Pipeline to a Sustainable Workforce:
A Report on Decentralized/
Onsite Wastewater Occupations
EPA Office of Wastewater Management
February 2021
Document Number: EPA-830-R-21 -001

Introduction	1
Project Background	2
Purpose and Contents of the Report	3
Methodology	4
Limitations	4
Section 1: The Decentralized Wastewater Workforce	6
Decentralized Wastewater Careers: Wages	6
Bright Outlook Occupations	7
Green Occupations	7
Section 2: Career Pathways in the Decentralized Industry	8
Career Pathway A: Regulatory (Public Sector)	10
Career Pathway B: Skilled Trades (Private Sector)	13
Career Pathway C: Professional (Private Sector)	16
Career Pathway D: Academic/Educational (Public/Private Sectors)	18
Section 3: Lessons Learned and New Understanding	20
Appendix A: Wage Information for Decentralized Occupations	25
Appendix B: Bright Outlook Jobs	27
Appendix C: Green Jobs	29
Appendix D: Occupational Profiles	31
This product was developed with assistance from Sarah Shadid and Micaeia Unda with Ross Strategic (www.rossstrateaic.com).
and Mason Bishop with WorkED Consulting under contract EP-BPA-18-C-001 with the Office of Wastewater Management at

¦£' Introduction
Everyday across America, dedicated workers design, install, and maintain the wastewater treatment systems that
provide clean water services to communities. Broadly speaking, there are two types of wastewater treatment
systems in the United States. The first is a "centralized" system, where wastewater is collected, treated, and
dispersed at a central location and often operated by a
city, municipality, or regional district. The second type of
system, referred to as "onsite" or "decentralized," is an
onsite or clustered system used to collect, treat, and
disperse or reclaim wastewater from a single residence,
multiple residences, small community, or service area. In
this report these systems are referred to as
decentralized wastewater systems, or decentralized
systems for short. In comparison to a centralized
system, a decentralized system uses small pipes and
treats small volumes of domestic wastewater.
The decentralized wastewater sector is an integral part
of the nation's wastewater infrastructure, with
approximately 20 percent of all U.S. households (or 1 in
5 homes).1 More recent studies indicate that one-third of
new single-family homes built between 2016-2018 are
served by individual decentralized systems.2 Many of
these homes and businesses are in rural communities
and exist throughout every state, on tribal lands and U.S.
territories. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) reports that decentralized systems treat roughly
four billion gallons of water per day in the United States.3
1	According to the 2015 U.S. Census Bureau's American Housing Survey (AHS).
2	2020 Onsite Wastewater Installation Assessment, National Environmental Services Center
3	EPA, "Case Studies of Individual and Clustered (Decentralized) Wastewater Management Programs," 2012: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-
Advancing Decentralized Wastewater
Management through Partnerships
Since 2005, EPA and organizations involved in
managing decentralized wastewater systems have
worked in tandem to identify key objectives, share
information, and promote decentralized systems as
a viable means of wastewater treatment. In 2020,
EPA and 20 partners signed the latest in a series of
Memoranda of Understanding (MOU), representing
a shared and continued commitment to the
decentralized wastewater industry. Within this
shared commitment was a goal to "improve
decentralized wastewater treatment system
performance through improved practitioner
competency, management practices, research, and
technology transfer."
Source: https://www.epa.aov/septic/decentralized-
Occupational Profile Report I 1

Decentralized wastewater systems represent critical infrastructure; and decentralized workers play an important role
in providing wastewater treatment and removal services to communities and in safeguarding the environment. In
addition, jobs in the water sector provide stable employment, meaningful careers, useful technical skills (including
the use of innovative technologies), and a chance to make a real difference in communities. While it is well
understood that water jobs are central to healthy communities, clean environments, and strong economies,
important information gaps exist about the "decentralized workforce" for policy makers, educators, decentralized
businesses, and individual workers. These gaps include a common understanding of the occupations that align with
the decentralized industry, information on the demographic characteristics of workers in these occupations, and
strategies to improve linkages to education and training needed for jobs in the decentralized industry, among others.
This report is intended to serve as a first step in addressing some of these gaps to better support communities,
workers, educators, and the decentralized industry.
Project Background
EPA and its 20 Decentralized MOU partner organizations recognize there are significant needs and opportunities in
supporting and growing the workforce that designs, installs, and maintains decentralized wastewater treatment
systems.4 Starting in 2017, the MOU partners committed to advancing decentralized workforce growth and
education with a focus on assisting community colleges and universities in training a future decentralized workforce
and boosting competency and recruitment. The first step in this commitment was an EPA-hosted listening session
on "Growing the Decentralized Wastewater Workforce" in October 2018 at the National Onsite Wastewater Recycling
Association Onsite Wastewater Mega-Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota to gain ideas for addressing industry
workforce issues. As a result of the listening session, a steering group was formed to provide input and guidance
and to identify concrete actions that could address employment, earnings, education, and the professionalism of the
decentralized wastewater industry.
In July 2019, the steering group and EPA held a workforce development meeting as part of the National
Environmental Health Association's Annual Educational Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. This meeting was
aimed at describing and building a shared understanding of the distinct challenges and workforce opportunities in
the decentralized wastewater industry. The intent was also to define a series of actions that could be implemented
by the MOU partners. The following key objectives served as the basis for discussion at the meeting:
•	Advance decentralized education in community colleges and universities
•	Explore options for workforce competency and recruitment more broadly
•	Set the stage for sector partners to develop an action agenda/strategy in response to gaps and opportunities
identified during the meeting
During the July 2019 meeting, participants identified a wide range of potential actions that could be taken to
advance decentralized workforce practice. In a synthesis of the discussions from the workforce development
meeting, potential actions were organized into four broad areas: (1) education and training, (2) recruitment and
retention, (3) enabling conditions, and (4) partnerships. A set of activities was developed underneath each action
area, which served as a step-by-step blueprint for progress toward meeting MOU partnership goals. Of these actions,
the steering group identified a set of foundational, high-priority actions for immediate implementation. These
priority actions include the development of this decentralized career pathways document and the identification of in-
4 https://www.epa.aov/septic/decentralized-svstem-partners
Occupational Profile Report | 2

