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Power Plant Operators
SOC Code: 51-8013.00

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

Sample of reported job titles: Auxiliary Operator, Control Operator, Control Room Operator, Multicraft Operator (MCO), Operations and Maintenance Technician (O & M Technician), Plant Control Operator, Power Plant Operator, Senior Power Plant Operator, Station Operator, Unit Operator


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Replenish electrolytes in batteries and oil in voltage transformers, and reset tripped electric relays.
  • Collect oil, water, or electrolyte samples for laboratory analysis.
  • Inspect thermal barrier coatings on integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) equipment for sintering, phase destabilization, or temperature variances to ensure compliance with standards and insulation efficiency.

Technology Skills

  • Data base user interface and query software - Microsoft Access
  • Electronic mail software - Email software; Microsoft Outlook
  • Facilities management software - Computerized maintenance management system CMMS
  • Industrial control software - Distributed control system DCS; General Electric Mark VI Distributed Control System DCS; Teknik Segala OSI Plant Information PI System; Yokogawa FAST/TOOLS (see all 13 examples)
  • Office suite software - Microsoft Office
  • Presentation software - Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Spreadsheet software - Microsoft Excel
  • Word processing software - Microsoft Word

Tools Used

  • Absorbent booms - Absorbers
  • Air dryers - Coal dryers
  • Air scrubbers - Dry scrubber systems; Flue gas desulferization systems
  • Alarm systems - Annunciators
  • Belt conveyors
  • Blowers - Soot blowers
  • Boiler or heater igniter - Igniters
  • Brushless motor DC - Brushless direct current DC motors
  • Bucket conveyors - Bucket elevators
  • Catalytic combustion analyzers - Catalytic sensors
  • Chain conveyors
  • Combustible or hazardous gas detectors for power generators - Gas detectors
  • Commercial water heaters - Water heaters
  • Condensing units - Condensers; Steam condensers
  • Conductivity meters - Conductivity probes
  • Desktop computers
  • Diesel generators - Diesel driven generators
  • Digital readout recorders - Digital readouts
  • Electrical control panels for generators - Control boards; Panel boards; Transformer controls
  • Electrical or power regulators - Unit governors
  • Electrostatic apparatus - Excitation systems
  • Evaporative coolers - Cooling towers
  • Facial shields - Air filtration mask
  • Fire tube boilers
  • Fixed screens - Screens
  • Flow transmitters
  • Flowmeters - Flow meters; Turbine flow meters
  • Gas engines - Combustion engines
  • Gas generators
  • Graphic recorders - Analog panel meters; Digital panel meters
  • Grease guns
  • Hard hats
  • Heat exchangers - Fin fan heat exchangers; Plate exchangers; Shell and tube heat exchangers
  • Heat pumps
  • Impact crushers
  • Level sensors or transmitters - Level transmitters
  • Limit switch - Limit switches
  • Mainframe computers
  • Motor compressors
  • Oil filters
  • Oil gun - Oil guns
  • Power supply transformers - Power transformers
  • Pressure indicators - Steam gauges; Water gauges
  • Pressure transmitters
  • Process air heaters - Air heaters; Attemperators
  • Pulverizing machinery - Pulverizers
  • Respiration air supplying self contained breathing apparatus or accessories - Self-contained breathing apparatus
  • Rotameters
  • Sampling pumps - Purge pumps
  • Screw conveyor - Screw conveyors
  • Sight flow windows - Boiler gauge glasses
  • Signal converters
  • Steam engines - Steam distribution systems; Steam turbines
  • Steam generators - Heat recovery steam generators; Steam driven turbogenerators
  • Substation load control switchgears - Electrical switch gear
  • Switchyard disconnect switches - Switch yard equipment
  • Temperature transmitters
  • Thermal engines - Geothermal binary turbines
  • Touch screen monitors
  • Turbine engines - Combustion turbines
  • Vacuum pumps
  • Venturis - Orifice plates
  • Vibration testers - Vibration monitors
  • Water filters
  • Water pumps
  • Water purification equipment - Water treatment equipment
  • Water softening accessories - Water softeners
  • Water tube boiler - Circulating fluidized bed CFB boilers
  • Wet scrubbers - Selective catalytic reactors; Selective non-catalytic reactors


  • Mechanical - Knowledge of machines and tools, including their designs, uses, repair, and maintenance.


  • Operation 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.
  • Speaking - 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.
  • Quality Control Analysis - Conducting tests and inspections of products, services, or processes to evaluate quality or performance.
  • Judgment and Decision Making - Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
  • Monitoring - Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
  • Troubleshooting - Determining causes of operating errors and deciding what to do about it.
  • Complex Problem Solving - Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
  • Reading Comprehension - Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
  • Coordination - Adjusting actions in relation to others' actions.
  • Writing - Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.


