Water Resources Engineering and Technology

Water resources engineering and technology professionals study and make recommendations on new water treatment facilities, reactors, pumping stations, drainage systems and pipelines. Learn about job prospects, education programs and licensing.

Is Water Resources Engineering and Technology for Me?

Career Summary

Water resources engineering and technology is an area of study within the engineering sciences dealing with the hydraulic and fluid mechanics principles behind water distribution, flow and manipulation. Water resources engineers design and implement water systems. The design may focus on hydraulics, pipelines and laboratory experiments, while the implementation may deal with flood damage, wastewater disposal and potable water distribution.

Salary and Employment Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for environmental engineers, a job title focusing on the waste management side of water resources engineering, was $82,220 as of May 2013 (www.bls.gov). The median annual wage for civil engineers, who design, plan and maintain water structures, was $80,770 in the same year. Also according to the BLS, the median annual wage for hydrologists was $75,710 during the same period. Employment growth for each of these occupations should fall between 10-20% during the 2012-2022 decade, based on projections from the BLS.

How Can I Work as a Water and Resources Engineer?

Undergraduate Education

Before you begin your career as a water resources engineer, it may help to take high school classes in mathematics, physics, chemistry, computer drafting and geology. Next, you could enter a bachelor's degree program in water resources engineering. Often, these programs are under the auspices of an undergraduate civil engineering major or an environmental engineering undergraduate major. Make sure your program of choice is accredited by ABET, the accrediting board for engineering programs. At this level you'll take courses in hydrology, fluid mechanics, statics and flow routing.

Graduate Studies

Most hydrologists and many water resource engineers go on to pursue master's degrees. Classes at this level may cover river engineering, wave mechanics, groundwater hydraulics, stochastic hydrology, hydraulic structure design and pollution control. If you want to teach water resources engineering at the postsecondary level, a doctoral degree in the field is often required.


Civil engineers and environmental engineers who work with the public must be certified. After graduating from an ABET accredited bachelor's degree program, you may take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) examination. Then, after four years of experience on the job, you may take the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam, thus fulfilling all licensing requirements to work as a water resources engineer.

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