demand jobs, with the goal of bolstering recruitment and educational programming and market opportunities for
young adults, students, and current workers.
Purpose and Contents of the Report
This report provides a foundational understanding of the career pathways and job clusters in the decentralized
industry. It further expands upon occupational characteristics, including growth projections, as well as basic
education and training requirements aligned with occupations in the industry, outlining challenges that have led to
shortage in the supply of decentralized workers. This report is intended to be used by decentralized professionals
looking to better understand the demand for and variety of decentralized occupations.
The first section provides an overview of key characteristics across the decentralized wastewater workforce. The
second section organizes jobs into career pathways to explore characteristics and emergent themes for specific
categories or clusters of jobs within the industry. The last section includes lessons learned and new understanding
that have emerged from this research.
The four appendices include two types of information:
•	Reference Tables: The first three appendices include: salary information across occupational profiles, a list of
bright outlook jobs, and a list of all green jobs (defined below) within the decentralized sector.
•	Occupational Profiles: Thirty-four occupational profiles are included as appendices. Each occupational profile
provides a summary of the key information needed to understand each type of job, including key tasks, wage
information, number of people employed in the occupation, and high-growth states for that specific occupation.
These occupations are not exhaustive of the full spectrum of decentralized jobs, but rather focus on critical-
needs jobs in the decentralized industry.
Occupational Profile Report | 3

To develop this career pathways report and the occupational profiles, the authors employed a data-driven approach
using both quantitative and qualitative sources.
Quantitative sources include data collection and analysis
using recognized federal government sources, namely
the Occupational Information Network (ONET) Online and
the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). ONET Online was
used to conduct a broad scan of federally recognized job
titles based upon the Standard Occupation Classification
(SOC) system. Once occupations were identified, they
were sorted into job clusters and then grouped by roles,
responsibilities, and required competencies. From there,
the occupations within the career pathways and job
clusters were analyzed, and occupational profiles were
developed. Using BLS employment projections data, each
occupational profile was enriched with basic information
on future job growth, number of current employees, and
state-level information on occupational growth. State-
specific data introduced regionalism into the
occupational analysis process.
Qualitative input consisted of nine interviews with
steering group members and other professionals in the
field. These interviewees represent a broad array of
voices across the decentralized wastewater industry and include university and community college educators,
business owners, and industry association representatives. Interviews were conducted using a standard
questionnaire, and informal questions during the interviews were tailored to the individual interviewee based upon
individual expertise and feedback.
The interviews provided context and perspective around the quantitative data, including the career pathways and job
clusters. Interviews validated data collected and presented through the occupational identification process. Finally,
concepts and terminology prevalent in the workforce development field were used to align decentralized efforts with
opportunities for future actions, such as partnering with community colleges to expand training programs.
As with any data-driven process, there are inherent limitations in the report findings. In compiling this report, authors
acknowledge the following limitations:
• Isolating Decentralized-Specific Data Resources: The quantitative data in this report is based on data from
recognized federal government sources, namely ONET Online and the BLS. These resources represent general
occupational fields, not specifically representing the decentralized wastewater industry. For instance,
Installation, Repair, and Maintenance Workers are the best fit to describe similar occupational roles in the
decentralized industry, but also span many other industries. Although there are challenges specifically isolating
jobs in the decentralized industry while maintaining data validity, each occupational profile contains a list of
Standard Occupation Classification
The 2018 Standard Occupational Classification
(SOC) system is a federal statistical standard used
by federal agencies to classify workers into
occupational categories for the purpose of
collecting, calculating, or disseminating data. All
workers are classified into one of 867 detailed
occupations according to their occupational
definition. To facilitate classification, detailed
occupations are combined to form 459 broad
occupations, 98 minor groups, and 23 major
groups. Detailed occupations in the SOC with
similar job duties, and in some cases skills,
education, and/or training, are grouped together.
Source: https://www.bls.aov/soc/
Occupational Profile Report | 4

informal job titles. The authors have identified relevant decentralized job titles and highlighted them throughout
the report so readers can understand the appropriate connections to the decentralized industry.
•	Full Spectrum of Decentralized Occupations: Conversely, there may be jobs connected to the decentralized
industry that are not included in this report. Throughout the data collection and interview process, the authors
worked to extrapolate the wide diversity of jobs that contribute to the efficient functioning of the decentralized
industry. Interviewees represented a variety of views, including college professor, community college program
director, manufacturing business owner, installer, and industry association executive director. While trying to
gain a full picture of the types of jobs and competencies needed throughout the decentralized industry, a wide
net was cast, but due to limitations in how many interviews were held and the data available, all perspectives
may not have been gained nor all occupational information included.
•	Qualitative Data from Interviews: The findings and conclusions represent an understanding drawn from
background research, data analysis, and interviews. Nine interviews were conducted with university and
community college educators, business owners, and industry association representatives. However, in
comparison to the wide variety of onsite professionals and backgrounds, authors recognize that these
interviews may only represent a subset of the full range of perspectives and diversity of decentralized
Occupational Profile Report | 5

Section 1: The Decentralized Wastewater
Everyday across America, dedicated workers design, install, and maintain decentralized wastewater systems.
Decentralized wastewater workers serve individual homeowners and businesses across all 50 states, tribal lands,
and U.S. territories. The industry has evolved over decades and consists of many different components:
manufacturers, installers, tank and pump operators, regulators, engineers, and university and college professors.
Decentralized jobs provide stable employment, meaningful careers, useful technical skills, and a chance to make a
real difference in neighborhoods and communities. Below are some of the key characteristics of decentralized
wastewater occupations.
Decentralized Wastewater Careers: Wages
Decentralized jobs generally offer competitive wages,
although small, rural, and tribal communities often
face wage-related challenges that can inhibit
recruitment and retention.5 While the occupations
profiled here demonstrate that higher average salaries
often correspond with higher educational attainment,
many workers in skilled trades (private sector) jobs
earn competitive wages and face lower educational
barriers to entry. For public sector/regulatory workers,
the average median hourly wage was $30.52; for
skilled trades it was $21.67; for private
sector/professional it was $41.49; and for
academic/university it was $40.17. These four career
pathways (regulatory, skilled trades, professional, and
academic/educational) highlight the range of job
Skilled Prof*
aS Trades Mi
5 Based on research done for the centralized sector and explored in the 2018 Brookings Institute Report, "Renewing the Water Workforce: Improving water
infrastructure and creating a pipeline to opportunity."
Occupational Profile Report I 6

