Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers
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Overview
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Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers control the systems that generate and distribute electric power.
Titles for this career often contain these words
OperatorPlantPowerTechnicianControlCarbonStationEngineerManagerHydroelectricHydrogenOperationsAuxiliaryTenderBoosterCaptureSequestrationMaintenancePowerhouseTurbineEquipmentRoomElectricHydroGenerationSpecialistSupervisorAttendantRectifierTurboUtilityAsphaltAssistantBatchPumpCoalGasificationCogenerationCenterGeneratorHighPressureFirerInstrumentInstrumentationControlsElectricalSystemsICEMulticraftMCOOutsidePilotGeneratingProcessProductionGeneralistReliefSeniorSteamUnitOperativeWater
Education
Only 19% of power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers have a bachelor's degree or higher.
Education attained by power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Context: workers with bachelor's degrees
This is near the middle of all careeers' percentages of bachelor's holders.
Employment
Workforce size
Power plant operators, with 34,900 workers, are near the middle of all careers in the number employed.
Predicted employment growth
Over the next decade, jobs for power plant operators are expected to shrink by 5%, and should have about 3,000 job openings a year.
Safety from automation
Power plant operators are more likely to be automated than 68% of other careers.
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Salaries
The median (middle) salary for power plant operators is higher than 84% of all other jobs' middle salaries. The graph shows inflation-adjusted salaries for most power plant operators.
This job's median $80KAll jobs' median $39K$75K$38K20142015201620172018$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Context: Median Salary
Gender
Women account for 6% of power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers -- that's a smaller percentage than 84% of other jobs.
Gender of power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers
Men
Women
Context: Salary inequity
For each career, we compared the median (middle) men's salary to the median women's salary. For power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers, the median men's salary was 12% more the median woman's salary.
Race/Origin
About 11% of power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers are minority, and 3% are foreign-born.
Race/origin of power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers
White
Black
Pacific Islander
Hispanic
Asian
American Indian
Multiracial
Other
Context: Foreign-born workers (3%)
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Where are the most jobs?
We ranked the number of jobs in Power Plant Operators per thousand workers in each state, DC, and Puerto Rico. The darker the blue, the higher the job density.
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Job benefits
Employer or union-sponsored pension plans are offered to 67% of power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers, and 88% have company-sponsored health insurance (6% have dependents enrolled in their employer's health plan).
Employer-provided health coverage for power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers
100% premiums covered
Partial premiums covered
Plan with no cost sharing
No health insurance
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Injury and Illness
About 51 power plant operators become injured or ill for every 10,000 workers, which reflects fewer events than in 55% of other careers. The most common specific concerns detailed following.
Sprains, strains, tears
Worker concerns
Some jobs are more stressful than others, and some are just plain dangerous. The following list gives the percentages of power plant operators who report hazardous or difficult situations typically occurring at least once a week.
  • Exposed to Hazardous Conditions (94%)
  • Consequence of Error (89%)
  • Exposed to Contaminants (87%)
  • Responsible for Others' Health and Safety (85%)
  • Exposed to Hazardous Equipment (82%)
  • Exposed to High Places (73%)
  • Exposed to Minor Burns, Cuts, Bites, or Stings (53%)
  • Time Pressure (46%)
  • Degree of Automation (40%)
  • Frequency of Conflict Situations (35%)
SOURCES:24.0 O*NET
Salary and diversity
Salary overview
What do power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers earn?

In this section, we want to give you a clear idea of what you can expect to earn in this career. We use two sources of data here: the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which asks employers to classify their workforce and to report salaries using the SOC-specialty level of reporting, and the American Community Survey (ACS), which asks people to classify their jobs using the broad classifications that ididio uses for career profiles, and to self-report their salaries. For some jobs, the differences in survey approaches between BLS and ACS can paint a very different end-picture. In particular, the ACS data is reported for the larger career group power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers, which combines the data for 3 careers, including power plant operators. Whenever possible, we provide data from both sources.

