DW Operator Certification: FAQs



Question: How do I sign up to take a certification exam?

  • You must complete and mail an application, including the exam application fee and any required supporting documentation to the NCWTFOCB.  The application must be postmarked no later than 30 days prior to the desired examination date


Question: Can I submit my exam application online?

  • No, there is currently no online option available for submitting your application.  We are in the process of reviewing online options for exam application submittal in the future. 


Question: To whom do I make my check for an exam application payable?

  • Checks should be made out to NCWTFO Certification Board.


Question: Can I pay for my certification exam application with a credit card?

  • There is currently no option for credit card payment of certification exam fees. We are in the process of reviewing credit card payment options for exam application fees in the future.


Question: How do I know if my exam application has been received?

  • Exam acceptance letters and attached location maps will be sent out after the 30-day submission deadline if you have been approved. If you have not received a confirmation letter at least two weeks before the exam date, please call to find out the status of your application.
  • You may also check the Certified Operator Portal to see if your application fee has been posted, which indicates we have received your application.  You will be required to create a user name and password through NCID, then supply a small amount of identifying information before you can gain access to your record.


Question:  When and where are exams held?

  • Traditional paper exams are typically given on the last Thursday in February, May, August and October in Williamston, Hickory and Raleigh. Dates may vary. See the exams page for specific dates.
  • Computer-based exams are currently suspended due to venue unavailability related to Covid-19.


Question:  How many times can I re-take the exam before I have to go back to school again?

  • The successful completion of an approved certification school meets the school requirement indefinitely; however, after 3 failed attempts to pass the exam, you will be required to retake the certification school before attempting to take the exam again.


Question:  Will the exam be given on the last day of my certification school?

  • No. The examinations are administered by the State and require a separate application which must be completed, including all documentation and payment, and be postmarked at least 30-days prior to the desired examination date.


Question:  What type of exam is given?

  • The exam is multiple choice. A score of 70 percent or higher is required to pass.
  • The exam is based on subjects that operators need to know, such as North Carolina public drinking water rules, general water systems knowledge, water quality, applied mathematics, chemistry, biology, environmental sciences, laboratory testing procedures, hydraulics, pumping systems, water storage facilities, system controls, backflow prevention, and distribution system operation. Please note exam questions are not limited to this list.


Question:  Can I take the exam if I don’t have the required work experience?

  • Yes. A high school graduate or equivalent may be deemed eligible to sit for an exam as an APPRENTICE for Grades C, D, or CC certification, provided the apprentice has successfully completed the appropriate certification school, and submitted a timely application with payment. Upon passing the apprentice exam, and meeting the experience requirements, the apprentice may then submit an application to the WTFOCB for full certification in the class for which the apprentice initially passed the exam.


Question:  How will I find out my grade on an exam? Can I call?

  • Exam results (pass/fail) may only be given in writing, and directly to the applicant, after all exams have been graded. The results will be mailed to the applicant’s address on record. No results will be given out over the telephone.


Question:  What if I fail the exam?

  • If you fail the exam, you may be granted an opportunity to review your examination in the Raleigh office of the Operator Certification Program. Refer to your exam results letter for dates and availability. You may then apply to take the exam up to 2 additional times by submitting a properly completed, and timely application, with payment included for each additional attempt. If the exam is not passed after 3 total attempts, you will be required to retake the certification school before attempting to sit for the exam again.


Question: Can my post-high school education help me attain a certification more quickly?

  • In some cases, educational experience (beyond high school or high school equivalency) may shorten the actual work experience an operator must have to obtain a certification. This educational experience includes attaining status as a college graduate with a bachelor's degree in the physical or natural sciences or being a graduate of a two-year technical program with a diploma in water and wastewater technology. Refer to 15A NCAC 18D .0201 GRADES OF CERTIFICATION found under Rules Governing Water Treatment Facility Operators for more information.


Question:  What if I have a license from another state? Do I still have to take the exam? Will that license be valid in North Carolina?

  • An operator certified in a state other than North Carolina may submit an application for certification directly to the NCWTFO Certification Board. If the applicant is eligible for the application review, the Board will review the application and determine if the requirements for the out-of-state certification is equivalent to those required by the NCWTFOCB. The applicant may then be eligible to receive a North Carolina certification based on their current, active certification. Details regarding this process and related eligibility requirements can be found on our reciprocity page.





Question: Now that I am a certified operator, how do I keep my certification current?

  • As a certified operator, you will be required to renew your certification annually, each year following the year of initial certification. You will also be required to annually complete six hours of Board-approved professional growth coursework prior to the expiration of the certificate, for each year following the year of certification.


Question:  How will I know it is time to renew my certificate?

  • Renewal letters are mailed out around the middle of November to operators at the last known address in our records. For that reason, it is extremely important that you keep us informed of any mailing address changes so our records are up-to-date and important mailings get to you in a timely manner. If you fail to receive a renewal notice, you are still responsible for renewing the certificate.


Question: When are renewal fees due each year and how much are they?

  • Renewal fees are due December 31 of each calendar year and will be considered delinquent if received on or after February 1. The cost of annual certification renewal is $30 per certification. Delinquent renewals (those received on February 1 or after) will require an additional late charge of $30 per certification.


Question:  What if I receive my renewal notice and it doesn’t show my Professional Growth Hours earned?

  • It is ultimately the responsibility of the operator to provide proof of any professional growth hours earned. You should submit a copy of your proof of training to the Operator Certification office, along with your name and certification ID, so that your record can be updated.


Question:  To whom do I make my renewal check payable?

  • Checks should be made out to NCWTFO Certification Board.


Question:  Can I pay for my certification renewal with a credit card?


Question:  What if I failed to renew by the expiration date of my certificate?

  • If you have completed all the required training by the expiration date of the certificate, you may still renew your certification by submitting payment of all renewal fee(s) in arrears, including late fees, provided you are seeking reinstatement within two years of expiration. Or, you may choose to take, and pass, another examination for the certification that has expired.
  • If you did not complete the minimum amount of training required for renewal, you will need to take the state examination again, and receive a passing score, in order to reactivate your certification.
  • If more than two years have passed since your certificate has expired, you will be required to apply to the NCWTFOCB for approval to be eligible for reinstatement of the expired certificate.



Training/Schools & Professional Growth Hours:


Question: Where can I find Board-approved training?


Question:  How can I check to see if you have a record of my Professional Growth Hours?


  • You may check our record of your professional growth hours, and other information, by looking in the Certified Operator Portal located on our website. You will be required to create a user name and password through NCID, then supply a small amount of identifying information before you can gain access to your record. Once access is established to the Certified Operator Portal, you may also renew your certification here or change your mailing address, in addition to checking your professional growth hour record and other information related to your certification.


Question:  Can I carry over extra/unused Professional Growth Hours to a future year?

  • No. Professional growth hours are only valid for the one-year renewal period in which they were earned.




Question: How can I obtain a duplicate or replacement certificate?

  • Complete the Certificate Replacement Request Form and mail to the NCWTFOCB, making sure to include a required fee of $20 per person, per certificate. Checks should be made payable to the NCWTFOCB.