types in the decentralized industry and form the foundation of this report as detailed in Section 2. Appendix A
provides a detailed list of wage information for all profiled decentralized occupations.
Bright Outlook Occupations
Decentralized wastewater systems provide critical wastewater treatment and removal services to families and
communities across the nation, and the need for decentralized professionals is anticipated to grow in the future. Of
the 34 jobs profiled in this report, 17 are designated by the federal government as "Bright Outlook" jobs (ONET).
Bright outlook jobs are occupations expected to grow rapidly in the next several years or will have large numbers of
job openings. Occupations qualify as "Bright Outlook" if they are growing at a rate of seven percent or higher. Half of
the occupations included in this report are considered fast growing
careers. Of the career pathways, occupations within the skilled
trades (private sector) pathway are growing at an even faster rate,
with many projected to grow at a rate of over 11 percent. Appendix	i— /-\ n /
B provides a full list of decentralized occupations designated as
Bright Outlook.
Green Occupations
Bright Outlook'
The technologies available for the design, installation, maintenance,
and operation of decentralized systems continues to advance
rapidly. Decentralized workers increasingly work with innovative
technologies, such as smart systems and advanced treatment
technologies. Over half of decentralized occupations are
categorized by the federal government as "Green Jobs" (ONET).
This designation denotes professions within wastewater that are
likely to change due to the implementation of new technologies or
environmentally focused practices. Appendix C provides a full list of
decentralized occupations designated as Green Jobs.
"Green Jobs"
Occupational Profile Report | 7

Section 2: Career Pathways in the
Decentralized Industry
The professionals that provide decentralized wastewater services work on a range of systems from traditional,
gravity-type systems to advanced systems such as aerobic treatment units or constructed wetlands. Accordingly,
workers who contribute to the decentralized industry represent a wide range of occupations and educational
requirements. To allow for appropriate analysis and organization of these wide-ranging jobs, four distinct career
pathways have been developed, each with identified job clusters and descriptive occupational profiles making up
the pathway.
The organization of these career pathways is displayed in Figure 1 with four distinct groupings: regulatory jobs in
the public sector, skilled trades jobs in the private sector, professional positions in the private sector, and
academic/education jobs in public/private sectors. Under each career pathway are job clusters-occupations that
are grouped due to similarities in job titles, tasks, and competencies. Figure 2 includes decentralized career
pathways and their associated job clusters. Each occupation has an occupational profile describing the
characteristics of the job, including information on education, earnings, and growth projections.
Figure 1: Decentralized Career Pathways
Regulatory I Skilled Trades I Professional I Academic/Educational
(Public Sector) I (Private Sector) I (Private Sector) I (Public/PrivateSector)
These career pathways were developed using U.S. Department of Labor guidance, which states, "Career pathway
systems offer an effective approach to the development of a skilled workforce by increasing the number of workers
in the U.S. who gain industry-recognized and academic credentials necessary to work in jobs that are in-demand. To
align educational offerings with business needs, career pathways systems engage business in the development of
Occupational Profile Report I 8

educational programs up front."6 This overall career pathways approach provides a transparent and understandable
means to focus strategic efforts on recruiting and retaining workers to bolster and grow the decentralized
wastewater industry.
Figure 2: Decentralized Wastewater Career Pathways and Associated Job Clusters
Environmental Compliance	Installation/Maintenance
Environmental Health
Occupational Health/Safety
The following four sub-sections provide more details under each of the decentralized career pathways, including job
clusters and associated occupations as well as a description of themes, including characteristics of the job such as
information on education, earnings, and growth projections. Finally, each career pathway section includes pathway
specific findings based on background research, feedback received during the 2018/2019 listening sessions, and
perspectives provided by the industry experts that were interviewed.
6 U.S. Department of Labor. "Career Pathways Toolkit: A Guide for System Development." Washington, DC
https://wdr.doleta.qov/directives/attach/TEN/TEN 17-15 Attachment Acc.pdf
Occupational Profile Report I 9

Career Pathway A: Regulatory (Public Sector)
Figure 3: Job Clusters and Occupations in the Regulatory Career Pathway
Environmental Compliance
Environmental Health
(public Sector)


Occupational Health

Overview of the Regulatory Career Pathway
The regulatory (public sector) occupations contained within this career pathway are generally characterized as
professionals who participate in public health and safety, including wastewater and sanitation oversight. Many of
these positions reside in county and city health and environmental departments. Within smaller counties and cities,
these professions have multiple responsibilities including regulating food safety and handling, waste and garbage
control, air quality, and water quality. Figure 3 includes a visual representation of the job clusters and occupations
associated with the regulatory career pathway.
Four of the six occupations in this career pathway are Bright Outlook jobs, and five out of six are Green jobs.
Specifics regarding Bright Outlook and Green jobs can be found in Appendix A and B. Growth projections within this
career pathway indicate that more workers will be needed to conduct appropriate regulatory oversight of the
decentralized industry. Additionally, workers in this pathway will need to continually learn as technologies change
and public agencies try to stay aligned with private commerce. A regulatory (public sector) job that is closely linked
to the wastewater industry is an Environmental Health Specialist, which is designated as both a Bright Outlook job
and a Green job.
Within the public sector careers documented under the regulatory
career pathway, the average median hourly wage is $30.53. The two
highest-paying and growing jobs are the same: Environmental Health
Managers and Occupational Health and Safety Inspectors, each
earning a median annual salary of approximately $71,000 and $73,000,
respectively. The Environmental Health Managers and Environmental
Health Specialists positions combined represent over 130,000 jobs in
the U.S. and with a high level of job growth anticipated.
Example Informal Titles for
Jobs in the Regulatory Pathway
Public Health Specialist
Environmental Health and Safety
Occupational Profile Report | 10

