Steps to upgrade your Certificate
An eligible certified operator may upgrade their certification at any time. An application for certification upgrade is available through DEP’s eLibrary. All operators may upgrade their certification class and subclass except those holding Water classes Dc and Dn or holding a grandparented certification. The Board offers all qualified operators two upgrade options.
Upgrading Your Certification Class
Your certification class establishes the size of treatment system you are authorized to operate. A certified operator qualifies for a higher-class certification by obtaining the necessary experience. There is no examination to qualify for a higher certification class.
Important reminder: A certified operator upgrades to a higher class by:
- Meeting the required experience for the higher class by working at a system of that same higher class. (Option 1)
- Meeting the required experience for the higher class by gaining total experience at low class systems. (Option 2)
Option 1 allows a certified operator of a low class to upgrade by working in a higher class system. Under this option, the certified operator could not make any process control decisions in the higher class system and is only gaining experience at the higher class system.
Option 2 allows a certified operator to "jump" a maximum of two classes by meeting the experience requirement of the higher class.
The applicant for an upgrade in class needs to complete the upgrade application and document sufficient experience to meet the higher class requirement.
Upgrading Your Certification Subclass
Your certification subclass establishes the types of treatment systems you are authorized to operate. Many different types of treatment technology may be used at various systems. A certified operator may upgrade their subclass by meeting the experience requirement and passing an examination. Specifically
- Meet the experience requirement of one (1) year for each subclass treatment technology.
- Meet the experience requirement by operating treatment technologies that qualify as experience for other subclasses (see Qualifying Experience below).
- Pass the examination for the subclass treatment technology.
There are two ways to meet the one (1) year experience requirement for upgrading your certification subclass.
First way to qualify
The first way to qualify is to have working experience with the specific treatment technology represented by the subclass. Here is an example:
- You have worked two (2) years in a water system where you were involved in operating a corrosion control technology (Subclass – 7 Corrosion Control).
- You currently do not hold a Subclass – 7 Corrosion Control.
- You submit an application for a subclass upgrade and include your experience.
- DEP reviews your application and determines you met the one (1) year experience requirement for the Corrosion Control Subclass – 7.
- After passing the examination for corrosion control, the Board upgrades your certification to include Subclass 7.
If you work in the wastewater industry, this example applies.
- You have worked for 14 months in a wastewater system that uses extended aeration (Subclass – 1 Activated Sludge).
- You currently do not hold a Subclass – Activated Sludge.
- Your current certification is for a Subclass – 2 Fixed Media.
- You submit an application for a subclass upgrade and include your experience.
- Your 14 months qualifies as experience for Subclass – 1 Activated Sludge.
- By passing the Activated Sludge examination, you can upgrade to this certification subclass.
Second way to qualify
The second way to qualify is more complicated. It uses a method called technology hierarchy. Simply stated, technology hierarchy means that certain technologies you operate may automatically qualify as experience for other technologies. You can use technology hierarchy to qualify as experience even though you may have never operated that specific treatment technology.
DEP accepts technology hierarchy because certain subclasses require an operator have the same skills, knowledge and abilities to for other subclasses. An example in the wastewater treatment is Subclass – 1 Activated Sludge. The skills, knowledge, and abilities needed to make process control decisions with an activated sludge treatment system are the same needed to operate a tricking filter, Subclass – 2 Fixed Media, or a lagoon, Subclass – 3 Lagoons and Ponds.
Technology hierarchy allows an operator making process control decisions at an activated sludge treatment system to apply that experience to both subclass – 2 and subclass – 3. The applicant in this situation needs to submit their experience and then pass the Fixed Media and Ponds and Lagoons examinations to upgrade their certification subclass. The chart below shows how the technology hierarchy works. Note: any technology in the grouping at the left side of the chart qualifies as experience for other subclasses listed in that group.
