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How To Become A Power Plant Operator

How To Become A Power Plant Operator

When we think of power plant operator jobs, we might work with nuclear energy in a nuclear power plant. Of course, working as a nuclear power reactor operator is a related career path. However, there are also plant operator jobs that manage electricity flows. 

We will discuss everything you need to know to become a power plant operator. We'll answer questions including:

  • What are power plant and system operators?
  • What is the job function?
  • What is the average salary?
  • Do I need a bachelor's degree?
  • What education training do I need?
  • What is NRC licensing?

What do power plant operators do?

Essentially, power plant operators control and distribute electricity to local areas. They manage the machinery that generates electricity, adjust controls and regulate its output. They read data (charts, meters, and gauges) to monitor voltage and electricity flow.

The job duties might include:

  • Chemical operator.
  • Equipment operators.
  • Control room operators.
  • Installers and repairers.

Depending on your experience level, qualifications and aptitude, the job description might differ. Many operators start with entry-level roles. They tend to have a combination of education, training, and experience. A basic understanding of how electric power works is required.

We'll get into more detail later about becoming a power plant operator and were to receive training.

Similar job roles include nuclear power reactor operators. Essentially conducting the same duties, they are usually more highly trained to deal with the added risk of nuclear power reactors. They might also need licensing from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Similar careers

Many power plant operators work their way through the industry, constantly learning new skills. The experience and learning required to become a power plant operator are helpful for many related jobs. Here are some similar careers that you could also move into:

  • Stationary engineer.
  • Technician job.
  • Nuclear technicians.
  • Water and wastewater treatment plant operator.
  • Hazardous materials removal worker.
  • Electrical line installer or repairer.
  • An electrician or within electrical engineering.
  • Boiler operators.

Knowing how to handle machinery to generate electricity and understanding the flow of electricity is invaluable. You will have transferable skills to move into similar roles.


Power plant operator work environment

Power plant system operators typically work in the control room within a power plant, also known as generating stations. The main jobs involve monitoring electricity flow from the plant and maintaining equipment.

The work of power distributors and dispatchers might also include physical labor. An operator controls the systems, including repairing machines, tools, and equipment. Therefore, power plant operators need to be updated and well-trained in workplace safety.

As we need electricity 24/7, the power plant runs all day long, every day. The machinery also requires constant supervision the whole time. As a result, power plant operators might work rotating shifts, including weekends and holidays.

Often they might work 12-hour shifts. It can mess up living and sleeping patterns for some people.

How much do power plant operators make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual salary of operators, distributors, and dispatchers was $89,090 in 2020. Typical entry-level education is a school diploma or equivalent.

The occupational outlook handbook suggests that the job outlook declines with a growth rate of -14%, and this is likely because, as technology improves, system monitoring is automated. However, the skills involved are transferable to many similar roles.

What skills do I need to become a power plant operator?

As operators control exact and technical systems, they need mathematical ability. You don't need to be highly qualified in math to become a power plant operator distributor. However, you will need a particular mathematical aptitude.

Although different power plant operating jobs require unique skills, below are some typical attributes you will probably see on an operator's job description.

A lot of the work requires intense focus and in-depth knowledge of the systems you're using. Many career guides will suggest that you also receive power plant operator training.

How to be a power plant operator?

While requirements vary from role to role, you will undergo rigorous training if you apply to become an operator, distributor, or dispatcher. As technology improves and the need for electricity scales, distributors and dispatchers control systems evolve.

Therefore, they must stay up to date with their training. Like many career paths, it's also likely that you will be subject to a thorough background check.

The company you apply to might also request a medical exam to check that you are fit enough for the physical aspect of the role. You might also need a license, particularly if you wish to work with nuclear power.

Meet education requirements

You won't need a college or associate degree. Although, attending college will improve your chances of starting in a higher position.

Most education requirements usually include a high school diploma (or equivalent). It's beneficial if you have taken subjects in math and science.

Some operator employers might require you to have gone to trade school to get additional experience. However, many employers accept online training or offer extensive on-the-job training.

Get power plant operator training

A college degree in maths or science will provide valuable high-level expertise working with power plant equipment. However, it is not necessary. Many power plant operators get far without a degree or even vocational school.

It is beneficial to undertake a certification program to learn how to operate and maintain power plant systems. Our Power Plant Operations Online Certificate Course teaches you power plant control and maintenance.

You'll receive an operator certification at the end of the program. With the right experience, you could develop your career significantly within just a few years.

Within six years, you could move from an operator and dispatcher to a service manager. Within eleven years, you might work your way up to Director of Facilities.

Earn a license

Some power plants also require that operators must pass a licensing exam. Plus, if your work affects the power grid, you or your employer might need to earn a North American Electric Reliability Corporation certificate.

Undertaking an online training program will prepare you to sit this additional exam and embark on your career.

Why Courses for Success?

Courses for Success offers over 10,000 online courses, all of which aim to help you in your personal development and career progression. Not only that, but you can also study them anywhere and at any time, and take them at your own pace, too.

You don't need career diplomas or specific experience to get started. From our coding courses and trading courses to design courses and developer courses, every course we offer will help boost your prospects, no matter who you are.

Beyond just the education itself, students will be issued a certificate online after completing each of the learning courses they do. Our online power plant operations courses are no exception and are recognized by industry leaders. You could make a name for yourself by signing up for a Courses for Success short course today.

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