Power Plant Operators
Control, operate, or maintain machinery to generate electric power. Includes auxiliary equipment operators.
Sample of reported job titles: Auxiliary Operator, Control Operator, Control Room Operator, Multicraft Operator (MCO), Operations and Maintenance Technician (O & M Technician), Plant Control Operator, Power Plant Operator, Station Operator, Unit Operator
Also see: Biomass Plant Technicians, Hydroelectric Plant Technicians
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Tasks | Technology Skills | Tools Used | Knowledge | Skills | Abilities | Work Activities | Detailed Work Activities | Work Context | Job Zone | Education | Credentials | Interests | Work Styles | Work Values | Related Occupations | Wages & Employment | Job Openings | Additional Information
- Adjust controls to generate specified electrical power or to regulate the flow of power between generating stations and substations.
- Monitor power plant equipment and indicators to detect evidence of operating problems.
- Control generator output to match the phase, frequency, or voltage of electricity supplied to panels.
- Control or maintain auxiliary equipment, such as pumps, fans, compressors, condensers, feedwater heaters, filters, or chlorinators, to supply water, fuel, lubricants, air, or auxiliary power.
- Control power generating equipment, including boilers, turbines, generators, or reactors, using control boards or semi-automatic equipment.
- Start or stop generators, auxiliary pumping equipment, turbines, or other power plant equipment as necessary.
- Open and close valves and switches in sequence to start or shut down auxiliary units.
- Communicate with systems operators to regulate and coordinate line voltages and transmission loads and frequencies.
- Inspect records or log book entries or communicate with plant personnel to assess equipment operating status.
- Regulate equipment operations and conditions, such as water levels, based on instrument data or from computers.
- Take regulatory action, based on readings from charts, meters and gauges, at established intervals.
- Record and compile operational data by completing and maintaining forms, logs, or reports.
- Clean, lubricate, or maintain equipment, such as generators, turbines, pumps, or compressors, to prevent failure or deterioration.
- Place standby emergency electrical generators on line in emergencies and monitor the temperature, output, and lubrication of the system.
- Make adjustments or minor repairs, such as tightening leaking gland or pipe joints.
- Operate, control, or monitor equipment, such as acid or gas carbon dioxide removal units, carbon dioxide compressors, or pipelines, to capture, store, or transport carbon dioxide exhaust.
- Operate, control, or monitor gasifiers or related equipment, such as coolers, water quenches, water gas shifts reactors, or sulfur recovery units, to produce syngas or electricity from coal.
- Operate, control, or monitor integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) or related equipment, such as air separation units, to generate electricity from coal.
- Operate or maintain distributed power generation equipment, including fuel cells or microturbines, to produce energy on-site for manufacturing or other commercial purposes.
- Examine and test electrical power distribution machinery and equipment, using testing devices.
- Receive outage calls and request necessary personnel during power outages or emergencies.
- Collect oil, water, or electrolyte samples for laboratory analysis.
- Analyze the layout, instrumentation, or function of electrical generation or transmission facilities.
- Diagnose or troubleshoot problems with gas collection systems.
- Monitor well fields periodically to ensure proper functioning and performance.
- Operate landfill gas, methane, or natural gas fueled electrical generation systems.
- Prepare and submit compliance, operational, and safety forms or reports.
- Repair or replace gas piping.
- Trace electrical circuitry to ensure compliance of electrical systems with applicable codes or laws.
- Verify that well field monitoring data conforms to applicable regulations.
Find occupations related to multiple tasks
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- Analytical or scientific software — Landfill gas analysis software; Landtec System Software LFG Pro
- Data base user interface and query software — Microsoft Access
- Electronic mail software — Email software; Microsoft Outlook
- Facilities management software — Computerized maintenance management system CMMS
- Industrial control software — Distributed control system DCS; General Electric Mark VI Distributed Control System DCS; Interlock shutdown systems; Yokogawa FAST/TOOLS (see all 13 examples)
- Internet browser software — Web browser software
- Office suite software — Microsoft Office
- Presentation software — Microsoft PowerPoint
- Spreadsheet software — Microsoft Excel
- Word processing software — Microsoft Word
Hot Technology — a technology requirement frequently included in employer job postings.
