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Unsure of how to classify what I want out of a water related job

  • 1.  Unsure of how to classify what I want out of a water related job

    Posted 02-22-2017 06:28 PM
    I am currently seeking my first EIT job in Minnesota, but am unsure of how to classify the job that I want when talking to employers.  Should I say that I am looking for a place in water resources, municipal engineering, hydraulics, or something else entirely?  I have enjoyed working with water supply in my time working with Engineers Without Borders.  During our involvement with the project we placed valves in a piping system after analysis of the high pressures that were causing pipes to break.  That being said, I also like projects that I have looked into such as minimizing phosphorus in lakes with the use of limestone walls or iron shavings.  Even still, I found culvert design and bridge modeling to be interesting in my time working at MnDOT.  What should I say is my preference?  I know that I want something in water, but am unsure of specifics.  Do the titles I listed ( water resources, municipal engineering, hydraulics) mean the same thing at every consulting firm or are the titles fluid?

    Alexa Green EIT, S.M.ASCE
    Rochester MN


  • 2.  RE: Unsure of how to classify what I want out of a water related job

    Posted 02-23-2017 09:34 AM

    I currently work for a locality managing capital improvement projects. Before my current position, I worked 8 years in private consulting. The Engineer Consultants I worked for called the group Water Resources. The Water Resources group were responsible for water distribution design, CSO and SSO design, waste water treatment as well as storm water and BMP design. The other two Civil Departments we had at the firm were referred to Site Design and Structural design.

    At VDOT, the similar group is referred to as the Hydraulic design group. This seems to be the norm, but I'm sure it's not a fast and hard rule.

    Ryan Roberts P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer II
    City of Lynchburg
    Lynchburg VA

  • 3.  RE: Unsure of how to classify what I want out of a water related job

    Posted 02-23-2017 09:36 AM
    Hi Alexa,

    Your short description shows a wide variety of water related experience. Reminds me of myself. I'm retire now, but my experience was as wide as yours. You probably could add "environmental" and "sanitary" to your list. 

    I too was at a loss when someone would ask me what kind of engineering I did. After 60 years since graduation from Purdue, I proudly say I was and stilI am a Civil Engineer.

    My advice to you is two fold. First, when you apply for a position, you need to find out what your prospective employer is looking for. Use his or her description of the job whether it be water resources engineer, water supply engineer, whatever. In other words, tailor your resume to the job you're after. Don't use a generic resume that makes you look like you're trying to be everything to everyone.

    Secondly, it sounds like you would like just about any kind of engineering task and would be successful at it. You need to decide if you want to specialize in one specific discipline, or have a wide variety of experience. I choose variety and haven't regretted it. If you choose to specialize, you may become a world class expert in that field, but you run the risk that you may become too narrow and out of touch if the field becomes obsolete. Think about the world renown slide-rule expert. If you decide to have a wide variety of experience, you may never be at the top of any field. 

    In any case, I wish you luck.

    Timothy Doyle P.E., F.ASCE
    Civil Engineer, Retired
    Bluffton SC

  • 4.  RE: Unsure of how to classify what I want out of a water related job

    Posted 02-23-2017 12:59 PM
    I might get trumped on this, but water resources is a very broad topic to specify.  I help our recruiting department with events, and every time someone says they like water resources, I have to ask what parts do they like about water resources.

    A lot of topics/specialties blend into each other in consulting.  We cater to the needs of our clients.  At my company, we have projects where we provide consulting on environmental, municipal, construction management, geotechnical, and construction materials testing all in one project.  Not that I perform all of these tasks myself as an EIT, but you get to help on most aspects of it.

    I was in your place about 3 years ago.  Just graduating and looking for my first EIT job out of college.  I new I enjoyed my hazardous waste and hydrology classes, I enjoyed my internship in the environmental and infrastructure field, and I wanted an "environmental engineering" position.  My mentor gave me advice to not "pigeon-hole" myself too early on in my career.  Gain as many experiences as you can early in your career, then you can pick and choose certain subjects to deepen your knowledge.

