How to Become a Water Quality Scientist in the UK

How to Become a Water Quality Scientist in the UK

Water quality scientists are the professionals who work to ensure the water we drink is safe. They conduct scientific experiments to establish whether water meets the minimum water quality standards. If you love the environment, have a degree in environmental science and possess good technical skills, this could be the career for you.

What Do Water Quality Scientists Do?

Water quality scientists normally work with the following categories of water:

  • Drinking water
  • Surface water
  • Ground water

Their main duties include:

  • Collecting water samples from various sources
  • Testing the water samples to determine quality and clarity
  • Investigating reasons for deteriorating water quality and recommending solutions
  • Responding to calls by the public in cases of water pollution
  • Advising manufacturing firms on the best ways to dispose industrial waste
  • Preparing reports after every experiment
  • Educating the public on how to avoid water pollution and how to treat water for domestic use
  • Handling a range of water testing equipment
  • Advising policy makers on water quality policies.

Work Environment

Water quality specialists work from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. Those working for water supply companies often work in shifts. Although these scientists perform most of their experiments in laboratories, they still do fieldwork, especially when collecting water samples.

The work of a water quality scientist can be physically demanding, as they may be required to work in swampy environments. To perform such roles safely, they must wear protective clothing, such as boots and hand gloves.


The following table shows the average annual salaries for water quality scientists:

Level of Experience


Annual mean wage

Starting water quality scientists



Experienced scientists



Senior scientists



Source: Prospects UK

Entry Requirements

To become a water quality scientist, you should complete a Bachelor of Science degree in any of the following fields:

  • Environmental engineering
  • Environmental science
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Geology

However, you can also qualify for employment with a Higher National Diploma and vast experience working as a water quality technician.

To gain some practical work experience, you can volunteer in organizations such as the:

Since the job involves frequent travelling, many employers prefer applicants with a valid driving license.

Important Skills and Abilities

If you want to become a competent water quality scientist, you should have:

  • Knowledge of laboratory processes and procedures
  • Good research and analytical skills
  • Strong written and spoken communication skills
  • A desire to conserve the environment
  • A normal eyesight
  • Good practical and technical skills.

Career Development

After finding a job, you can pursue a master’s degree in environmental science to enhance your chances of progressing to senior positions. It is important to pursue a graduate degree that is accredited by the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management.

CIWEM also offers professional development courses.

You can also join professional associations such as the British Science Association and the Institute of Science in Society.

Job Opportunities

The main employers of water quality scientists are:

  • Private utility companies
  • Research centers
  • Water supply companies
  • Technical consulting firms
  • Local authorities.

After gaining sufficient experience and a master’s degree, you can become a water quality control manager or secure a policy-making position in the Environment Agency. It is also viable to move into environmental and engineering consultancy.

According to the National Careers Service, there will be about 180,000 new jobs for science and engineering professionals from 2014 through 2020. This is a strong indication that prospective water quality scientists are in a marketable profession. So go ahead and monetize your love for the environment!


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