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- Mechanical — Knowledge of machines and tools, including their designs, uses, repair, and maintenance.
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- Operations Monitoring — Watching gauges, dials, or other indicators to make sure a machine is working properly.
- Critical Thinking — Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.
- Operation and Control — Controlling operations of equipment or systems.
- Speaking — Talking to others to convey information effectively.
- Active Listening — Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
- Quality Control Analysis — Conducting tests and inspections of products, services, or processes to evaluate quality or performance.
- Judgment and Decision Making — Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
- Monitoring — Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
- Troubleshooting — Determining causes of operating errors and deciding what to do about it.
- Complex Problem Solving — Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
- Reading Comprehension — Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents.
- Coordination — Adjusting actions in relation to others’ actions.
- Writing — Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
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- Oral Comprehension — The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
- Oral Expression — The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
- Problem Sensitivity — The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing that there is a problem.
- Deductive Reasoning — The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
- Near Vision — The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
- Inductive Reasoning — The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
- Information Ordering — The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).
- Perceptual Speed — The ability to quickly and accurately compare similarities and differences among sets of letters, numbers, objects, pictures, or patterns. The things to be compared may be presented at the same time or one after the other. This ability also includes comparing a presented object with a remembered object.
- Selective Attention — The ability to concentrate on a task over a period of time without being distracted.
- Speech Recognition — The ability to identify and understand the speech of another person.
- Written Comprehension — The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
- Auditory Attention — The ability to focus on a single source of sound in the presence of other distracting sounds.
- Finger Dexterity — The ability to make precisely coordinated movements of the fingers of one or both hands to grasp, manipulate, or assemble very small objects.
- Flexibility of Closure — The ability to identify or detect a known pattern (a figure, object, word, or sound) that is hidden in other distracting material.
- Speech Clarity — The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.
- Written Expression — The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.
- Category Flexibility — The ability to generate or use different sets of rules for combining or grouping things in different ways.
- Control Precision — The ability to quickly and repeatedly adjust the controls of a machine or a vehicle to exact positions.
- Far Vision — The ability to see details at a distance.
- Time Sharing — The ability to shift back and forth between two or more activities or sources of information (such as speech, sounds, touch, or other sources).
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- Controlling Machines and Processes — Using either control mechanisms or direct physical activity to operate machines or processes (not including computers or vehicles).
- Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Materials — Inspecting equipment, structures, or materials to identify the cause of errors or other problems or defects.
- Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events — Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
- Monitoring Processes, Materials, or Surroundings — Monitoring and reviewing information from materials, events, or the environment, to detect or assess problems.
- Getting Information — Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
- Making Decisions and Solving Problems — Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
- Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards — Using relevant information and individual judgment to determine whether events or processes comply with laws, regulations, or standards.
- Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates — Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
- Documenting/Recording Information — Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
- Working with Computers — Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.
- Processing Information — Compiling, coding, categorizing, calculating, tabulating, auditing, or verifying information or data.
- Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge — Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.
- Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships — Developing constructive and cooperative working relationships with others, and maintaining them over time.
- Handling and Moving Objects — Using hands and arms in handling, installing, positioning, and moving materials, and manipulating things.
- Performing General Physical Activities — Performing physical activities that require considerable use of your arms and legs and moving your whole body, such as climbing, lifting, balancing, walking, stooping, and handling materials.
- Training and Teaching Others — Identifying the educational needs of others, developing formal educational or training programs or classes, and teaching or instructing others.
- Analyzing Data or Information — Identifying the underlying principles, reasons, or facts of information by breaking down information or data into separate parts.
- Operating Vehicles, Mechanized Devices, or Equipment — Running, maneuvering, navigating, or driving vehicles or mechanized equipment, such as forklifts, passenger vehicles, aircraft, or watercraft.
