How to Become a Chemical Plant Operator

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Chemical plants are essential industrial process plants that produce and process a wide variety of chemicals. They create new materials for a variety of uses. Chemical plant operators are trained professionals that are in charge of monitoring the entire chemical production process to ensure the chemical plant is functioning efficiently.

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What does a chemical plant operator do?

Chemical plant operators supervise the whole production of a variety of chemicals. They monitor the ratios of chemical ingredients and the rates of chemical reactions. They make sure all process systems are operating properly and they continuously check the operation of equipment. They often make adjustments to keep the variables of processes within acceptable ranges. They constantly check pressures, flows, and temperatures. Chemical plant operators identify potential and actual problems and quickly perform corrective action to minimize the effects. They are also responsible for ensuring the personal safety of all employees. They must make sure all employees are following proper safety precautions to minimize serious injury. Chemical plant operators often record observations and prepare reports.

What kind of training does a chemical plant operator need?

Chemical plant operators need at least a high school diploma. Most complete courses in chemistry, physics, and mathematics. Many start out as laborers or in other entry-level professionals and advance with further experience and training. They often move up through many levels of responsibility until they achieve the highest paying operator position. Some chemical plant operators complete formal apprenticeship programs or other formal training that combines classroom instruction and practical experience in the field. Most formal training programs take 2 to 4 years to complete. Most employers provide intensive on the job training to new chemical plant operators.

What are the prospects for a career as a chemical plant operator?

Employment of chemical plant operators is projected to decline rapidly from 2006 to 2016 (1). More efficient production processes and increased plant automation will contribute to employment decline.

Job prospects are expected to be fair with keen competition. Some opportunities will stem from the need to replace chemical plant operators that retire, transfer, or leave the profession for other reasons.

How much do chemical plant operators make?

As of October 2009, the middle 50% of chemical plant operators earn annual salaries between $36,840 and $42,886. The top 10% earn annual salaries of more than $45,652 (2).

A career as a chemical plant operator is a great choice for individuals interested in maintaining the effective function and safety of chemical plants. Chemical plant operators must be constantly alert, patient, and be able to act quickly on their feet. Good judgment, assertiveness, excellent problem-solving skills, and good critical thinking skills are essential. Chemical plant operators must also be able to focus on details for extended periods of time and be able to follow instructions precisely. They must able have excellent communication and leadership skills because they interact with a variety of chemical plant workers.

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