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Career Profile: Power Plant Operators

Control, operate, or maintain machinery to generate electric power. Includes auxiliary equipment operators.

Salary and Outlook

According to the US Department of Labor, there are 33,600 people employed as power plant operators in the United States. The median annual salary is $84,700. Entry level employees earn approximately $48,090 per year and senior employees earn approximately $111,470 per year.

Estimates do not include other potential benefits such as health insurance, overtime pay, or retirement benefits that may be offered by employers.

Job Duties

  • Clean, lubricate, or maintain equipment, such as generators, turbines, pumps, or compressors, to prevent failure or deterioration.
  • 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.
  • Operate, control, or monitor equipment, such as acid or gas carbon dioxide removal units, carbon dioxide compressors, or pipelines, to capture, store, or transport carbon dioxide exhaust.
  • Operate, control, or monitor gasifiers or related equipment, such as coolers, water quenches, water gas shifts reactors, or sulfur recovery units, to produce syngas or electricity from coal.
  • Operate, control, or monitor integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) or related equipment, such as air separation units, to generate electricity from coal.
  • Operate or maintain distributed power generation equipment, including fuel cells or microturbines, to produce energy on-site for manufacturing or other commercial purposes.
  • Examine and test electrical power distribution machinery and equipment, using testing devices.
  • Receive outage calls and request necessary personnel during power outages or emergencies.
  • Collect oil, water, or electrolyte samples for laboratory analysis.
  • 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.
  • Open and close valves and switches in sequence to start or shut down auxiliary units.
  • Communicate with systems operators to regulate and coordinate line voltages and transmission loads and frequencies.
  • 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.
  • Record and compile operational data by completing and maintaining forms, logs, or reports.

Career List

Job Outlook


Total Current Jobs:
33,600
Annual Openings:
2,500
Increase in Openings by 2030:
-14%
Annual Salary Range:
$48,090 - $111,470
Education Requirements:
High school diploma