SSTS certification and licensing FAQ

Who must be certified with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency?

At least one employee of each Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA)-licensed Subsurface Sewage Treatment Systems (SSTS) business must be certified in each specialty area offered by the business. Qualified employees must also be certified.

What is a qualified employee?

A qualified employee (QE) is a certified individual with SSTS duties who works for state, county, township, or city government.

What is a designated certified individual and who needs one?

A designated certified individual (DCI) is one who is certified in one or more specialty areas. The DCI provides direction and personal supervision to other employees. All MPCA-licensed SSTS businesses must employ at least one SSTS certified individual in each specialty area in which they operate.

Who needs an SSTS business license?

All private businesses that design, install, maintain, inspect, or provide service to SSTS in Minnesota need a license from the MPCA. Local government units do not need a license to complete SSTS work as part of their SSTS program administration; however, any qualified employees performing SSTS activities outside of their government jurisdiction must get a business license or work for someone who has one. See the SSTS business licensing page for all the details on obtaining a license.

How do I enroll for training?

Enroll for training offered by the University of Minnesota Onsite Sewage Treatment Program (OSTP) online. The MPCA does not have access to training enrollment records.

In what order should I take the workshops?

To enroll in the Intermediate and Advanced Design/Inspection workshops, you must first be an unrestricted certified designer or inspector. No other course has a prerequisite and can be taken in any order. MPCA staff strongly suggests that you start with the Introduction to Onsite Systems course.

What are examinations like?

Each specialty has a separate examination that covers the knowledge and skills needed to work successfully in that area. The true/false and multiple choice questions are based on information from class discussions, Minn. R. 7080-7083, the Manual for Septic Professionals in Minnesota and the MPCA Design Guidance. You may use these resources and calculators during the examination, but you may not use cell phones or computers. You must show a valid photo identification before the examination. To pass, you must earn a score of at least 70% on both the examination and the critical field portion of the Soils Course Examination, which involves identifying soil colors and textures.

What if I fail the examination?

If you enroll in and repeat the workshop related to the failed examination, you can retake the examination at any time. If you do not repeat training, you must wait at least six months and retake the examination during a pre-certification course examination period. To retake the Soils Precertification Course examination, you must attend the Soils Pre-certification Course examination period. You must schedule this repeat examination with SSTS program staff at the MPCA and provide a retake approval letter to the examination proctor on the day of the examination. Failure to provide this letter to the examination proctor will preclude you from retaking the examination. If you do not pass the examination in one specialty area, you can still take the examination for a different specialty area.

How do I apply for certification?

After you pass a specialty area examination, the MPCA will send a SSTS Individual Certification application with the letter announcing that you passed the examination. As part of the application, you will need to provide an experience plan that includes: 

  • The signature of your mentor, who is the DCI or QE under whom you will be completing your experience
  • The business license or government agency that will accept the liability for your work that is completed as experience

MPCA staff strongly encourages you to apply for certification before you start your experience to ensure your mentor is approved. Learn more:

Does the MPCA charge a fee for professional to become certified?

No.

Who can be my mentor?

Your mentor must be either a certified inspector or a certified professional in the specialty area you are seeking. In addition, the mentor cannot have had a violation within the past five years that resulted in a MPCA enforcement action. Submit your certification application to the MPCA, who will determine if your mentor is qualified.

How do I show that I'm certified or that my business is licensed?

The MPCA will issue certified individuals with a certification card with your certification number, the specialty areas in which you are certified, and your certification expiration date. Licensed businesses will receive a card and certification with the license number, the specialty areas in which the business is licensed, the license expiration date, the DCI the business employs, and the expiration date for the DCI's certification.

  • SSTS search – Find information on currently licensed businesses and certified individuals

What is a restricted certification?

Individuals who have applied for certification, but have not yet completed their required experience, will be awarded a restricted certification. A professional with a restricted certification must perform all work under the direction and personal supervision of a designated mentor. Once the professional submits and receives MPCA approval for the required experience, the restriction is lifted and the professional will become fully certified.

How do I report my experience to lift the restriction from my certification?

Document all experience and submit it to the MPCA using an experience documentation form. Include experience acquired under a valid SSTS business license during the six-year period before the date that your restricted certification is approved. For at least five jobs, you must submit additional types of documentation, which are different for each specialty area. Descriptions of the required documents are included on both the certification application and the experience documentation forms.

When does my certification or business license expire?

Individual certification is valid for the three years after you first pass an examination. The certification expiration date is displayed on your certification card and on the business license where you are employed. Note: your professional certification expiration date is different than the business’s license expiration date.

SSTS businesses must renew licenses each year, which includes providing evidence of general liability insurance and paying the annual fee. The MPCA mails a license renewal form four to six weeks before the license expiration date. Return the completed form, license fee, and proof of insurance at least 21 days before your expiration to ensure timely license reissuance.

The University of Minnesota OSTP does not have access to your MPCA certification records.

How do I submit proof of my continuing education?

When you complete a course, the training event sponsor will give a certificate of attendance to both you and the MPCA. The agency will track your continuing education credits and mail an updated certification card when you meet requirements.

  • SSTS search – Verify the number and amount of credits you have on file

What if I forget to renew my business license?

Contact SSTS program staff at the MPCA to verify that your business license has expired. You must immediately cease all SSTS work authorized by the license until it is renewed. Request a business license renewal form and return it, along with the fee and proof of insurance, to the MPCA. Check your dates and mark your calendars to ensure you meet the renewal dates.

What if I forget to complete my continuing education and my certification expires?

First, contact SSTS program staff at the MPCA to verify your certification has expired. If it has, you must immediately cease all subsurface sewage treatment work authorized by this certification until you are in receipt of a renewed certification. You will need to complete the continuing education credits required for your specialty area. Then, make arrangements with SSTS program staff at the MPCA to retest for each of the expired certifications; see the table below for details. On the retake date, you must provide the examination proctor with the retake approval letter from the MPCA or you can't retake the exam. NOTE: DCIs may lose their designation if their certification expires, which may result in the loss of the business license. Check your dates and mark your calendars to ensure you meet the renewal dates. The University of Minnesota OSTP does not have access to your MPCA certification records.

Qualifying exams completed Required continuing education(CE) If you don't fulfill 9 or 12 hour CE requirement If you fulfill the 9 or 12 hours of CE, but not the 6-hour soils-specific requirement

Group 1A:

  • Introduction to Onsite Systems
  • Installing Onsite Systems
  • Service Provider
12 hours, at least half direct hours* You must retake all Group 1 qualifying exams required for your certification. Not applicable

Group 1B:

  • Maintaining Onsite Systems

12 hours, at least half direct hours*
OR
9 hours related to pumping or land application, at least f

You must retake all Group 1 exams required for your certification. Not applicable

Group 2:

  • Designing Onsite Systems
  • Inspecting Onsite systems
  • Soils
  • Intermediate Design & Inspection of Onsite Systems
  • Advanced Design & Inspection of Onsite Systems

18 credit hours, at least 6 direct hours of soils continuing education and at least 3 of the remaining 12 direct hours*

The soils-specific requirement takes effect after an individual passes their first Group 2 qualifying exam.

You must retake all Group 1 and Group 2 exams required for your certification. Your Group 1 exams remain valid, but you must retake all Group 2 exams require for your certification.

*Direct does not mean that installers must take installer CE, designers must take designer CE, etc. Direct accreditation means that the training includes the administration and technical parts of Minn. R. 7080-7083. Check with your training provider to determine what type and amount of credits they offer.

If you have passed multiple exams, you are not required to add up the relevant CE requirements; the maximum required hours is 18 every three years.