- Judging the Qualities of Objects, Services, or People — Assessing the value, importance, or quality of things or people.
- Repairing and Maintaining Mechanical Equipment — Servicing, repairing, adjusting, and testing machines, devices, moving parts, and equipment that operate primarily on the basis of mechanical (not electronic) principles.
- Interpreting the Meaning of Information for Others — Translating or explaining what information means and how it can be used.
- Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work — Developing specific goals and plans to prioritize, organize, and accomplish your work.
- Coaching and Developing Others — Identifying the developmental needs of others and coaching, mentoring, or otherwise helping others to improve their knowledge or skills.
- Estimating the Quantifiable Characteristics of Products, Events, or Information — Estimating sizes, distances, and quantities; or determining time, costs, resources, or materials needed to perform a work activity.
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Detailed Work Activities
- Operate energy distribution equipment.
- Watch operating equipment to detect malfunctions.
- Operate energy production equipment.
- Operate pumping systems or equipment.
- Exchange information with colleagues.
- Adjust equipment controls to regulate flow of water, cleaning solutions, or other liquids.
- Record operational or production data.
- Adjust equipment to ensure optimal performance.
- Clean production equipment.
- Lubricate production equipment.
- Maintain production or processing equipment.
- Maintain sustainable energy production equipment.
- Test electrical equipment or systems to ensure proper functioning.
- Monitor equipment operation to ensure proper functioning.
- Monitor lubrication of equipment or workpieces.
- Repair production equipment or tools.
- Collect samples of materials or products for testing.
- Notify others of equipment repair or maintenance needs.
- Evaluate characteristics of equipment or systems.
- Inspect equipment or systems.
- Monitor conditions at energy-producing landfills.
- Monitor operational procedures in technical environments to ensure conformance to standards.
- Operate natural gas generation equipment.
- Replace worn equipment components.
- Troubleshoot equipment or systems operation problems.
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- Wear Common Protective or Safety Equipment such as Safety Shoes, Glasses, Gloves, Hearing Protection, Hard Hats, or Life Jackets — 100% responded “Every day.”
- Sounds, Noise Levels Are Distracting or Uncomfortable — 93% responded “Every day.”
- Exposed to Hazardous Conditions — 87% responded “Every day.”
- Face-to-Face Discussions — 77% responded “Every day.”
- Indoors, Not Environmentally Controlled — 74% responded “Every day.”
- Consequence of Error — 79% responded “Extremely serious.”
- Contact With Others — 64% responded “Constant contact with others.”
- Exposed to Contaminants — 65% responded “Every day.”
- Importance of Being Exact or Accurate — 47% responded “Extremely important.”
- Responsible for Others’ Health and Safety — 49% responded “Very high responsibility.”
- Very Hot or Cold Temperatures — 57% responded “Every day.”
- Exposed to Hazardous Equipment — 50% responded “Every day.”
- Freedom to Make Decisions — 46% responded “A lot of freedom.”
- Telephone — 55% responded “Every day.”
- Exposed to High Places — 54% responded “Every day.”
- Work With Work Group or Team — 42% responded “Extremely important.”
- Indoors, Environmentally Controlled — 63% responded “Every day.”
- Outdoors, Exposed to Weather — 49% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
- Frequency of Decision Making — 54% responded “Every day.”
- Electronic Mail — 53% responded “Every day.”
- Spend Time Using Your Hands to Handle, Control, or Feel Objects, Tools, or Controls — 56% responded “More than half the time.”
- Impact of Decisions on Co-workers or Company Results — 39% responded “Very important results.”
- Extremely Bright or Inadequate Lighting — 51% responded “Every day.”
- Duration of Typical Work Week — 60% responded “40 hours.”
- Importance of Repeating Same Tasks — 38% responded “Important.”
- Outdoors, Under Cover — 37% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
- Structured versus Unstructured Work — 45% responded “Some freedom.”