Findings: Regulatory Career Pathway
The following findings concerning the regulatory (public sector) career pathway are based on background research,
feedback received during the 2018/2019 listening sessions, and the views of individuals who were interviewed.
•	Workers entering the public and environmental health field at the state or local level often lack exposure to the
decentralized industry as part of their formal education. New workers who take jobs in the regulatory (public
sector) arena rarely have any academic or educational exposure to onsite/decentralized systems. Specifically,
as part of their formal education, students who become environmental health specialists or technicians often
are not exposed to how decentralized systems work, the biology and chemistry of systems, and how water is
treated before re-entering the soil and the water table. As a result, there may be a large void of expertise at the
local regulatory (public sector) department level, which inhibits expansion and promotion of these systems as a
viable water treatment solution. Furthermore, interviewees pointed to consistent turnover in the regulatory
(public sector) pathway, which poses additional challenges in maintaining institutional knowledge.
•	Public health workers typically do not train for or receive the same industry-recognized credentials or licenses
as private sector workers. Often, new and incumbent regulatory workers do not have experience or background
in the decentralized field, thus requiring on-the-job training and learning. After employment with a state or local
regulatory agency, many of these workers will test for and receive a National Environmental Health Association
(NEHA) Registered Environmental Health Specialist (REHS)/Registered Sanitarian (RS) credential. However,
these credentials are offered after a worker has received a college degree and has been employed for a certain
duration. Therefore, many workers in the regulatory (public sector) pathway lack opportunities to receive
focused and up-front training on decentralized systems and the commensurate credentials to recognize
competency in decentralized concepts. Some interviewees indicated that environmental and health workers,
who lack exposure to decentralized principles and do not have the same credentials and licenses required by
the private sector, are in a position where they must apply regulations to companies and people who have
significantly more experience and competency in the decentralized industry.
•	Challenges exist in developing partnerships between the public and private sectors. Due to the lack of
experience and exposure to decentralized systems by regulatory workers, private sector manufacturers and
installers identified challenges, including potential delays in approval of projects or understanding of new and
innovative technologies. Interviewees expressed a desire to see constructive partnerships between operators
and regulators as the use of decentralized systems continues to grow.
Occupational Profile Report | 11

Figure 4: Regulatory Career Pathway by the Numbers
Bright Outlook
Top 5
Highest Need
^ States
Highest Paying
Health and Safety
All data sourcedfrom 0*NET Online (2018) https:/www.onetonline.org/
Occupational Profile Report | 12

Career Pathway B: Skilled Trades (Private Sector)
Figure 5: Job Clusters and Occupations in the Skilled Trade Career Pathway

~r , , . . Technician
Technologist Hr ,
rivalled Trades]
(private Sector) J


Tank Servicer
T reatment Operator
Earth Driller
Overview of the Skilled Trades Career Pathway
The skilled trades (private sector) occupations represent a wide and varied array of job clusters that focus on the
manufacturing, installation, and maintenance of decentralized wastewater systems. Individuals working in these
occupations are often "customer facing," as they assist homeowners and business owners with installing/replacing
their systems or working with general contractors who are building residential or commercial developments. Job
clusters range from electricians and plumbers to manufacturers and installers. Many of these occupations require
some form of postsecondary training and credentials and often a state license. However, many of these
occupations do not require a traditional bachelor's degree. Of the skilled trades (private sector) documented in this
report, the average median hourly wage was $21.67 and the average annual salary was $45,000
A challenge of identifying occupations and job clusters in the
decentralized skilled trades (private sector) pathway is that the data
does not typically distinguish between workers in the decentralized
industry and workers with the same occupation in other industries. As
mentioned in the "limitations" to the methodology, there are
decentralized installers and maintenance workers for septic systems,
but the federal data does not isolate these workers from others who
do installation and maintenance. However, including these job titles is
important, so the focus turns to addressing the specific competencies
workers in skilled trades (private sector) occupations need to be
successful in the decentralized wastewater industry.
Example Informal Titles for Jobs
in the Skilled Trades Pathway
Wastewater Operator
Service Technician
Onsite Installer
Backhoe Operator
Septic Cleaner/Inspector
Occupational Profile Report | 13

Nine of the thirteen occupations in this career pathway are Bright Outlook jobs, and five out of thirteen are Green
jobs. Skilled trades (private sector) jobs are in high-demand, and the decentralized industry will need broad
approaches to attract workers of all types in plumbing, electrical, and installation and maintenance.
Many of the jobs in the skilled trades (private sector) pathway earn between $30,000 to $45,000 annually. The
highest paying jobs are in manufacturing, plumbing, and electrical and the highest-paying job in the skilled traders
career pathway is Manufacturing Engineer Technologist, earning an average of $63,000 annually. Drillers and
Excavation Operators earn roughly $45,000 per year. These jobs also represent a need for large numbers of
employees and many new workers who need to be recruited. For instance, there are approximately 402,000
Equipment Operators in the U.S., with another 52,500 needed through 2028.7 There are roughly 715,000 Electricians,
with just under 95,000 more needed by 2028. Of the four career pathways, skilled trades (private sector) have been
shown to be growing the fastest, at a rate of seven percent or higher, with four of the occupations growing at a rate
of greater than 11 percent. By all accounts, skilled trades (private sector) jobs needed in the decentralized
wastewater industry are going to grow, and pressure to find solutions and compete for talent will become more
Findings: Skilled Trades Career Pathway
The following findings concerning the skilled trades (private sector) career pathway are based on background
research, feedback received during the 2018/2019 listening sessions, and the views of individuals who were
•	Workers are needed in skilled trades (private sector), and they need access to good training programs that
expose them to the decentralized industry. Both the data and interviews affirmed that formal education is not
the likely pathway for many of these workers. Well-grounded job-training programs are needed. Delaware
Technical Community College has a model for this approach in which they have aligned curriculum for
decentralized installation and maintenance workers with Delaware licensing requirements. This means that
upon completion of their training program, Delaware Technical Community College students can enter
employment in the decentralized field immediately because their competencies align with employer needs.
•	Gaining exposure to decentralized concepts earlier would benefit the industry. Skilled trades (private sector)
workers would benefit from exposure to decentralized concepts while training in their respective fields. As it
stands currently, workers hired by decentralized firms typically need to be taught on the job, which takes time
for employers who need trained employees. Some interviewees identified math and blueprint reading as
essential competencies needed by workers in the skilled trades (private sector) pathway because of new
technologies and the need for enhanced productivity.
•	Employers in the Skilled Trades pathway are often small business. With the exception of the manufacturing
area, the employers in the Skilled Trades career pathway are often small businesses with fewer than 10
employees. These businesses often have a local footprint and employees are likely to be local. This factor may
make it difficult for educational and training programs to provide trained employees to these small businesses.
For this reason, it may be beneficial to provide employers with a list of decentralized-specific knowledge
categories that can help get new employees up to speed more quickly.
1 0*NET Online (2018) www.onetonline.ora
Occupational Profile Report | 14

