How to Become a Power Plant Operator

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Electricity is essential for majority of activities that take place on a daily basis around the world. Power plants are industrial facilities that generate electrical power and power plant operators are trained professionals that operate and control a wide variety of machines that create electricity.

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What does a power plant operator do?

Power plant operators are in charge of the general operation of power plants. They control and monitor generators, turbines, boilers, and auxiliary equipment in plants that generate power. They allocate the demands of power among generators, combine the electrical current from many generators, and supervise instruments to maintain voltage and regulate the flows of electricity from the facility. They start or stop generators and connect or disconnect them from the circuits when power requirements increase or decrease. Power plant operators often use computers to keep track of records of operations. They prepare reports of malfunctioning equipment, unusual incidents, and required maintenance.

What kind of training does a power plant operator need?

Power plant operators must have at least a high school diploma. Most learn their skills through on the job training, but an increasing amount of employers are preferring applicants with strong technical and computer skills. Some power plant operators have formal training from vocational and technical schools and colleges and universities. Most employers provide extensive on the job training that combines classroom instruction and practical experience. Power plant operators usually receive periodic refresher training to keep their skills up to date. Some power plant operators need to be licensed, depending on the facility and job function.

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

Employment of power plant operators is expected to experience little or no employment change, increasing 2% from 2006 to 2016 (1). The increased demand for energy will create some job growth.

Job prospects are projected to be very good because there is a large amount of power plant operators that are expected to retire. Power plant operators with a basic understanding of mathematics and science and computer skills will have the best prospects.

How much do power plant operators make?

As of November 2009, power plant operators with less than 1 year experience earn average hourly rates between $19.81 and $25.64. Those with 1 to 4 years experience earn average hourly rates between $21.53 and $29.34 (2).

A career as a power plant operator is a great choice for people with a strong interest in electricity and operating electricity generation facilities. Power plant operators must have mechanical aptitude, detail orientation, and be constantly alert. They must be comfortable working in dangerous situations and follow the necessary safety precautions. They must be able to follow and give out detailed instructions for the essential operation of the power plant. They must also have excellent communication and interpersonal skills because they interact with a variety of other workers.

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