- Coordinate or Lead Others — 32% responded “Very important.”
- Time Pressure — 34% responded “Once a month or more but not every week.”
- Spend Time Standing — 55% responded “More than half the time.”
- Responsibility for Outcomes and Results — 38% responded “Limited responsibility.”
- Degree of Automation — 40% responded “Highly automated.”
- Exposed to Minor Burns, Cuts, Bites, or Stings — 30% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
- Physical Proximity — 40% responded “Moderately close (at arm’s length).”
- Letters and Memos — 30% responded “Never.”
- Spend Time Walking and Running — 42% responded “Less than half the time.”
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|Title||Job Zone Two: Some Preparation Needed|
|Education||These occupations usually require a high school diploma.|
|Related Experience||Some previous work-related skill, knowledge, or experience is usually needed. For example, a teller would benefit from experience working directly with the public.|
|Job Training||Employees in these occupations need anywhere from a few months to one year of working with experienced employees. A recognized apprenticeship program may be associated with these occupations.|
|Job Zone Examples||These occupations often involve using your knowledge and skills to help others. Examples include orderlies, counter and rental clerks, customer service representatives, security guards, upholsterers, and tellers.|
|SVP Range||(4.0 to < 6.0)|
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Percentage of Respondents
|Education Level Required|
|74||High school diploma or equivalent
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Interest code: RC Want to discover your interests? Take the O*NET Interest Profiler at My Next Move.
- Realistic — Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.
- Conventional — Conventional occupations frequently involve following set procedures and routines. These occupations can include working with data and details more than with ideas. Usually there is a clear line of authority to follow.
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- Dependability — Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
- Attention to Detail — Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
- Stress Tolerance — Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high-stress situations.
- Self-Control — Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
- Adaptability/Flexibility — Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.
- Independence — Job requires developing one’s own ways of doing things, guiding oneself with little or no supervision, and depending on oneself to get things done.
- Persistence — Job requires persistence in the face of obstacles.
- Initiative — Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.
- Cooperation — Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
- Integrity — Job requires being honest and ethical.
- Concern for Others — Job requires being sensitive to others’ needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.
- Achievement/Effort — Job requires establishing and maintaining personally challenging achievement goals and exerting effort toward mastering tasks.
- Analytical Thinking — Job requires analyzing information and using logic to address work-related issues and problems.
- Leadership — Job requires a willingness to lead, take charge, and offer opinions and direction.
- Social Orientation — Job requires preferring to work with others rather than alone, and being personally connected with others on the job.
- Innovation — Job requires creativity and alternative thinking to develop new ideas for and answers to work-related problems.
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- Support — Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees. Corresponding needs are Company Policies, Supervision: Human Relations and Supervision: Technical.
- Relationships — Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to provide service to others and work with co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment. Corresponding needs are Co-workers, Moral Values and Social Service.
- Independence — Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions. Corresponding needs are Creativity, Responsibility and Autonomy.
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Wages & Employment Trends
|Median wages (2020)||$40.70 hourly, $84,650 annual|
|Employment (2020)||33,600 employees|
|Projected growth (2020-2030)||Decline (-1% or lower)|
|Projected job openings (2020-2030)||2,500|
|Top industries (2020)||
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics 2020 wage data and 2020-2030 employment projections . “Projected growth” represents the estimated change in total employment over the projections period (2020-2030). “Projected job openings” represent openings due to growth and replacement.
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Job Openings on the Web
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Sources of Additional Information
Disclaimer: Sources are listed to provide additional information on related jobs, specialties, and/or industries. Links to non-DOL Internet sites are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement.
- American Public Power Association
- American Society of Power Engineers
- Center for Energy Workforce Development
- International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
- International Union of Operating Engineers
- National Association of Power Engineers
- National Institute for the Uniform Licensing of Power Engineers
- North American Electric Reliability Corporation
- Nuclear Energy Institute
- Occupational Outlook Handbook: Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers
- United Steelworkers
- Utility Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO
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