How do I Become a Power Plant Operator?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 28 July 2019
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Power plant operators are responsible for ensuring safe and efficient practices at large-scale electricity production stations and distribution substations. The requirements to become a power plant operator vary, but many professionals are able to enter the field with high school diplomas and eventually advance to operator positions after passing training courses and gaining practical experience. A bachelor's degree or higher and several years of experience are usually necessary to become a power plant operator at a nuclear plant.

A person who wants to become a power plant operator needs to be familiar with the principles of electrical and mechanical engineering. High school courses in math and physics may be helpful in providing a deeper theoretical understanding of how and why power systems work. Many high schools offer hands-on vocational classes in metalwork and automobile repair, and while such programs do not directly correspond with power plant work, they do provide valuable instruction in handling tools and critically analyzing situations.


A high school graduate can look into opportunities to become a power plant operator by browsing job search websites and contacting local utility companies. Some employers require applicants to prove their math and reasoning skills on written tests before they are granted interviews. Once a person is awarded a job, he or she can expect to spend between one and six weeks in training. Most training programs consist of both classroom studies and practical work under the guidance of experienced power plant operators. Over the course of six months to one year, a new worker who excels at his or her work is gradually given more responsibilities and allowed to work unsupervised.

Due to the potential dangers involved, nuclear reactor operators are held to stricter qualification standards than workers in general electric and hydroelectric power plants. An individual who wants to become a power plant operator at a nuclear facility typically needs to obtain a college degree in chemical engineering, chemistry, physics, or a similar subject. Once hired, a new employee participates in several months of classroom and on-the-job training.

After gaining at least three years of experience, an individual can take a series of practical and written tests administered by a national governing board to earn licensure. In the United States, Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) grants reactor operator licenses to qualified workers who pass rigorous exams. Most other countries feature organizations similar to the NRC to ensure workers have the skills needed to maintain quality and safety in operator jobs.


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Post 3

All I want to know is how long does it take to get through college regarding becoming a power plant operator?

Post 2

@pleonasm - You're right, but at the same time, I can see why someone would specifically want to operate a power plant and would seek out job opportunities to do so. They might be interested in a particular form of power, like renewable power. Or maybe they just know there are good opportunities in their area for power plant maintenance and operations jobs.

I had a friend who worked at a nuclear power plant and she found it quite satisfying. She did have to endure a lot of jokes about having the same job as Homer Simpson though.

But as I understand it, the pay was quite good and the work was challenging.

Post 1

This seems like the kind of job that you don't really work towards specifically, but which you fall into if you happen to have the right qualifications.

I mean, if you have the skills needed to operate a power plant, you can can probably do other things as well, like be a refinery operator, or manage factory equipment.

I know once you get into it, they are probably quite distinct, but the entry level skills needed are no doubt the same.

It just seems like a strange goal to have.

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