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Career profile Power Plant Operator

Also known as 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

Power Plant Operator

Also known as Auxiliary Operator, Control Operator, Control Room Operator

Interests Profile
  • Realistic
  • Conventional
  • Enterprising
Pay Range
$48,090 - $111,470 (annual)
Required Skills
  • Operations Monitoring
  • Critical Thinking
  • Operation and Control
Knowledge Areas
  • Mechanical
  • Production and Processing
  • Mathematics
Core tasks
  • Analyze the layout, instrumentation, or function of electrical generation or transmission facilities.
  • Verify that well field monitoring data conforms to applicable regulations.
  • Trace electrical circuitry to ensure compliance of electrical systems with applicable codes or laws.
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What does a Power Plant Operator do?

Power Plant Operators control, operate, or maintain machinery to generate electric power.

In addition, Power Plant Operators includes auxiliary equipment operators.

What kind of tasks does a Power Plant Operator perform regularly?

Power Plant Operators are often responsible for overseeing or executing some or all of the following tasks:

  • 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.
  • Communicate with systems operators to regulate and coordinate line voltages and transmission loads and frequencies.
  • Open and close valves and switches in sequence to start or shut down auxiliary units.
  • 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.
  • Clean, lubricate, or maintain equipment, such as generators, turbines, pumps, or compressors, to prevent failure or deterioration.
  • Record and compile operational data by completing and maintaining forms, logs, or reports.
  • 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.

The above responsibilities are specific to Power Plant Operators. More generally, Power Plant Operators are involved in several broader types of activities:

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.

What is a Power Plant Operator salary?

The median salary for a Power Plant Operator is $84,650, and the average salary is $81,890. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Power Plant Operator salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Power Plant Operators earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Power Plant Operators earn less than $48,090 per year, 25% earn less than $65,300, 75% earn less than $99,890, and 90% earn less than $111,470.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Power Plant Operators is expected to change by -13.7%, and there should be roughly 2,500 open positions for Power Plant Operators every year.

Median annual salary
Typical salary range
$48,090 - $111,470
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)

What personality traits are common among Power Plant Operators?


Career interests describe a person's preferences for different types of working environments and activities. When a person's interest match the demands of an occupation, people are usually more engaged and satisfied in that role.

Compared to most occupations, those who work as a Power Plant Operator are usually higher in their Realistic and Conventional interests.

Power Plant Operators typically have very strong Realistic interests. 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.

Also, Power Plant Operators typically have moderate Conventional interests. 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.


People differ in their values, or what is most important to them for building job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Compared to most people, those working as a Power Plant Operator tend to value Support, Relationships, and Independence.

Most importantly, Power Plant Operators strongly value Support. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees.

Second, Power Plant Operators strongly value 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.

Lastly, Power Plant Operators moderately value Independence. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions.

Psychological Demands

Each occupation brings its own set of psychological demands, which describe the characteristics necessary to perform the job well.

In order to perform their job successfully, people who work as Power Plant Operators must consistently demonstrate qualities such as dependability, attention to detail, and stress tolerance.

Below, you'll find a list of qualities typically required of Power Plant Operators, ranked by importance:

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.
Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.

What education and training do Power Plant Operators need?

Working as a Power Plant Operator usually requires a high school diploma.

Power Plant Operators need anywhere from a few months to one year of working with experienced employees. A recognized apprenticeship program may be associated with this occupation.

Educational degrees among Power Plant Operators

  • 1.9% did not complete high school or secondary school
  • 30.3% completed high school or secondary school
  • 30.3% completed some college coursework
  • 18.2% earned a Associate's degree
  • 16.3% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 2.5% earned a Master's degree
  • 0.5% earned a doctorate or professional degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Power Plant Operators

Power Plant Operators may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as mechanical, production and processing, or mathematics knowledge.

The list below shows several areas in which most Power Plant Operators might want to build proficiency, ranked by importance.

Knowledge of machines and tools, including their designs, uses, repair, and maintenance.
Production and Processing
Knowledge of raw materials, production processes, quality control, costs, and other techniques for maximizing the effective manufacture and distribution of goods.
Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
Public Safety and Security
Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.
Knowledge and prediction of physical principles, laws, their interrelationships, and applications to understanding fluid, material, and atmospheric dynamics, and mechanical, electrical, atomic and sub-atomic structures and processes.

Important Abilities needed by Power Plant Operators

Power Plant Operators must develop a particular set of abilities to perform their job well. Abilities are individual capacities that influence a person's information processing, sensory perception, motor coordination, and physical strength or endurance. Individuals may naturally have certain abilities without explicit training, but most abilities can be sharpened somewhat through practice.

For example, Power Plant Operators need abilities such as oral comprehension, oral expression, and problem sensitivity in order to perform their job at a high level. The list below shows several important abilities for Power Plant Operators, ranked by their relative importance.

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).

Critical Skills needed by Power Plant Operators

Skills are developed capacities that enable people to function effectively in real-world settings. Unlike abilities, skills are typically easier to build through practice and experience. Skills influence effectiveness in areas such as learning, working with others, design, troubleshooting, and more.

Power Plant Operators frequently use skills like operations monitoring, critical thinking, and operation and control to perform their job effectively. The list below shows several critical skills for Power Plant Operators, ranked by their relative importance.

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.
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.

What is the source of this information?

The information provided on this page is adapted from data and descriptions published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration under the CC BY 4.0 license. TraitLab has modified some information for ease of use and reading, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

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