What does a Power Plant Operator do?

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  • Written By: Tiffany Manley
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 06 May 2019
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A power plant operator operates the equipment used to produce electrical power. In addition to operation of the equipment, he or she also might perform maintenance and troubleshooting. The main focus of his or her job is to ensure that the plant is operating properly, safely and efficiently and to fix any problems as quickly as possible.

Most of this job involves operating power plant equipment. The equipment will vary depending on the type of plant and might involve natural gas, hydroelectric, fossil fuel or nuclear equipment. The operator might use computers, tools and electrical devices to operate the equipment that is used to generate power.

Some scientific theories and equipment remain the same in every type of power plant, and others are specific to the type of power being produced. This means that a power plant operator should know as much as possible about the specific equipment used in the plant. One way to accomplish this is by operator training. Many operators undergo constant and rigorous training in order to ensure accurate and safe operation.

Maintenance might be another aspect of the job. Performing maintenance on equipment is one way to ensure that the equipment stays in optimum working order. Maintenance items could range from repacking a valve to testing auto-start features of pumps. By performing required maintenance, this person helps keep the equipment running smoothly and ensures that it is ready for power output.


A power plant operator also might perform troubleshooting on the job. Sometimes equipment might not work properly or might break altogether. When this happens, the employee should be able to perform certain tests and other troubleshooting activities to figure out exactly what the problem is.

These employees generally work from a control room. This room contains the computers and other devices needed to run most power plant equipment. Control rooms generally contain several computers that monitor equipment, and a power plant operator uses these computers to make any necessary changes to the equipment.

Power plant operators usually will work a shift schedule of some sort, because power is needed at all times. Many power plants have a system in place for employees to rotate shifts in order for everyone to have equal time off and to share the less favored shifts. The work schedule also might involve rotating from day shifts to night shifts.


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Post 3

@Submariner- To secure a nuclear power plant operator job you will need at least two years of technical training. You will also need to pass the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) nuclear operator license exam. This exam is required for any plant and senior plant operator.

To pass the examination, you will need a combination of years of education and experience. To keep your certification, you will need to pass annual practical plant operation examinations and biennial written examinations.

Nuclear power plants are safer than any other type of power plant, but the risks in an accident are much higher in nuclear power plants. The training required to become a nuclear plant operator is equal to the immense safety and national security responsibility that a nuclear plant operator holds.

Post 2

@submariner- In some cases you may be able to find an entry level power plant operations job with just a high school diploma. Most jobs will require that you have a strong proficiency in mathematics and the sciences.

If you are serious about becoming a power plant operator, it may be a good idea to at least pursue a 2-year science technology degree. This will increase your chances of becoming employed and show your potential employer that you possess the basic skill set required of a plant operator. If you are hoping to secure a plant specialist position you may want to pursue a degree in engineering as well as seek certification from an organization like the American Society for Power Engineers (ASOPE).

Post 1

What type of education do I need to be a power station operator? Do I need a different education to operate a hydroelectric plant than a gas, coal, or nuclear power plant? What is the average pay for a power plant operator? I think that a utility job like this would be the most stable job you could find since energy is only growing and most power plants are operational for at least thirty or forty years. I do not hear about utilities laying off their workforce that often. Thanks to any wiseGEEKS that can help me answer these questions.

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