    As someone who has interviewed new EITs, we are looking for someone who is excited to learn about all aspects of our company.  You will never know if you like it until you try it!  Look for companies that provide services in your general field of interest, then think about what you want in a company.  Do you want to work for a large or small company?  Is an employee-owned company important to you?  Are there certain benefits you need?  Is company culture important to you?  Is traveling important to you?  Make sure your values align with the company's values because that has a huge impact on if you will like your job despite what field you are in. 

    Best of luck!

    Kaitlin Ouverson EIT, A.M.ASCE
    Minneapolis MN

  • 5.  RE: Unsure of how to classify what I want out of a water related job

    Posted 02-23-2017 01:01 PM

    Water Resources is a good catch-all for water supply infrastructure (domestic water treatment and distribution), and can include hydrology, hydraulics, wastewater treatment, stormwater control, etc. Minimizing phosphorus in lakes is more related to Environmental Engineering and remediation. 

    Keeping this in mind, I recommend you do some research on the companies you intend to apply to. Read their Mission Statement or About Us page to see how well their company values align with your own. Review their Services and Projects listings to see if you would enjoy working on similar projects. If it sounds like a good fit, tweak your resume and cover letter accordingly to emphasize these areas. Your resume and cover letter should be a little different for each position you apply for, but still reflect your true skills and values.

    Paul Warnock P.E., M.ASCE
    Lead Engineer
    RSA +
    Napa CA

  • 6.  RE: Unsure of how to classify what I want out of a water related job

    Posted 02-23-2017 01:02 PM
    Two a number of engineers work on water supply.  They are municipal engineers, environmental, and civil engineers. 

    Municipal engineers generally work for government agencies, and often prepare proposal requests; review plans, specifications and details; and review the final products.  Often you will deal with complaints.  If you are lucky they let you review the construction.  With a lot of experience on the government side, you can work for an engineering company that specializes in the design of those things, including treatment plants.

    Environmental engineers often work on modeling the water, wastewater and storm systems, provide modeling supporting the flood control systems.  Specialist environmental engineers/ construction engineering companies design the plants.  There are only a few of these specialist companies in the United States, so if that is what you want to do, it may require moving to another state.

    My favorite for water supply is civil engineers.  Civil engineering companies do most of the land development projects.  As a civil engineer-in-training you will probably be exposed to water line design, storm systems, wastewater collection, package plant design, floodplain modeling, and roadway design.  All his would be at a local, very small scale level.    In addition, you will interact with environmental, municipal, geotechnical and other engineering disciplines.  This would allow you to develop your skills, and let you figure out what you want to specialize in, if anything. 

    If you don't mind moving, Texas is a good place to move to.  We have the three fastest growing cities in the United States, and have lots of water supply projects going on.    Minnesota should also have lots of opportunities too. 

    I wouldn't worry too much about marketing yourself as any one of the disciplines above.  I would use the loose descriptions above to help decide who you wish to market to, and sell yourself as a hardworking young engineer willing to learn.  Almost nothing that you learned in school will apply to your first 2-3 years except the ability to learn new things, how to work a spreadsheet, how to work hard, and how to speak engineering.

    Dwayne Culp P.E., P.Eng, M.ASCE
    Culp Engineering, LLC
    Richmond TX

  • 7.  RE: Unsure of how to classify what I want out of a water related job

    Posted 02-23-2017 01:02 PM

    I,m in the same "elder" class as Mr. Doyle, and spent my career in consulting engineering.   His advice is wise.  I would only add that you seek a relatively larger and established consulting civil engineering firm, say at least 200 employees, that sustains a flow of work. You apparently lean strongly in the direction of water/environmental engineering, and if so make that clear in your interview.  If that is the firm's interest you should find yourself well accommodated, understanding however that you will from time to time participate in other types of projects.

    I wish you the best in your career.

    Bill Norris.  .  

    William Norris P.E., F.ASCE

  • 8.  RE: Unsure of how to classify what I want out of a water related job

    Posted 02-23-2017 01:02 PM

    Hi Alexa,

    Just wanted to add "water and wastewater" to the list of possibilities.  The hydrology and chemistry (phosphorous) in your experience may be relevant to wastewater treatment plants. I agree with tailoring your resume to the requirement and job title of the specific position you are applying to. 

