Power Plant Workers


Education and Training Requirements

High School

Most employers prefer to hire high school graduates for positions in this occupational field, and often college-level training is desirable. If you are interested in this field, focus on obtaining a solid background in mathematics and science.

Postsecondary Training

Beginners in this field may start out as helpers or in laborer jobs, or they may begin training for duties in operations, maintenance, or other areas. Those who enter training for operator positions undergo extensive training by their employer, both on the job and in formal classroom settings. The training program is geared toward the particular plant in which they work and usually lasts several years. Even after they are fully qualified as operators or dispatchers, most employees will be required to take continuing education refresher courses. Nuclear power reactor operators often have bachelor’s degrees in the physical sciences or engineering.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) regulates power plants that generate electricity using nuclear reactors. The NRC must license operators in nuclear plants, because only NRC-licensed operators are authorized to control any equipment in the plant that affects the operation of the nuclear reactor. Nuclear reactor operators are also required to undertake regular drug testing. Power plant operators not working in a nuclear facility are often licensed as engineers or firemen by state licensing boards. Requirements vary by state and also depend on the specific job function of the operator and the license needed. Power distributors and dispatchers who work in jobs that could affect the power grid must be certified by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation.

Other Requirements

Power plant workers may be required to pass drug and alcohol screenings, along with physical examinations, to be eligible for jobs.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Power plant workers generally gain experience on the job. With years of experience usually comes more responsibility and less supervision.

Power plant workers must possess the ability to understand procedures and instructions. They must be careful and adhere to safety precautions. The work environment is often loud and power plant workers must be able to maintain concentration and stamina surrounded by noise for prolonged periods. Other key traits for power plant workers include good mathematical and technical skills, the ability to solve problems, attentiveness to detail, and the ability to concentrate for long periods of time.