By Tanya Lubner, Ph.D.

Water Quality Association (WQA) professional certification is more than a badge of honor. It’s more than the designation placed on business cards or the statements made to customers. It establishes your credibility and expertise because it is an independent verification of your industry knowledge. WQA-certified professionals are better prepared to effectively perform their jobs—because of the training and education their certification requires.

It doesn’t matter if you think of yourself as a technician, filtration dealer, industrial installer or an environmental consultant—all water treatment professionals are in the sales business.

Water treatment dealers typically encounter a skeptical customer. Since hardness and many contaminants dissolved in water are mainly undetectable by human senses, it can be difficult to convince customers that a problem exists. Even when contaminants become evident by smell, soap curd or stains, customers may still be hesitant to accept the explanation that a waterborne substance could be the root cause. WQA-certified professionals have the backing of an entire industry to support their claims and their credentials.

To better educate water treatment professionals and to improve the credibility of the industry in the eyes of consumers, WQA members created a professional certification program. They hoped participation would help demonstrate their commitment to sound scientific principles and ethical selling practices when solving water quality problems. The program was (and is!) a success. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the WQA Professional Certification Program and today, nearly 2,000 water treatment professionals hold a professional certification from WQA.

Certified individuals must pass an exam to demonstrate an acceptable level of expertise in water chemistry and treatment technologies. Because WQA certification requires continuing education, the Certified Water Specialist (CWS), Certified Installer (CI), Certified Sales Representative (CSR) or Certified Contractual Operator (CCO) can reassure the customer of his/her commitment to remain knowledgeable about the water industry and of the latest developments and products.

WQA-created education materials support all certification exams and continuing education/recertification credits. Experts in the field of water treatment, such as Wes McGowan; Robert Slovak; Duane ‘Doc’ Nowlin, Ph.D.; Peter Chermak; Orville Schaefer, CWS-V, CCO; Philip Olsen; Peter Cartwright, P.E., CWS-VI; WQA’s own Technical Director, Joseph F. Harrison, P.E., CWS-VI and others, were asked to write and collaborate on textbooks, workbooks, instructional videos and articles that make up the backbone of WQA’s contribution to the field of water quality and treatment education. The certification exams were written by another group of recognized water treatment industry experts, guided by an education consultant.

WQA Aquatech USA, the association’s annual educational conference and exhibition, provides an excellent opportunity to learn from industry experts and, perhaps more importantly, to ask questions. Educational seat time at the conference is eligible for recertification credit. If you missed the 2007 conference, make sure to attend 2008’s in Las Vegas, Nevada. Seat time can also be obtained at local WQA conferences and other water-related conferences throughout the year.

A key part of WQA certification is the ethics course. All certified individuals must complete the course during the first three-year cycle of their certification. Since its inception in 2000, more than 900 certified personnel have completed the ethics course.

WQA’s professional certification program was further strengthened by the incorporation of guidelines recommended by the National Organization for Competency Assurance (NOCA). Both the Certified Water Specialist and the Certified Installer exams underwent psychometric review to ensure they provide an unbiased and valid measurement of examinees’ knowledge and abilities.

Opportunities for certification have been expanded with the addition of specialty exams that test knowledge in the areas of reverse osmosis/ultrafiltration, filtration, disinfection, deionization and most recently, ozone. Successful completion of these exams adds certification levels for the Certified Water Specialist, culminating with CWS-VI.

WQA certification continues to help water treatment professionals differentiate themselves from the pack. This differentiation has worked so well that many customers who search for water treatment dealers through the Find a Water Professional feature of the WQA website tell us that they pay close attention to how many certified personnel a dealership has and make purchasing decisions based on those certifications.

WQA salutes all our certified person nel and looks forward to another 30 years of providing quality water treatment education.

More information on WQA’s Professional Certification can be obtained by calling WQA’s Certification department at (630) 505-0160 and on-line at

About the author
Tanya Lubner, Ph.D. is the Director of Education & Certification for the Water Quality Association. She oversees WQA’s education and certification programs, the development of new educational materials and programs, recertification quizzes and exams. Prior to joining WQA, Lubner worked in sales of optical spectroscopy instrumentation. Her Ph.D. is in inorganic chemistry and her research involved the development of photochemically active compounds for application in cancer treatment and solar energy storage.


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