The BLS-compiled salary data is reported by companies for their employees. This data is classified by SOC specialty, and excludes self-employed workers. We first show the distribution of salaries for power plant operators, and then we show how the middle (median) salary for power plant operators compares to the BLS-computed median salaries of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for power plant operators (BLS Salary Data)
$80K$0$50K$100K$150K
Context: Median salaries across careers (BLS Salary Data)
$80K$0$50K$100K$150K
We compiled household data from the ACS to determine the salaries that people working at least 35 hours a week report themselves to earn. Unlike the BLS estimates, this data includes self-employed wages. Additionally, we only have ACS survey data for the larger career category and not for the specialty level. We first show the full salary distribution for all power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers, and then we show how the median (middle) salary for power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers compares to the median ACS-reported salary of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers (ACS Salary Data)
$87K$0$50K$100K$150K
Context: Median salaries across careers (ACS Salary Data)
$87K$0$50K$100K$150K
Employers and salary
A look at employers and corresponding salaries
The donut shares the break-down of workers by employer type, and following we show the salary distributions for these workers based on those employer types. For some careers, the salaries can be vastly different between private, government, and self-employment. As with our salary overview, we view the both the BLS economists' salary profiles and the household-reported salaries from ACS to get a thorough understanding of where power plant operators work and for what salary. We have the great faith in the accuracy of economist-vetted BLS data; however, the BLS restrictions on which employers are surveyed skews the data a bit (read more in the sources), and the ACS responses provide different and useful categorizations of employers and salaries.
Employers of Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers (ACS)
Private for-profit (78.4%)
Private not-for-profit (4.8%)
Local government (8.0%)
State government (2.6%)
Federal government (5.8%)
Self-employed incorporated (0.1%)
Self-employed not incorporated (0.3%)
Working without pay (0.2%)
Distribution: Salaries of power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers by type of employer (ACS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type calculated by aggregating individual household survey responses. These salaries were reported for the larger career group of power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers, which combines the 3 specialties for this career.
$87K$89K$80K$73K$77K$92K$87K$0$50,000$100,000$150,000$200,000Working without payFederal governmentState governmentLocal governmentPrivate not-for-profitPrivate for-profitAll
Distribution: Salaries of power plant operators by type of employer (BLS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type as reported by BLS based on large employer-focused surveys. We note that smaller employer categories are not included by BLS. Remember that the BLS salaries are for the specialty power plant operators, and may differ signficantly from the ACS salary estimates which combine several career specialties.
$80K$89K$73K$81K$60K$0$20,000$40,000$60,000$80,000$100,000$120,000Federal governmentState governmentLocal governmentPrivateAll
Age and career advancement
Salary growth for power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers

Is this a job that rewards experience, or is this job most likely a part of a career ladder? This first chart suggests how much this job rewards experience with increased salaries.

Now let's dive a little deeper. Take a minute a look at how much you might expect your salary to increase with each five years' experience, as well as how the numbers working at each age change. Does this seem to be a job for the young or the old, or could it be a career offering steady salary growth for many years?

We only provide this data when there are enough consistent ACS survey responses to allow a reasonable margin of error, so for some careers you will see gaps in our reporting of salary by age.

$87K$94K$97K$84K$87K$96K$88K$75K$47K$0$50K$100K$150K$200KSalary distribution20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64
02K4K6K8KNumber employed20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Gender and Equity
Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers and gender

With 6% women, this occupation has a lower percentage of women than 84% of careers.

Context: Women in the workforce
6%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Gender of Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers
Men (94%)
Women (6%)
Distribution: Salaries by gender

As we'll illustrate at the bottom of this section, the median salary for all full-time male workers in the US exceeds the full-time median salary for women by 21%. The situation is a little better for power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers, with the median salary for men 12% higher than the median salary for women. This chart shows you the salary range for most workers by gender.

$78K$87K$0$50K$100K$150KWomenMen
Context: Salary Inequity

Nationwide there are twenty careers for which men do not have a higher median (middle) salary than women. The chart below shows the salary inequity, the percentage by which the median men's salary is higher than the median women's salary, for most jobs. Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers have one of the smaller percentage increases for men's salary, with the increase the men's median salary over the women's median salary in this job lower than that for 63% of other jobs.

