Montana Department of Environmental Quality About Us Permitting & Operator Assistance Public Participation

Water and Wastewater Operator Certification

Looking for a way to help your community and have a rewarding career?
Consider becoming a drinking water and/or wastewater professional.

Program Overview

In Montana, all drinking water treatment plants, wastewater treatment plants, or water distribution systems must be operated under the supervision of a fully certified operator to ensure the proper management, operation, and maintenance of the system. DEQ administers both the water and wastewater operator certification programs and provides testing and program information services to ensure comprehensive, ongoing training is provided to Montana’s water and wastewater operator community.

Don't have an operator? Montana law requires all water and wastewater facilities be maintained by a Certified Operator. Email the Operator Certification Program at DEQ for information regarding what to do if you do not currently have a certified operator for your facility.

Become a Certified Operator

Education Requirements

  • High School Diploma or College Diploma or Transcripts or GED. If no Education, a Competency Assessment must be taken.
  • Two days of education in post-secondary engineering training or the equivalent may be substituted for each day of experience, up to one-half of the experience requirement.

Work Experience Requirements for Full Certification

  • Class 4 - 1 year
  • Class 3 - 1.5 years
  • Class 2- 2 years
  • Class 1 - 2.5 years

Certificates are issued for the following categories:

Applicants for reciprocity certification must show they have met certification requirements which are at least equivalent to the Montana requirements.

To apply for certification in Montana by reciprocity, an applicant must:

  1. Hold a valid water or wastewater certification in another state.
  2. Meet Montana’s minimum experience requirements for the type of certification you are requesting.
  3. Be in responsible charge of a system in Montana.
  4. Have an approved Montana certification application on file. To have your application approved, you must fully complete a Montana application for the classification and type that is comparable to the certification you currently hold in another state.
  5. Submit with your application:
    1. A letter outlining the requirements for the certification you hold in another state, how you met those requirements, and the amount of experience you have had with specific types of systems or treatment processes.
    2. Copies of your credentials of certification and any other supporting documents, including the name and phone number of the certification contact in the other state
    3. $70 reciprocity fee and $70 application fee for each water and wastewater application.

If your request for reciprocity is approved, you will receive the appropriate certification in the mail. Note that since other state agencies must be contacted to verify information, this process may take up to six weeks to complete.

Montana Water Operator exam to ABC equivalent for Water System Operators
Montana Water Distribution System Operator Exam ABC Water Distribution System Operator Equivalent
Class 1A Class III Water Distribution
Class 2A Class II Water Distribution
Class 3A Class 1 Water Distribution
Montana Water Treatment System Operator Exam ABC Water Treatment System Operator Equivalent
Class 1B Class III Water Treatment
Class 2B Class II Water Treatment
Class 3B Class 1 Water Treatment
Montana Small Water System Class 4AB ABC Very Small Water System Operators
Montana Water Operator exam to ABC equivalent for Wastewater System Operators
Montana Municipal Wastewater Exam ABC Wastewater Equivalent
Class 1C Class II Wastewater Treatment
Class 3C Small Wastewater System Operator
Montana Industrial Wastewater Exam ABC Industrial Equivalent
Class 1D Physical/Chemical Class IV
Class 2D Biological Class III
Class 3D Physical/Chemical Class II
Class 4D Biological Class I
Class 2E-4E No conversion

See Training section below for a complete list of available materials.

Please review the Upcoming Training and Exams panel to the right for upcoming exams, as our offices are currently scheduling limited in-office exams. To register for an exam, contact Jen VandenBos at (406) 444-4584. New applicants must submit an application a minimum of 30 days before an exam date. Please allow 4-6 weeks to receive exam results in the mail.

Temporary and Contracted Operators

DEQ may issue a Temporary Operator Certification to an operator responsible for a specific system who does not meet the full certification requirements. A temporary certificate can be granted upon:

  • (a) Written request to DEQ by the system owner and verification by the owner that the system is unable to employ a fully certified operator; and
  • (b) A finding by DEQ that the operator has the basic knowledge necessary to operate the system and that public health will be protected.

The department shall base its decision on:

  • the results of any on-site inspection of the system;
  • review of the plans and specifications of the system;
  • review of the operator's records, experience and training; and examination of any other reasonably available and relevant information.

