining four years’ of experience, complete the Principles and Practice of Engineering Exam to earn the Professional Engineer license. This license will prove your ability to handle complex engineering projects.

To further improve your advancement prospects, pursue a master’s degree in sanitary engineering and become a member of the American Society of Sanitary Engineering.

Employment Opportunities

The employers of sanitation engineers include:

  • National and local public health agencies
  • Local authorities
  • Engineering firms
  • Water treatment plants
  • Construction companies
  • Engineering and architectural companies.

After gaining enough experience and an advanced degree, you could become a project manager or a plant operator. If you manage to obtain a PhD, you could qualify for teaching jobs in universities.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average employment growth for all engineers within the next 8 years is 9 percent. Although this doesn’t meet the 11 percent average growth for all jobs, more sanitary engineers will be required to help businesses and manufacturing plants maintain compliance with national and local sanitation regulations.

So if you would love to help achieve a clean environment throughout the country, become a sanitation engineer.