There are two main ways to become a control room operator. On-the-job training serves many industries well, producing operators with the required skills. Many more industries require formal and ongoing education to fulfill these more technical positions. A control room operator often has sole responsibility for critical equipment that regulates an industrial process. The nature of the job changes drastically from the routine monitoring of dials and gauges to rapid decision making if any unusual or dangerous conditions occur.
Many industries are regulated by government agencies and local jurisdictions that require operators to have certain training. In some cases, all that is required to become a control room operator is to obtain an entry-level position and then take and pass employer-supplied training and testing. The employer will either provide trainers or schedule the employee to work with more senior operators and complete at-home study or off-site training.
Fields that impact public health and safety, such as water and waste-water treatment, will require formalized training. The degree of training will depend on the size of the facility and the complexity of the plant. Many operators start work at small plants and transfer to larger ones as they advance in their careers.
Chemical processing plants and oil refineries are more traditional places in which operators have started as manual laborers, learned how their plants work, gained additional experience, and have been promoted to become a control room operator. The nature of most modern facilities makes this scenario less likely. Robotic control and complicated control systems generally require classroom instruction and simulator practice.
Skid-mounted utility plants that serve very restricted areas, such as a single industrial site, may be able to certify a carefully selected individual to become a control room operator. In such cases, training may be supplied by the manufacturer. Larger utilities that supply power to the public sector will require certified operators. Very complicated or high-risk facilities such as nuclear power plants require their operators to have formal education up to and including an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Many of these jobs are filled by retired Navy nuclear plant technicians.
Most operator positions will require ongoing education. The introduction of new technologies, more efficient control systems, or more stringent monitoring requirements are constants in facilities requiring control rooms. To avoid industrial shutdowns, environmental damage, or risks to human health and safety, control room operators must be adequately informed. Workers assume tremendous responsibility as they continue in their quest to become control room operators.