SSTS individual certification

SSTS professional doing installation work

In Minnesota, certain tasks in the design, installation, repair, maintenance, operation, or inspection of septic systems can only be done by certified individuals. All Minnesota-licensed SSTS businesses must employ an adequate number (at least one) of designated certified individuals (DCI) for each specialty area offered by the business. Local and state government employees must obtain individual certification in the specialty area(s) applicable to their work, and local governments must have at least one staff member who has taken the online SSTS administrator training. Local units of government cannot require additional local licenses for septic system professionals in Minnesota.

Becoming and remaining certified requires:

  • Training and examination
  • Experience with SSTS work
  • An application, including verification of experience
  • Continuing education
  • Certification renewal every three years

Find a record of your individual certification, showing expiration date and continuing education credits, with the SSTS search tool (click on the Certified individual tab).

Training and certification requirements

Type of work

Training and exams needed

Required certification

Required experience

Install SSTS

Introduction, installing

Installer

  • 15 SSTS installations, at least 1 each above- and below-ground
  • Observe five pump-outs and disposal with a Maintainer

Sewage tank evaluation, cleaning, and repairs; portable toilets and septage management

Introduction, maintaining

Maintainer

15 pump-outs and disposal with a Maintainer

SSTS operational assessment, adjustment, sampling, and interpretation of operational performance, repair, groundwater monitoring, and collection system maintenance

Introduction, service provider

Service Provider

None

Design of Type I – Type III systems ≤ 2,500 gpd for residential strength waste

Introduction, installing, basic design, soils

Basic Designer

  • 15 ISTS site and soil evaluations, designs, and management plans, at least one each above- and below-ground
  • Observe 4 installations and 5 pump-outs and disposal with a Maintainer

Design of Type I – Type V* systems ≤ 2,500 gpd for residential strength waste

Introduction, installing, basic design, soils, intermediate design and inspection

Intermediate Designer

None

Design of Type I – Type V* systems ≤ 10,000 gpd

Introduction, installing, basic design, soils, intermediate design and inspection, advanced design and inspection

Advanced Designer

None

Inspection of Type I – Type III systems ≤ 2,500 gpd for residential strength waste

Introduction, installing, basic design, inspecting, soils

Basic Inspector

  • 15 ISTS inspections, at least 1 each above- and below-ground
  • Observe 5 site and soil evaluations, designs, and management plans
  • 5 installations and 5 pump-outs and disposal with a Maintainer

Inspection of Type I – Type V* systems ≤ 2,500 gpd for residential strength waste

Introduction, installing, basic design, inspecting, soils, service provider, intermediate design and inspection

Intermediate Inspector

None

Inspection of Type I – Type V* systems ≤ 10,000 gpd

Introduction, installing, basic design, inspecting, soils, service provider, intermediate design and inspection, and advanced design and inspection

Advanced Inspector

None
Operation of systems > 10,000 gpd (LSTS) Introduction, service provider** Service Provider  

* Type V SSTS require the expertise of an appropriately licensed AELSLAGID professional

**Must also earn wastewater certification

Enroll in training

The U of MN's Onsite Sewage Treatment program offers training for all the certification specialties. The MPCA does not have access to U of MN training enrollment records. 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 suggest that you start with the Introduction to Onsite Systems course.

For certified individuals taking CE training: Courses provided by the U of MN's Onsite Sewage Treatment Program are MPCA-accredited as direct credits, except the pipe layer certification, which earns attendees two direct credits and one related credit.

NOTE: Large sub-surface sewage treatment (LSTS) operators have two years from the issuance or renewal of their state operating permit to complete training and certification requirements.

Take exams

Each certification course has a separate exam. 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 MPCA design guidance. You may use these resources and calculators during the examination, but not cell phones or computers. You must show a valid photo ID before the examination. To pass, you must earn a score of at least 70% on the exam — and, if applicable, the critical field portion of the soils course exam, which involves identifying soil colors and textures.

Failing an exam

If you fail an exam, you can repeat the related workshop and retake the exam. If you don't repeat the training, you must wait at least six months and retake the test during a pre-certification course examination period. To retake the soils pre-certification course exam, you must: 

  • Attend the soils pre-certification course exam period
  • Schedule the repeat exam with MPCA SSTS program staff
  • Provide a retake approval letter to the proctor on the day of the examination

If you don't pass an exam in one specialty area, you can still take the examination for a different area. Learn more:

Get required experience

To be certified, you must gain experience guided by someone who is certified either as an inspector or in the area of the certification you are seeking (also known as your mentor). Mentors cannot have had a violation in the past five years that resulted in an MPCA enforcement action. You must perform all work under a government agency or an SSTS licensed business, either as an employee or a holder of your own business license. Some specialties also have an observation requirement that doesn't necessarily need to be completed with your mentor. MPCA staff strongly encourage you to apply for certification before you start your experience to ensure your mentor is approved.

See the table above for experience requirements. Document your experience and submit it to the MPCA using the forms listed below.

Apply for certification

After you pass a specialty area examination, the MPCA will send an Microsoft Office document icon SSTS application for professional certification (wq-wwists3-11) with the letter announcing your exam results. With the application, you must provide an experience plan that includes:

  • The signature of your mentor (the certified individual with whom you'll be completing your experience)
  • The name of the business license or government agency accepting liability for your experience work

Once you qualify, the MPCA will issue you a certification card with your certification number, the specialty area(s) in which you are certified, and the expiration date. You'll also be listed in the SSTS search tool's Certified individual listing.

Restricted certification

If you applied for certification but have not completed your required experience, you'll be awarded a restriction certification. You must perform all work under the direction of a mentor (see Experience section above). Once the MPCA approves your required experience, the agency will lift the restriction, and you'll be fully certified.

Renew certification

Certification is valid for three years after you pass an exam. You must take continuing education related to SSTS during your certification period. When you take continuing education courses, the training providers will send both you and the MPCA a certificate of attendance. The agency tracks your credits and will mail you an updated certification card when you meet requirements.

If you don't complete your continuing education requirements in time, your certification will expire. See the SSTS certification and licensing FAQ page for details on how to re-acquire certification.

Continuing education requirements

Exam taken Required continuing education
  • Introduction to Onsite Systems
  • Installing Onsite Systems
  • Service Provider
12 credit hours, at least half direct*
Maintaining Onsite Systems 12 credit hours, at least half direct* or 9 hours specifically related to pumping SSTS and or land applications
  • 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 of which are devoted to soils education with a field component. At least half must be direct* credits.
LSTS operator of Class A systems 32 hours, at least 12 SSTS and at least 20 wastewater
LSTS operator of Class B systems 24 hours, at least 12 SSTS and at least 12 wastewater
LSTS operator of Class C systems 16 hours, at least 8 SSTS and at least 8 wastewater

*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.

Forms

Training course accreditation

Organizations that provide SSTS professional training must apply for accreditation with the MPCA in order for their courses to qualify as pre-certification or continuing education training for the agency's individual certification program.

What do SSTS professionals need to know?

The task analyses below are working documents that outline tasks in which SSTS practitioners are expected to be competent. The job analysis process is an important way to define and continuously improve SSTS curriculum and exams. The analyses are a product of the stakeholder-driven Need-To-Know (N2K) process, which defines what SSTS practitioners need to know to effectively and efficiently practice their profession. To comment on N2K criteria or participate in N2K committees, contact Nick Haig.

SSTS task analysis

SSTS exam descriptions

Resources