What Does a Power Plant Operator Do?
Power plant operators are a key link in the nation’s energy chain. Operators, distributors and dispatchers operate the machines that generate electricity, which is then sent to substations and eventually to homes and businesses.
The operator primarily focuses on power-generating equipment – calibrating it, reading meters and ensuring its smooth operation by manipulating the valves, switches, breakers and other components. The work environment may involve temperature extremes, crouching in small spaces to operate needed equipment and working near and on high-voltage equipment.
Most power plant operators work full time, often with rotating shifts including nights, weekends and holidays to accommodate the constant need for electricity.
- Check pressure, valves, temperatures and vibrations on equipment
- Monitor power-generating equipment fueled by coal, gas, nuclear energy, hydroelectric energy, wind or solar power.
- Log operational data and compile reports
- Disconnect equipment from circuitry and restart when needed
- Perform maintenance on machines to ensure they don’t break down
- Ensure constant electricity to help prevent blackouts
A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required. The majority of the training for this position happens on the job, but some employers may prefer an applicant with a technical school background. Previous military experience, strong math skills and a mechanical aptitude are helpful.
Many jobs require background checks and drug and alcohol screenings because of the nature of the work. Those specializing in nuclear power are trained on site to earn licensing credentials.
- Have strong problem-solving skills
- Are detailed-oriented
- Have good communication skills
- Have sharp observational skills
- Are mechanically inclined