What it means to be a Professional Operator

Becoming a Professional Operator (PO) means you are proud to be a water professional and that you've mastered the elements of your trade. To earn the PO title, operators must pass an internationally recognized ABC certification exam and meet specific educational and professional requirements. 


The PO program offers certification in water treatment, water distribution, wastewater collection, and wastewater treatment operations. Each of these certification types consists of four classes of certification ranging from Class I to Class IV, with Class IV reflecting the highest level of job complexity and operational requirements. The PO designation is awarded to operators earning a certification in any of the four certification types, regardless of class, and all PO certifications are based on North American water environment operator job task analyses.

Similing Team


Certification Commission for Environmental Professionals (C2EP) of the Association of Boards of Certification (ABC) implements certification programs for water industry professionals. C2EP awards certified operators the PO title, the industry’s first professional designation
for operators.

Commission members
include water industry and certification subject matter experts charged with developing programs

 meeting the highest standards for testing and personnel certification.

Worker with Blue Helmet


Protect public health and the environment through certification and the professional designation of
water industry professionals.


The standardized exams developed by C2EP for the Professional Operator program reflect water environment industry best practices and meet international certification standards. They are based on national job task analyses completed by more than 2,500 certified operators and guidance from exam experts to ensure fairness, reliability, and validity.

How it all began

The Association of Boards of Certification (ABC) includes almost 100 certifying authorities, representing more than 40 states, 10 Canadian provinces and territories, as well as several international and tribal programs. These programs have certified more than 240,000 water and wastewater operators, laboratory analysts, plant maintenance technologists, biosolids land appliers, and backflow prevention assembly testers.

ABC created C2EP to enhance the integrity of operator certification and address the need for standardized exams and certification standards. Although most jurisdictions administer operator certification programs to ensure that skilled professionals keep our water sources safe, every state program is different. The diversity of programs limits career opportunities for operators, restricts employer recruitment efforts, and undermines the value of certification. Widespread recognition of the PO program can transform the industry by advancing the development of a highly skilled and mobile workforce. More importantly, standardized exams offer public assurance that geography does not influence professional competence.

Get involved

As the water industry continues to evolve, C2EP is always looking for talented professionals like you to volunteer for committees and task forces. 

Image by Nathan Lemon