Figure 6: The Skilled Trades Career Pathway by the Numbers
Bright Outlook
Occupations Profiled
Highest Paying
All data sourced from 0*NET Online (2018) https:/www.onetonline.org/
Top 5
Highest Need
Occupational Profile Report | 15

Career Pathway C: Professional (Private Sector)
Figure 7: Job Clusters and Occupations in the Professional Career Pathway

^private Sector;

Soil Scientist
Water Resource
Geological Sample
Overview of the Professional Career Pathway
The professional (private sector) occupations are typically university-educated individuals who have a bachelor's or
graduate degree in environmental science, chemistry, or biology. Positions include engineers who design
decentralized systems and experts on soil and groundwater. Soil Scientists are critical positions in this career
pathway, as these workers inform installers and others as to the soil composition and the parameters for proper
installation and long-term viability of a system. The Sales job cluster is also important, as decentralized businesses
rely on representatives who can speak the "decentralized language" to interface with homeowners, contractors, and
Three of the eleven occupations in this career pathway are Bright Outlook jobs, and nine out of eleven are Green
jobs. While these jobs do have strong job growth, they are not growing as fast as skilled trades (private sector) or
regulatory (public sector) jobs. However, the Green jobs designation suggests rapidly changing requirements and
the need to understand environmental impacts and the ability to
design and oversee projects where new environmental practices or
techniques are prevalent.
One important characteristic of this career pathway is that while
these jobs do not employ as many people as other jobs, the
occupations are highly skilled and often specialized. Soil Scientists
and Water Resource Specialists are examples of critical positions to
the decentralized industry that are highly specialized and require
unique skills and analysis capabilities. Also, many of these jobs pay
higher wages, as might be expected for jobs requiring at least a
Example Informal Titles for Jobs
in the Professional Pathway
Onsite Soil Evaluator
Groundwater Consultant
Environmental Consultant
Water Reuse Manager
Occupational Profile Report | 16

bachelor's degree. Within the professional (private sector) careers documented in this report, the average median
hourly wage is $41.49. This career pathway has a higher average annual wage than other career pathways at
$86,000. The highest-paying job in the professional career pathway is Sales Manager, earning an average of
$124,000 annually.
Findings: Professional Career Pathway
The following findings concerning the professional (private sector) career pathway are based on background
research, feedback received during the 2018/2019 listening sessions, and the views of individuals who were
•	Newly educated engineers have little exposure to decentralized wastewater systems and often rely on
manufacturers to receive "informal" training experience. A number of interviewees highlighted the lack of
educational exposure to decentralized systems by engineers as a problem that impacts the workforce and the
industry. In addition to a lack of functional knowledge of decentralized systems, engineers also lack exposure to
soil science and the impacts of a system's design on soil and treated wastewater. Universities generally lack
specific curricula and classes to address this issue. Many consulting engineers and small engineering firms
provide informal training to their employees in the field.
•	Recruitment and replacement of soil scientists is critical, given the longer time required to educate and
onboard. An educated and trained soil scientist requires a background in chemistry, microbiology, geology and
hydrology. Often, a new soil scientist requires 2-3 years of journey-level work to become well-versed in the
decentralized field. Therefore, replacing and upskilling enough soil scientists is a time-intensive effort, and
Figure 8: The Professional Career Pathway by the Numbers
Bright Outlook
Occupations Profiled

Top 5
Highest Need
Highest Paying
Sales Manager
All data sourced from 0*NET Online (2018) https:/www. onetonline.org/
Occupational Profile Report | 17

current shortages will only be exacerbated by the lack of individuals entering the field. Further, universities lack
soil scientist programs, so there is a talent pipeline issue, as well.
Career Pathway D: Academic/Educational (Public/Private Sectors)
Figure 9: Job Clusters and Occupations in the Academic/Educational Career Pathway

Engineering Professor
L -
Environmental Science
Microbiologist H Chemist
Overview of Academic/Educational Career Pathway
The academic/educational career (public/private sectors) pathway is a hybrid discussion between jobs in academia
and the research in decentralized topics and technologies that support the decentralized industry. Engineering
Professor is the one occupation designated as Bright Outlook, but the larger issue is the small number of faculty
who have experience to teach and conduct research in decentralized wastewater topics.
Interviewees within academia indicated a need for meaningful investment in research to create a foundation for
graduate student involvement, courses and curriculum development, and student exposure to the decentralized
wastewater industry. This fosters an ecosystem where research and teaching leads to more students exposed to the
decentralized industry. Over time, this exposure bolsters the overall
workforce as more people throughout several occupational areas have
an understanding of, and grounding in, the decentralized industry.
Within the academic/educational (public/private sectors) careers
documented in this report, the average median hourly wage was $40.17
and an annual average salary was $82,500.
Academic/Educational Pathway
Informal Job Title Examples
Assistant Professor
Associate Professor
Faculty Member
Chemical Engineering Professor
The academic/educational (public/private sectors) career pathway is
characterized by a need for people in academia with expertise around
decentralized concepts, combined with a research ecosystem that
builds a foundational knowledge base among future decentralized
industry employees.
Findings: Academic/Educational Career Pathway
Based on research conducted and views of individuals who were interviewed, findings concerning the
academic/educational (public/private sectors) career pathway include the following:
Occupational Profile Report | 18

