Career Spotlight: Power System Operator

Is a Power System Operator the Right Career for You?

Do you like problem solving, figuring out how things work, and working with computers? Maybe being a power system operator is the right job for you. A power system operator, also known as a power plant operator, is someone who manages a power plant facility. They keep the power plant running and ensure the facility is safe and functioning properly.

Let’s dig a little deeper to see if a power system operator lines up with your career goals.

Power System Operator Job Description

Power system operators work in a variety of power plants, including natural gas-powered electric, nuclear electric, hydroelectric, coal-powered electric, and solar-powered electric, but they may also work in manufacturing plants, hospitals, universities, and government organizations.

Power system operators operate switchboards and other electrical equipment in highly advanced control centers to maintain and manage the distribution of electrical power throughout a transmission network. In other words, they are responsible for making sure electricity gets to the appropriate consumers.

Duties of a Power System Operator

Power system operators have a variety of responsibilities and duties depending upon where they work. They may perform some or all of the following:

  • Control and direct the transmission of electricity to meet distribution demands
  • Monitor power-generating equipment fueled by coal, gas, nuclear, wind, or other energy resources
  • Ensure constant flow of electricity to avoid blackouts
  • Check equipment to monitor pressure, temperature, and vibration
  • Oversee maintenance personnel
  • Monitor and visually inspect station instruments, meters, and alarms
  • Perform maintenance on machines
  • Start or stop generator turbines when necessary
  • Complete and maintain station records, logs, and reports
  • Locate and isolate system problems

Skills Needed to be a Power System Operator

You may have guessed that one of the top skills needed to be a successful power system operator is attention to detail because a power system operator is in charge of maintaining a whole power grid. There are other important skills you should possess, too.

  • Be in good physical condition. As a power plant operator, you may be required to carry out a variety of physical activities, from crouching, reaching, climbing, and more. It would be beneficial, then, to make sure you are in good shape.
  • Possess good communication skills. Although you may work alone some of the time, you will also interact with other team members to install new generators, upgrade systems, and carry out daily tasks. You may also need to communicate technical information to management, consumers, and stakeholders, so being a good communicator is crucial.
  • Possess strong technical abilities. As a power system operator, you may need technical skills to understand how a power plant runs and operates. Your technical abilities may include an aptitude for math and mechanical and technological knowledge so you can properly perform your duties.
  • Capable of patience and focus. Power system operators often must monitor gauges, dials, and other electrical equipment to make sure the plant is running properly. Having strict patience and a strong ability to focus can make monitoring various equipment easier and can help minimize distractions.

How to Become a Power System Operator

Does a power system operator job sound intriguing? Well, before you start applying for any openings, there are requirements you should be aware of if you want to pursue this career.

Although it is possible to become a power system operator with just a high school degree, most companies prefer you to have at least an associate degree. Still others prefer a bachelor’s. Excelsior University’s Bachelor of Science in Nuclear Engineering Technology program prepares students for technical positions in the nuclear industry. The ABET-accredited program provides knowledge in areas such as reactor operations, health physics, quality assurance, chemistry, and instrumentation and control related to the nuclear engineering technology field.

In addition, to work in a power plant, you must pass a background check as well as drug and alcohol screenings. Some states also require workers to be licensed as engineers or firefighters.

Depending upon where you work, you may also need to obtain other certificates or licenses, so it’s important to do your research when you are looking for a job.

Power System Operator Salary

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that as of 2021, the median annual wage for power system operators and similar occupations was $94,790. The BLS predicts employment in this career to decline 15 percent between 2021 and 2031. Despite this, about 3,200 openings are projected each year over the next decade, so this is still a career option to pursue if you’re interested in power plants, computers, and making sure things work correctly.