  • 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 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).
  • Inductive Reasoning - The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
  • Information Ordering - The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).
  • Perceptual Speed - The ability to quickly and accurately compare similarities and differences among sets of letters, numbers, objects, pictures, or patterns. The things to be compared may be presented at the same time or one after the other. This ability also includes comparing a presented object with a remembered object.
  • Selective Attention - The ability to concentrate on a task over a period of time without being distracted.
  • Speech Recognition - The ability to identify and understand the speech of another person.
  • Written Comprehension - The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
  • Auditory Attention - The ability to focus on a single source of sound in the presence of other distracting sounds.
  • Finger Dexterity - The ability to make precisely coordinated movements of the fingers of one or both hands to grasp, manipulate, or assemble very small objects.
  • Flexibility of Closure - The ability to identify or detect a known pattern (a figure, object, word, or sound) that is hidden in other distracting material.
  • Speech Clarity - The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.
  • Written Expression - The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.
  • Category Flexibility - The ability to generate or use different sets of rules for combining or grouping things in different ways.
  • Control Precision - The ability to quickly and repeatedly adjust the controls of a machine or a vehicle to exact positions.
  • Far Vision - The ability to see details at a distance.
  • Time Sharing - The ability to shift back and forth between two or more activities or sources of information (such as speech, sounds, touch, or other sources).


  • Interest code: RC
    • Realistic - 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.
    • Conventional - 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.

Work Context

  • Wear Common Protective or Safety Equipment such as Safety Shoes, Glasses, Gloves, Hearing Protection, Hard Hats, or Life Jackets - 100% responded “Every day.”
  • Sounds, Noise Levels Are Distracting or Uncomfortable - 93% responded “Every day.”
  • Exposed to Hazardous Conditions - 87% responded “Every day.”
  • Face-to-Face Discussions - 77% responded “Every day.”
  • Indoors, Not Environmentally Controlled - 74% responded “Every day.”
  • Consequence of Error - 79% responded “Extremely serious.”
  • Contact With Others - 64% responded “Constant contact with others.”
  • Exposed to Contaminants - 65% responded “Every day.”
  • Importance of Being Exact or Accurate - 47% responded “Extremely important.”
  • Responsible for Others' Health and Safety - 49% responded “Very high responsibility.”
  • Very Hot or Cold Temperatures - 57% responded “Every day.”
  • Exposed to Hazardous Equipment - 50% responded “Every day.”
  • Freedom to Make Decisions - 46% responded “A lot of freedom.”
  • Telephone - 55% responded “Every day.”
  • Exposed to High Places - 54% responded “Every day.”
  • Work With Work Group or Team - 42% responded “Extremely important.”
  • Indoors, Environmentally Controlled - 63% responded “Every day.”
  • Outdoors, Exposed to Weather - 49% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
  • Frequency of Decision Making - 54% responded “Every day.”
  • Electronic Mail - 53% responded “Every day.”
  • Spend Time Using Your Hands to Handle, Control, or Feel Objects, Tools, or Controls - 56% responded “More than half the time.”
  • Impact of Decisions on Co-workers or Company Results - 39% responded “Very important results.”
  • Extremely Bright or Inadequate Lighting - 51% responded “Every day.”
  • Duration of Typical Work Week - 60% responded “40 hours.”
  • Importance of Repeating Same Tasks - 38% responded “Important.”
  • Outdoors, Under Cover - 37% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
  • Structured versus Unstructured Work - 45% responded “Some freedom.”
  • Coordinate or Lead Others - 32% responded “Very important.”
  • Time Pressure - 34% responded “Once a month or more but not every week.”
  • Spend Time Standing - 55% responded “More than half the time.”
  • Responsibility for Outcomes and Results - 38% responded “Limited responsibility.”
  • Degree of Automation - 40% responded “Highly automated.”
  • Exposed to Minor Burns, Cuts, Bites, or Stings - 30% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
  • Physical Proximity - 40% responded “Moderately close (at arm's length).”
  • Letters and Memos - 30% responded “Never.”
  • Spend Time Walking and Running - 42% responded “Less than half the time.”


Percentage of RespondentsEducation Level Required
74%High school diploma or equivalent
21%Post-secondary certificate
3%Associate's degree

Work Styles

  • Dependability - 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.
  • Self Control - Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
  • Adaptability/Flexibility - Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.
  • Independence - Job requires developing one's own ways of doing things, guiding oneself with little or no supervision, and depending on oneself to get things done.
  • Persistence - Job requires persistence in the face of obstacles.
  • Initiative - Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.
  • Cooperation - Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
  • Integrity - Job requires being honest and ethical.
  • Concern for Others - Job requires being sensitive to others' needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.
  • Achievement/Effort - Job requires establishing and maintaining personally challenging achievement goals and exerting effort toward mastering tasks.
  • Analytical Thinking - Job requires analyzing information and using logic to address work-related issues and problems.
  • Leadership - Job requires a willingness to lead, take charge, and offer opinions and direction.
  • Social Orientation - Job requires preferring to work with others rather than alone, and being personally connected with others on the job.
  • Innovation - Job requires creativity and alternative thinking to develop new ideas for and answers to work-related problems.

Work Values

  • Support - Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees. Corresponding needs are Company Policies, Supervision: Human Relations and Supervision: Technical.
  • 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. Corresponding needs are Co-workers, Moral Values and Social Service.
  • Independence - Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions. Corresponding needs are Creativity, Responsibility and Autonomy.

Wages & Trends

  • Median wages (2017)
    • $37.10 hourly, $77,180 annual
  • Employment (2016)
    • 36,000 employees
  • Projected growth (2016-2026)
    • Little or no change (-1% to 1%)
  • Projected job openings (2016-2026)
    • 3,200

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