•	The decentralized wastewater industry's worker knowledge and skill base will stabilize and grow by building a
strong research landscape that promotes both expertise and research opportunities in academia. A number of
interviewees with academia and related backgrounds indicated that expertise and research in the decentralized
industry builds an educational environment where more students are exposed to the decentralized industry and
enter employment with a knowledge set already in place. This decentralized educational environment includes
student projects, graduate student teaching and research assistance, and a participatory academic setting that
fosters experience and enthusiasm of decentralized wastewater topics.
•	Opportunities to conduct more decentralized wastewater research addresses workforce challenges in the
academic settings themselves. Having research in decentralized wastewater topics encourages students
pursuing their Ph.D. degrees to focus dissertations on decentralized wastewater and gain exposure to the
industry prior to employment or tenure. Thus, the environment bolsters experience and understanding within
academic institutions themselves.
Figure 10: The Academic/Educational Career Pathway by the Numbers
Bright Outlook
Highest Paying
Top 5 ¦ ^ Engineering
Highest Need	Professor ($102K)
All data sourced from 0*NET Online (2018) https./www.onetonline.org/
Occupational Profile Report | 19

Section 3: Lessons Learned and New
The following section includes an overview of the lessons learned and new understanding that emerged through
research and interviews. These items are meant to provide a starting point for additional efforts to advance
workforce practice for the decentralized sector. Key lessons learned and new understanding are organized into six
•	Decentralized Workforce Needs Exist and
Are Growing
•	Worker Competencies in Decentralized
•	Decentralized Nature of the Industry
•	Awareness of Opportunity
•	Educational Materials
•	Licensing Requirements
Decentralized Workforce Needs Exist and Are Growing
Research demonstrates and validates the need for strategies and outreach to fill workforce opportunities in
the onsite/decentralized wastewater industry.
Discussions prior to the formation of the Steering Group and at the National Meeting in July 2019 centered around
an urgent and pressing need to address decentralized/onsite workforce issues. However, examples of workforce
shortages and a lack of public awareness of job opportunities in the decentralized industry were primarily anecdotal,
where evidence and a need for defining "the problem" came into focus.
Research using recognized federal sources-ONET Online and the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational
Projections-shows that the decentralized industry is facing a lack of workforce supply for many critical occupations
across a span of public and private organizations and businesses. In particular, the regulatory (public sector) and
skilled trades (private sector) career pathways have 13 out of 19 occupations profiled that are designated as Bright
Outlook jobs and many of these jobs have projected 9-13 percent growth through the year 2028. For a full list of
Bright Outlook jobs, visit Appendix B.
Occupational Profile Report | 20

With "Green" technologies driving the decentralized industry, new systems being installed, and evolving public
demands for clean water and environmental stewardship, the need for engineers, soil scientists, and university
professors with decentralized wastewater expertise is critical. These occupations often have opportunities for
mentoring and educating the next generation of workers contributing to a continuous and growing workforce.
Worker Competencies in Decentralized Wastewater Occupations
Workers with the potential to enter the sector often lack exposure to decentralized knowledge and skills.
Basic skills, such as math and customer service, are a prerequisite for most decentralized jobs.
While more research conducted on specific decentralized-related competencies is needed at an individual
occupation level, there is a universal lack of exposure to decentralized competencies across occupations. Although
the U.S. Department of Labor has a larger, comprehensive Water and Wastewater Competency Model, it does not
address specific competencies needed by workers in the decentralized industry. However, as occupations were
being profiled and developed, the issue of specific job competencies was examined, and interviewees were asked
about aspects of competencies needed by workers.
A clear theme emerged around competencies that has important impact for future work-the decentralized industry
faces a lack of exposure across numerous occupations and job clusters. Potential recruits often lack knowledge
and skills concerning decentralized principles, approaches, and systems. Particularly, new, younger workers starting
jobs as environmental health specialists or engineers receive little to no exposure to decentralized industry
concepts in their formal education. Nevertheless, these employees' responsibilities include regulating the
decentralized industry or working on a decentralized system design.
Throughout conversations, interviewees expressed the need to prepare decentralized workers with educational
basics, such as math, and noted that many positions require customer service and back-office skills, such as
familiarity with computers, bookkeeping, communications, and other administrative functions.
•	Math is a critical skill needed by workers in the decentralized field. A number of interviewees identified math
as a critical skill needed in decentralized jobs. While basic chemistry and biology are important for
understanding how decentralized systems work, math is needed throughout all jobs, from blueprint reading to
calculations used when digging a trench for a system. Math is a skill that workers apply in the skilled trades
(private sector) jobs throughout all job clusters.
•	Customer relations and communication skills are overlooked but remain critical. Beyond the technical and
quantitative skills of math, chemistry, and biology, the decentralized industry needs training on customer
relations and communications. One interviewee shared, "Entry-level skilled trades should require customer
relations skills. These are essential, but there is no opportunity to learn them." Familiarity with customer-facing
services, bookkeeping, and general communications are all necessary parts of the skilled trade workforce.
Future research addressing occupational shortages in the decentralized industry should incorporate development of
education and training to address competency development on a wide-scale basis.
Occupational Profile Report | 21

Decentralized Nature of the Industry
The "decentralized" nature of the decentralized wastewater industry presents challenges in addressing
workforce needs and issues with a unified voice.
The decentralized wastewater industry is spread throughout all states, tribal lands, and U.S. territories, with
business owners and employees scattered among many different occupations and lines of business. Given the
disparate nature of the decentralized industry, it is challenging to develop a unified voice around an issue like
workforce development. People connected to the industry understand there is a problem but are uncertain how to
define and address it.
The Steering Group was an initial attempt to convene various stakeholders with a wide array of views and
perspectives and develop one voice with consistent messaging. This report begins to identify and validate
decentralized workforce issues, but, going forward, there will be competing demands across the career pathways.
Decentralized participants and stakeholders will need to continue working together to address the workforce supply
across several occupations.
Awareness of Opportunity
There is a need to increase community awareness on the availability and attractiveness of decentralized
industry employment.
Decentralized wastewater jobs provide competitive wages, reliable employment, and a way to truly make a
difference in communities by protecting public health and the environment. Many potential industry recruits are
unaware of the value and opportunities for a decentralized career. Developing the next generation of water
protection specialists requires early engagement of America's youth to promote awareness of the promising career
opportunities available in the water sector.
This challenge is one that is faced by both the decentralized and centralized water industries, but the very
"decentralized" nature of the former is an additional barrier to large-scale recruitment and messaging to potential
employees. This often means that workers with the necessary skills are unaware of the availability of decentralized
jobs and may be exposed to jobs with a more centralized recruitment process, such as drinking water and
wastewater utilities, environmental remediation, centralized system design, or the oil and gas industries.
Effective and modern communication to promote the attractiveness and availability of decentralized wastewater
workforce employment will be integral to raising community awareness and increasing recruitment opportunities for
decentralized employers. A career in decentralized work can provide an individual with a sense of mission and
contribute to safeguarding public health and the environment. Beyond raising awareness about the value and
contribution of the decentralized industry broadly, specific efforts should be made to increase collaboration and
partnership at the regional and grassroots level with emphasis on targeted outreach to high schools, community
colleges, and universities.
Occupational Profile Report | 22

