Power Plant Operator Job Description
Power plant operators work in power plants, where they operate and repair the systems that distribute electric power to homes, businesses, and factories. Since so many homes and businesses rely on electricity each day, power plant operators have a very important job to do.
The majority of power plant operators work in the electric power industry, but there are also some opportunities with local government agencies.
This can be a mentally demanding occupation. Power plant operators have to remain alert and attentive throughout their shifts, so they can quickly identify any problems that arise and quickly put solutions into place.
Power plants are secured environments, and operators have to work in very secure conditions. If you want a career in a fun and laid back atmosphere, it’s safe to say that this probably isn’t the job for you.
There are many potential dangers within a power plant. Outside of the control room, there is risk of injury from electric shocks and burns. However, taking necessary safety precautions can keep these risks to a minimum.
Power plants run around the clock, and there always need to be operators on hand. To make sure that all shifts are covered, operators normally work in rotating shifts. Constantly changing sleep and living patterns can be extremely difficult, and can take a toll on a personal life. Before you decide to pursue a career in this occupation, you should carefully consider the demands of the working schedule.
How to Become a Power Plant Operator
Power plant operators need to have a minimum of a high school diploma, but most employers prefer to hire candidates who have a degree from a vocational school or a college or university.
A strong background in math and science is essential for people in this occupation. Algebra and trigonometry are both especially important. To measure the aptitude of candidates for these positions, most employers require that they complete the Power Plant Maintenance and Plant Operator exams. These tests are administered by Edison Electric Institute, and measure mathematical ability, mechanical concepts, and reading comprehension.
Because power plant operators are directly responsible for the safety of many people, they are also subjected to a thorough background check as well as a drug test as part of the employment process. Once hired, the training process is extensive and can take years to complete.
This is not an entry level occupation, and most power plant operators have previous work experience in a related area. Many start out as laborers or helpers at a power plant, and eventually move into senior roles as they gain more work experience. With time, they eventually move up to the role of power plant operator.
Nuclear power plant operators have to be licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Passing an exam is required to become licensed, and most people receive formal technical training before taking the exam. Additional requirements for licensing include passing a medical exam and meeting experience requirements. This license has to be renewed every six years.
There are currently 40,500 power plant operators in the United States, with 1,440 new power plant operator job openings created each year.
Power Plant Operator jobs are not expected to see much growth beyond their current levels in the next decade.
Power Plant Operator Salaries
Power Plant Operator salaries can vary depending on your experience, the location, company, industry, and benefits provided. Nationwide, most power plant operators make between $52,600 – $75,500 per year, or $25.27 – $36.28 per hour.