Scenario - A certified operator with one (1) year of experience in the WW – 1 Activated Sludge may apply that experience to qualify for a WW –2 Fixed media and a WW – 3 Ponds and Lagoons. This operator would only need to pass the examination for each subclass to receive a certification. As shown below:
Scenario - A certified operator with one (1) year of experience in the WW –2 may apply that experience to qualify for a WW – 3 Ponds and Lagoons. This operator would only need to pass the examination for that subclass to receive a certification. As shown below:
Scenario - When an operator’s subclass on their current certificate is W1, W2, W3, or W4, then the operator’s experience applies to all other subclasses. When the operator has passed the subclass examination, a subclass upgrade is issued. As shown below:
Scenario - When an operator’s subclass on their current certificate is W5 or W6, then the operator’s experience applies to all other subclasses 5 through 14. When the operator has passed the subclass examination, a subclass upgrade is issued. As shown below:
Scenario - When an operator’s subclass on their current certificate is W7, W8, W9, and W10 then the operator’s experience applies to all other subclasses 7 through 14. When the operator has passed the subclass examination, a subclass upgrade is issued.
Scenario - When an operator’s subclass on their current certificate is W11, W12, W13, and W14 then the operator’s experience applies to all the subclasses in the grouping. When the operator has passed the subclass examination, a subclass upgrade is issued.
Class E – 4 is a stand-alone certification for collection systems with pump stations. There is no technology hierarchy for classification. A prospective applicant for a Class E – 4 needs to meet the experience requirement under Track 1 or Track 2 above.
Class E – Water Distribution System is a stand-alone certification. There is no technology hierarchy for this class. A prospective applicant needs to meet the experience requirement under Track 1 and Track 2 above.
Important reminders: A Criminal History Check is not required to apply for an upgrade of a certificate.
- An applicant can apply for an upgrade of both their class and subclass(es) on the same application.
- An operator upgrading their certificate in class, subclass, or both will stay in the same 3-year certificate renewal cycle and will be required to complete the continuing education requirements of the original class license in that cycle.
- An operator upgrading their certificate in class will complete any required increase of continuing education contact hours in their next complete 3-year certificate renewal cycle.The continuing education contact hours will be those required of that class for the second 3-year certificate renewal cycle.
- All previous held subclasses on an operator’s certificate carry over to an upgraded certificate.
- Water Class Dc, water Class Dn, and grandparented certificates are not upgradeable.
- Wastewater Class E/4 cannot add subclasses WW1, WW2, or WW3 unless the applicant passes the appropriate Part 1- General and subclass examinations and meets the experience requirement.
- Water Class E can only add subclasses W7 – W14.
- Water and wastewater Class E certificates are not upgradeable until the applicant passes the appropriate Part 1- General Examination and meets the experience requirement.
- Collection system experience and distribution system experience does not count as experience to upgrade from a Class E to a Class A, B, C, or D certificate.
Step one ... upgrading your certification for class and/or subclass
The applicant must submit a completed application to the Board for an upgrade of class and/or subclass. The application must be signed by a supervisor and notarized. The application must include:
- A processing fee payable to DEP or the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
- Any documents in support of the application including a copy of transcripts from any college and/or university and verification from the approved training provider for any successfully completed training courses.
Step two ... upgrading your certification by showing experience
The applicant must show they meet the experience requirements for the requested class of certification. That is if the applicant requests an upgrade to:
- Class A – Applicant must have worked at Class C or higher plants with combined experience meeting Track I or Track II requirements for Class A.
- Class B – Applicant must have worked at a Class D or higher plants with combined experience meeting Track I or Track II requirements for Class B.
- Class C – Applicant must have worked at a Class D or higher plants with combined experience meeting Track I or Track II requirements for Class C.
- Class D – Applicant must have worked at a Class D plant and meet Track I or II requirements for Class D.
Step three ... taking the examination for a subclassification upgrade
The applicant requesting an upgrade for a subclassification must pass the appropriate examination. (see above charts) Testing sites and dates can be found at this (link).
Step four ... submitting application to DEP
Mail your application to the address provided with all the required documentation and authorizations. Don’t forget to include payment. This starts the application review process. If there are questions about your application, DEP will contact you.