Educational Materials
Although decentralized wastewater educational materials exist; much of it requires updating and
customization to match location-specific needs or reflect new technologies.
Many stakeholders expressed concern regarding the lack of updated and relevant curriculum. As it stands, college
students receive little exposure to decentralized concepts, as the topic remains a small component of college
courses. Where there is interest in incorporating decentralized content, educators often face the challenge of
outdated curriculum and materials. To build a robust decentralized workforce, more strategic focus on developing
"demand-driven" course content through partnerships between the decentralized industry private sector and
educators should occur. This way, the private sector continually provides feedback on needed skills and
competencies, new technologies, and emerging changes that can be adopted into curriculum, courses, and
college programs.
Licensing Requirements
The decentralized industry is primarily regulated at the state level, which impacts the approach to training
the decentralized workforce.
Research on decentralized occupations and how to attract, recruit, and retain new workers highlighted a critical
challenge: variations in state requirements for individual jobs. Sometimes the state-by-state inconsistencies
manifests in what is required for certain workers, particularly in skilled trades (private sector). For example, to install
a septic system in one state requires a general contractor's license, while in another state farmers can install
systems for their own facilities. In certain states and jurisdictions, the decentralized industry is highly regulated and
structured; for other states it is not.
This creates potential tension between the regulators and the private sector. Manufacturers, installers, and servicers
may feel they have advanced systems and processes, and the regulators are behind. Regulators may be constrained
by outdated legislative statutes. For states that have less stringent regulations, environmental proponents fear
issues, such as tanks being placed too close to water bodies or drinking water sources.
These state-by-state and jurisdictional differences cause knowledge and skill disparities among workers in various
states holding the same, or similar, occupations. In a state with rigorous licensing requirements, a worker must
learn more and demonstrate competency before working on a decentralized project or system. Meanwhile in a less
stringent state, employers are going to employ people who meet the more basic requirements of that state, and
those workers may lack the skills needed to do work in a different state or jurisdiction.
Opportunities exist to build a skilled and knowledgeable decentralized workforce across states by developing peer
networks, online and virtual training environments, and state-by-state data. While technical expertise can be very
localized depending on wastewater needs across states and different geographies (e.g. soil types), there is
similarity in the basic science and practical applications that can be shared.
Occupational Profile Report | 23

Jobs in the water sector provide stable employment, meaningful careers, useful technical skills, and a chance to
make a real difference in communities. Even so, many stakeholders have expressed concern that the decentralized
wastewater industry is facing shortages of skilled workers for many jobs and that the expected wave of retirements
will exacerbate this already critical shortage. In response, industry stakeholders have supported the development of
a strategic framework to ensure the availability and preparedness of a decentralized workforce now and in the
This report provides an important first step in the strategic framework. It collects, organizes, and presents data to
inform and create a basis for a shared understanding of the nature of the problem and what steps can be taken to
rectify it. Most importantly, through the data collected using federal government labor market information and
interviews of various decentralized industry experts, this report validates there is a workforce shortage and provides
specifics and details on high-need occupations and job characteristics. With this foundation, concrete steps can be
taken to build the decentralized workforce and support continued growth and well-paying jobs in each of the career
One immediate next step is capturing best practices in decentralized education and training and working to expand
these practices to other states and postsecondary institutions. Specifically, job growth opportunities in the public
health/regulatory (public sector) pathway and the skilled trades (private sector) pathway provide a symbiotic
opportunity to expose and train workers in these fields. By doing so, as public and private sector workers become
more knowledgeable and experienced in the decentralized field, they can work together to improve the oversight
processes of decentralized systems in local communities.
Another step is to develop regional and collaborative state approaches to licensing and the decentralized workforce.
Regionalism is an important concept in economic and workforce development, and this framework provides an
opportunity for states to share standards and work together to support clean water initiatives using decentralized
wastewater solutions as a strategy.
Finally, this report validates the passion and belief among various stakeholders on the value of the decentralized
industry as an important part of providing wastewater treatment and removal services. Opportunities exist to "think
out of the box" about how to continually educate students and attract workers to the decentralized industry. Creative
thinking and messaging and using tools that reach diverse segments of the U.S. population are needed to solve the
decentralized workforce challenge. Decentralized workers are wanted and needed. The diversity of jobs in the
decentralized industry is also a strength, and there are many voices and talents needed. Continued strategic thinking
and action will build and foster a robust decentralized workforce.
Occupational Profile Report | 24

Appendix A: Wage Information for
Decentralized Occupations
Job Name
Annual Median Wage
Chemist	$76,890
Engineering Teachers, Postsecondary	$101,720
Environmental Science Teachers, Postsecondary	$79,910
Microbiologist	$71,650
Private Sector/Professional Positions
Civil Engineer
Civil Engineering Technician
Environmental Engineer
Geological Sample Test Technician
Sales Manager
Sales Representative
Soil and Plant Scientist
Wastewater Engineer
Water Resource Specialist
Occupational Profile Report | 25

Job Name
Annual Median Wage
Public Sector/Regulatory
Compliance Manager
Environmental Compliance Inspector
Environmental Health Specialist
Environmental Health Technician
Occupational Health and Safety Specialist
Occupational Health and Safety Technician
Skilled Trades
Earth Driller
Electrician Apprentice
Equipment Operator
Excavating and Loading Machine Dragline Operator
Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Worker
Licensed Plumber
Plumbing Technician
Manufacturing Engineering Technologist
Manufacturing Production Technician
Tank Servicer/Sewer Pipe Cleaner
Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant System Operator
Occupational Profile Report | 26

mi ¦,

Appendix B: Bright Outlook Jobs
Decentralized systems provide critical clean water services to families and
communities across the nation. The need for decentralized professionals is
anticipated to grow in the future. Of the 34 jobs profiled, 17 are designated by the
federal government as "Bright Outlook" jobs (ONET). Bright outlook jobs are
occupations expected to grow rapidly in the next several years or to have large
numbers of job openings. Over 55 percent of professions within wastewater are
considered fast-growing careers.