A temporary certificate is effective for six months from the date of issuance, or until the operator becomes fully certified, whichever occurs first. A temporary certificate is valid only for the person to whom it is issued, for the system identified on the certificate, and for the period of time identified on the certificate.

Temporary Operator Certification Application

Certified Operators

Certification Renewals

Certified operators must renew their certificates yearly. Every even-numbered year, appropriate CEC requirements must be met by May 31. A surplus of CECs earned during one biennium will not be applied to the following biennium. All training classes must be approved by DEQ.

Renewal fees

Drinking Water Certificate: $30

Wastewater Certificate: $40

Course Approval

Before CECs can be earned for a course, the course must be approved for credit by the Montana Certification Office by submitting an Individual Course Application.

Courses Approved for Dual CECs

Operators who hold certification in both water and wastewater can earn CECs for both certifications when attending a course DEQ has approved as a dual CEC course.

Courses Only Approved for One-Half CECs

Training not directly applicable to water or wastewater plant operation can be approved for training but may only earn one-half the amount of CECs. Remember a CPR class is only good for credit the first time you take it.

CEC Requirements by Class:
CEC Requirements for each class of operator.
Class Experience Needed FC CEC Requirements OT CEC Requirements
Class 1 2.5 Years 20 Hours (2.0) 10 Hours (1.0)
Class 2 2 Years 10 Hours (1.0) 5 Hours (.50)
Class 3 1.5 Years 10 Hours (1.0) 5 Hours (.50)
Class 4 1 Year 10 Hours (1.0) 5 Hours (.50)
Class 5 NA 4 Hours (.40) 2 Hours (.20)
  • There is no longer a Class 5AB operator (class 4 & 5 are now combined)

Quick Links

Upcoming Training and Exams

MRWS 44th Technical Conference and Exhibition Show (Great Falls) - March 20-22, 2024

Operator Certification Exams (Great Falls) - March 22, 2024
(please note: DEQ office must receive applications a minimum of 30 days prior to taking an exam. Deadline for application is February 22nd) 

MW2OI Spring Water School (Billings) - May 14-16, 2024

Operator Certification Exams (Billings) - May 16, 2024
(please note: DEQ office must receive applications a minimum of 30 days prior to taking an exam. Deadline for application is April 18th)

MW2OI Fall Water School (Bozeman) - (Link TBD) October 8-10, 2024

Operator Certification Exams (Bozeman) - October 10, 2024
(please note: DEQ office must receive applications a minimum of 30 days prior to taking an exam. Deadline for application is September 11th)


General Questions? Send us a message!

Operator Certification Supervisor
Libby Murray-Henrikson (406) 444-6781

Operator Certification Technicians
VACANT - (406) 444-3434
Jen VandenBos  (406) 444-4584


The first step will be to fill out either the drinking water application or wastewater operator application. Once this is filled out and submitted, it will start the process to become certified. Once our office receives your application, we will send out a small welcome packet.
There is a $70.00 drinking water application fee, $70.00 wastewater application fee. Each exam you take is $70.00. Fees are non-refundable. For example, you submit a drinking application and are going to take the 2A and 3B exam. Your total fees will be $210.00.
Exams are offered at the MRWS Conference, Spring Water School, and Fall Water School. The exam sign up is located in the Upcoming Training and Exams panel. You can also schedule an exam at one of our DEQ offices located in, Helena, Billings, Missoula, or Kalispell. Just a reminder, applications need to be received 30 days prior to taking an exam. No exceptions!
Yes! You must be employed by a water or wastewater system in Montana in order to apply for reciprocity.
CECs are due every even numbered year. The current biennium started on June 1, 2022 and ends May 31, 2024.
CECs can be checked in the Quick Links panel. You will need to know your operator ID number. If there is a class you took and it is not showing, please send us an email at
Certifications are renewed annually. They are due by June 30th. Renewal notices will be mailed out at the end of April/beginning of May. Water certifications are $30.00 and wastewater certifications are $40.00. If you fail to pay your renewal fee by June 30th, you will be assessed a late fee of $30.00.


Josh Seekins, Montana DEQ
Pete Adams, Moonlight Basin & Spanish Peaks
Brian Webb, East Decker Coal Mine