It?s pretty safe to say that getting a job in aquatics today basically requires two things: a love of the water and a formal certification. Today?s pool operators are more educated than ever before. In fact, more than 40 percent of facilities require aquatics supervisors to have an AFO, CPO or similar certification and more than 20 percent require a Bachelor?s degree, according to the Aquatics International 2008 Salary Survey.

?Since 1989, the National Swimming Pool Foundation has certified more than 200,000 professionals, and each year NSPF certifies another 20,000 professionals,? says Tom Lachocki, Ph.D, CEO of the National Swimming Pool Foundation. ?Twenty states [now] have requirements that public pools must have an operator who has gone through a verifiable certification course.?

NSPF created the Certified Pool/Spa Operator certification program in 1972. According to industry experts this was one of the first national training and certification programs, though locally based programs originated earlier, through various YMCA branches and local health agencies.

Since its introduction, Lachocki says the NSPF course has evolved from a ?rudimentary ?black and white? booklet to today?s full-color materials in multiple languages, available for in-classroom and online instruction with lesson plans including MS PowerPoint.?

In the past two decades other certification courses also have grown up, through private and nonprofit agencies. Perhaps the largest is the National Recreation and Park Association?s Aquatic Facility Operator Course. Developed by industry veteran Kent Williams, NRPA says the program has certified more than 16,000 aquatics facility operators in the 16 years of its existence.

In the past two decades these programs have helped set the standard for education. Mandated by changing regulations and the maturation of the industry, today?s more educated operators are better able to run safer, cleaner, more efficient facilities.