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Drainage engineer

Drainage technician

A drainage engineer is responsible for designing systems that move water or sewage from one place to another, as safely and efficiently as possible. This can involve visiting sites to gain an understanding of project requirements, as well as designing and overseeing the installation of these systems.

Average salary*




How to become a drainage engineer

There are several routes to becoming a drainage engineer. It is likely that you will be expected to hold a university degree, however you could also complete a college course, an apprenticeship, or apply directly to an employer if you have relevant experience.   

You should explore these routes to find out which is the right one for you. Although some of these options have certain qualification requirements, many employers are more interested in people who are enthusiastic, willing to learn and can follow instructions.

You may need a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card to work on a construction site.


You will usually be expected to hold a foundation degree in a relevant subject to become a drainage engineer. Such subjects include:

  • Geology
  • Geography
  • Geophysics
  • Geotechnology
  • Civil Engineering 
  • Physics
  • Engineering
  • Environmental science
  • Environmental engineering.

To study a foundation degree, you will usually require 2 - 3 A levels, or equivalent. 

College/training provider

You may need to attend a specialist college or training provider to start your journey to becoming a drainage engineer.

You could complete a higher national certificate such as a Level 4 HNC in Civil Engineering, or a Level 5 HND in Construction and the Built Environment. After this, you may be able to work as a trainee engineer and do on-the-job training to qualify.  

You’ll need 1 - 2 A levels (or equivalent) for these courses, including maths.

A college course specialising in computer aided design (CAD) would provide you with useful skills to help you on your journey to becoming a drainage engineer. You’re likely to need GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) or equivalent, for this 


You could complete an apprenticeship to become a drainage engineer.

An apprenticeship with a drainage or waterworks company is a good way into the industry. Alternatively, you could complete an advanced civil engineering apprenticeship and then specialise in drainage engineering.

For an advanced civil engineering apprenticeship you’ll need:

  • 5 GCSEs (including English, maths and science) at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent
  • 1 - 2 A Levels, or equivalent.

The Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE) list up to date apprenticeship opportunities on their website.

Apprenticeships are open to anyone over the age of 16. As an apprentice, you’ll be fully employed by your company and expected to work a minimum of 30 hours a week. Your time will be split between on-the-job experience and a college or training provider.


If you have some experience within an engineering role, you could apply directly to a company to gain onsite experience as a drainage engineer. You might start out as an assistant to a more experienced drainage engineer and progress as your abilities improve.

Work experience

Work experience is essential to gaining employment within the construction industry. You could gain this at school, or by working weekends and holidays with a company or relative who works as a drainage engineer. Potential employers will always be pleased to see work experience listed on your CV.


Additional skills which may benefit anyone considering a job as a drainage engineer include: 

  • Mathematics, geography, and science knowledge
  • Knowledge of engineering science and technology
  • Analytical thinking skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Excellent communication skills.

What does a drainage engineer do?

As a drainage engineer, you will be responsible for designing drainage systems to ensure safe water or sewerage flow. Duties may include on-site visits, project meetings, and technical design work. Drainage engineering is a discipline within civil engineering, and as such some duties may crossover between these roles. 

The job role of a drainage engineer involves the following duties: 

  • Leading project meetings
  • Visiting sites to gain an understanding of the project
  • Planning drainage systems using computer modelling software
  • Liaising with other teams and departments
  • Preparing costs and schedules
  • Working with clients to ensure that their requirements are fulfilled, and expectations met
  • Using advanced computer modelling tools
  • Assessing the environmental impact of proposed works
  • Keeping up to date with changing legislation and codes of practice to ensure compliance
  • Answering technical queries
  • Visiting the site during construction to make sure the works are completed to specification
  • Helping to design flood management or defence systems
  • Combining an in-depth understanding of physics and computer-based designs tools.

How much could you earn as a drainage engineer?

The expected salary for a drainage engineer varies as you become more experienced.

  • Newly trained drainage engineers can earn £23,000 - £30,000
  • Trained drainage engineers with some experience can earn £30,000 - £45,000
  • Senior, chartered, or master drainage engineers can earn £45,000 - £70,000*
  • Self-employed drainage engineers set their own pay rates.

Hours and salary depend on location, employer and any overtime you may do.

* Salaries have been collected from multiple industry sources


Check out the latest drainage engineer vacancies: 

As these are external websites, the number of vacancies related to your preferred role may vary. New opportunities will be posted as they come up

Career path and progression

As a drainage engineer, you could work towards transferring your skills to a similar engineering role, such as structural engineer or geo-technical engineer. You could also progress within the role to become a team leader, or manager.

Drainage engineering is a discipline of civil engineering, and as such you could transfer your skills to this role. 

Progression Opportunities

Explore the progression opportunities below

  • Current role Drainage engineer A highly technical role in any construction business, a drainage engineer is res...
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  • Current role Geo-technical engineer Interested in analysing the risk of geological hazards to identify any risks to ...
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