    Best luck in your job search!

    Natalya Sokolovskaya P.E., M.ASCE
    Wynnewood PA

  • 9.  RE: Unsure of how to classify what I want out of a water related job

    Posted 02-23-2017 01:02 PM
    Hi Alexa, The broad category is Water Resources. The others are subcategories. You might consider using, "Water Resources including municipal engineering, hydraulics, and environmental engineering". In looking for a firm remember that searches are in both directions. Do a web search on the prospective firm and see what kind of projects they are doing. If they are the find of projects you are interested in then pursue a position. You might consider larger firms that encourage cross training new engineers and will move you through several different but related departments.  The other consideration is to look for the smaller specialty firm that do a variety of project types, but the projects are more closely related than those of larger firms. 

    Robert Prager P.E., CVS, M.ASCE
    Principal River Engineer
    Intuition & Logic
    Amelia Island, FL 32034
    (904) 206 - 9478

  • 10.  RE: Unsure of how to classify what I want out of a water related job

    Posted 02-23-2017 03:03 PM
    Edited by Veronique Nguyen 02-23-2017 03:02 PM
    Alexa, I would focus on DESIGN of water and/or wastewater projects, if this is what you want. This probably points to consulting, which is where I have spent the last 35+ years. Of course there is also planning, construction, management, sales, etc. Regards, 
    [Thomas] [Trask]
    [PE, F.ASCE]
    [Senior Project Engineer]
    [Gannett Fleming, Inc.]
    [Virginia Beach] [VA]

  • 11.  RE: Unsure of how to classify what I want out of a water related job

    Posted 02-23-2017 04:07 PM


    I agree with some of the comments already posted, just starting out I would not worry so much about specifics, just start by moving in the general water direction and learn ALL you can before "settling" in.  Look for a company that seems like it will keep you busy, that can be a trick but ask about backlog and such, be specific.  If you want to really specialize in water topics and your experience confirms that please consider a technical graduate degree and ask if your employer will support that?  Finally stay with the EWB or other professional organizations, especially related to the water topic.

    As a side note in my experience us water types may divide into drinking water, wastewater, stormwater.  I would try and get experience in all these starting out, obviously that may range from modeling to field work.

    I would also suggest the website, many great articles on this:

    Michael Buechter P.E., M.ASCE
    Program Manager
    Webster Grvs MO
    (314) 968-9723

  • 12.  RE: Unsure of how to classify what I want out of a water related job

    Posted 02-24-2017 09:37 AM
    Water Resources Engineering is the more general job title that can encompass all of the sub-disciplines you mentioned. Early in your career, I would avoid becoming too specialized in any one area. Try to find an opportunity that gives you exposure to as many as possible.

    Mark Wilsnack P.E., D.WRE, F.EWRI, F.ASCE
    South Florida Water Management District
    West Palm Beach FL

  • 13.  RE: Unsure of how to classify what I want out of a water related job

    Posted 03-01-2017 09:35 AM
    I think you have lot of great advice in this thread, so I only want to add a couple of my own thoughts.  

    While "Water Resources" is very broad, it is a great conversation starter!  Especially when you are at a career/job fair or general ASCE networking event, I think it's great to start by saying that you're interested in Water Resources since you may encounter people who do not specialize in an area of water-related engineering.  That gives the other person an opportunity to engage with you more and ask you for specifics (be prepared).  Plus, it gives you the opportunity to possibly learn about other facets of the water field or it gives you an opportunity to learn of other jobs that may incorporate water into their duties, but may not fall under your known niches (e.g. groundwater remediation or leachate system design). 

    When you start out with saying something like "hydraulics" or "waste water" you are pointing out a niche that you have some knowledge of/experience with, but you don't know if that is where you want your career.  From the sounds of it, you are open to almost anything related to water, and I would be open and honest in saying that.  Good luck!

    Christina Bryz-Gornia P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
    Ellicott City MD