Bright Outlook Jobs Organized by Career Pathway
Academic/Educational (Public and Private Sectors)
Engineering Teacher, Post-Secondary
Professional (Private Sector)
Geological Sample Test Technician
Soil and Plant Scientist
Regulatory (Public Sector)
Compliance Manager
Environmental Health Technician
Environmental Health Specialist
Occupational Health and Safety Technician
Skilled Trades (Private Sector)
Earth Driller
Electrician Apprentice
Occupational Profile Report | 27

Bright Outlook Jobs Organized by Career Pathway
Equipment Operator
Excavating and Loading Machine Dragline Operator
Tank Servicer/Sewer Pipe Cleaner
Licensed Plumber
Plumbing Technician
Occupational Profile Report | 28

The technologies available for the design, installation, maintenance, and operation of
decentralized systems continues to advance at a fast pace. Decentralized workers are
increasingly working with innovative technologies, such as smart systems and
advanced treatment technologies. Over half of decentralized occupations are
categorized by the federal government as "Green Jobs" (ONET). Of the 34 occupations
profiled, 20 fall into this category. This designation denotes professions within
wastewater that are likely to change due to the implementation of new technologies or
environmentally-focused practices. Below is a list of decentralized "Green Jobs."
Green Jobs Organized by Career Pathway
Academic/Educational (Public/Private Sectors)
Professional (Private Sector)
Sales Representative
Civil Engineer
Environmental Engineer
Geological Sample Test Technician
Soil and Plant Scientist
Water/Wastewater Engineer
Water Resource Specialist
Occupational Profile Report | 29

Green Jobs Organized by Career Pathway
Regulatory (Public Sector)
Compliance Manager
Environmental Health Technician
Environmental Health Specialist
Occupational Health and Safety Specialist
Occupational Health and Safety Technician
Skilled Trades (Private Sector)
Equipment Operator
Licensed Plumber
Manufacturing Engineering Technologist
Manufacturing Production Technician
Occupational Profile Report | 30

Appendix D: Occupational Profiles
Figures 11 arid 12 provide a key to reading these occupational profiles. All data sourced from 0*NET Online (2018}
Figure 11: Key Information Included in on Occupational Profiles Page 1
Environmental Health Specialist
Green Jobs: "Green" occupations
are ones that will likely change due
to environmentally-friendly
practices and implementation of
new technologies. (ONET Online
Bright Outlook: "Bright Outlook"
jobs are occupations expected to
grow rapidly in the next several
years or will have large numbers of
job openings. (ONET Online
Sample Job Titles: These are the
various job titles used by
employers that the occupational
profile covers.
Key Tasks: This list is not
exhaustive but represents many of
the key tasks identified by
employers for workers in the
& M
At-a-Glance Statistics	^5^
.	Environmental Analyst, Environmental Health and Safety Specialist, Environmental
Sample Programs Specialist, Environmental Protection Specialist, Environmental Scientist.
Job Titles Environmental Specialist, Hazardous Substances Scientist, Registered Environmental
Health Specialist (REHS). Research Environmental Scientist, Senior Environmental Scientist
Key Tasks • Provide scientific or technical guidance, support, coordination, or oversight to
governmental agencies, environmental programs, industry, or the public
•	Review and implement environmental technical standards, guidelines, policies, and
formal regulations
•	Collect, synthesize, analyze, manage, and report environmental data
•	Communicate scientific or technical information
•	Provide advice on proper standards and regulations or the development of policies,
strategies, or codes of practice for environmental management
•	Conduct environmental audits or inspections or investigations of violations
•	Monitor effects of pollution or land degradation and recommend means of prevention or
•	Design or direct studies to obtain technical environmental information about planned
•	Analyze data to determine validity, quality, and scientific significance and to interpret
correlations between human activities and environmental effects
•	Evaluate violations or problems discovered during inspections to determine appropriate
regulatory actions or to provide advice on the development and prosecution of
regulatory cases
		• Process and review environmental permits, licenses, or related materials
•	Supervise or train students, environmental technologists, technicians, or other related
•	Investigate and report on accidents affecting the environment
•	Conduct applied research on environmental topics, such as waste control or treatment
or pollution abatement methods
Al Ma aoiiKM tfcm O'NCT Ontne (2018) Ittps »ir onetontrmotff
Occupational Profile Report | 31

Figure 12: Key Information Included in on Occupational Profiles Page 2
Education and Training: This
represents the level of education
and training required for the
occupation. For instance, if it
states "70% Bachelor's Degree,"
then 70% of employer respondents
stated that a Bachelor's Degree is
needed forthe identified position.
Median Wages: Median wages
(half of workers in this occupation
work below this wage and half
work above this wage) are listed b}
hourly wage and annual salary.
Top Industries: These are the
primary industries that workers in
this occupation are employed.
Number Employed: List current
number employed in the
occupation and projected number
employed in the occupation.
Projected Job Openings: Provides
most recent information on
projected openings and any
designation or ranking.
Occupational Growth by State:
Provides a snapshot of what the
occupational demand will be for
the top states ranked by
percentage growth.
Education and Training
70% 26% 2%
Median Wages
Hourly	Annually
$34.20 $71,130
Top Industries
Professional, Scientific, and
Technical Services
Employment Projection

85,000 positions as of 2018
10,300 job openings by 2028
Top Ten States for Occupational Percentage Growth
in m
Occupational Profile Report | 32