12%0%20%40%60%80%100%

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Race/Origin
Race and origin of power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers

The representation of minority and foreign-born workers is quite different between careers, and the relative pay of those workers also varies significantly between careers. There is a smaller percentage of minority power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers than for 88% of other careers. As with minority workers, there is also a smaller percentage of foreign-born workers in this career than in most other careers.

Race/origin of power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers
White (87% )
Black (7% )
Other (2% )
Multiracial (1% )
Asian (1% )
American Indian (1% )
Hispanic (0% )
Pacific Islander (0% )
Context: Representation of minorities in the workforce
11%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Context: Representation of foreign-born workers
3%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Distribution: Salaries for power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers by race/origin

For some careers, there is a pay disparity depending on race or origin, though this is not prevalent. We calculate standard errors for all of our calculations, and when the error is high we do not show results. Therefore, for some jobs will have omitted race/origin categories.

$79K$88K$88K$93K$0$50K$100K$150KBlackWhiteMultiracialAsian
Distribution: Salaries for power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers by nativity
$87K$0$50K$100K$150KAll native citizens

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Part-time/Full-time
Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers and Part-time/Full-time employment

We've found that somes jobs hava a huge number of part-time workers, and that typically most who are working part-time are doing so because they cannot find full-time work or the job they have cannot provide full-time hours. With 1% part-time workers, this occupation has a lower percentage of part-time workers than 98% of careers.

Context: Part-time workers in the workforce
1%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Why workers are part-time
Full-Time is less than 35 hours a week
Retired/Social Security limit on earnings
Could not find full-time work
Seasonal work
Slack work/business conditions
School/training
Health/medical limitations
Child care problems
Other family/personal obligations
Other reasons
Distribution: Salaries by part-time/full-time status

We only have enough data to accuarately show the salary distribution for full-time workers.

$87K$0$50K$100K$150KFull-time workers
Pathways to this career
Education requirements and salary
Education attained by power plant operators

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), power plant operators typically hold a high school diploma or equivalent.

Sometimes the typical education identified by the BLS differs a bit from the reality of the how much education current workers actually have. The donut shows the education level held by people currently working as power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers as reported in responses to the American Community Survey. Following, we investigate whether education level influences salary for power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers.

Education attained by power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers
None
High School
Some College
Associate's Degree
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Deg/Doct
Doctorate
Details: Education and training recommended for power plant operators

Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers typically need at least a high school diploma or equivalent. However, employers may prefer workers who have a college or vocational school degree.

Employers generally look for people with strong math and science backgrounds for these highly technical jobs. Understanding electricity and math, especially algebra and trigonometry, is important.

Details: Licensing and certification recommended for power plant operators

Nuclear power reactor operators must be licensed through the NRC. They typically begin working in nuclear power plants as unlicensed operators, where they gain the required knowledge and experience to start the licensing process. To become licensed, operators must meet training and experience requirements, pass a medical exam, and pass the NRC licensing exam. To keep their license, operators must pass a plant-operating exam each year, pass a medical exam every 2 years, and apply for renewal of their license every 6 years. Licenses cannot be transferred between plants, so an operator must get a new license to work in another facility.

Power plant operators who do not work at a nuclear power reactor may be licensed as engineers or firefighters by state licensing boards. Requirements vary by state and depend on the specific job functions that the operator performs.

Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers who are in positions which could affect the power grid may need to be certified through the North American Electric Reliability Corporation’s System Operator Certification Program. 

Distribution: Salary by education level

What level of education is truly needed for power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers? Below we see the distribution of power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers salaries based on the education attained. These comparisons are based on all survey responses by those who identified themselves as power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers, and are not intended as a statistical analysis of salary differences that would correct for non-educational factors that could contribute to high or low earnings.

$48K$84K$85K$87K$101K$116K$0$50K$100K$150K$200KNone (1%)High School (30%)Some College (31%)Associate's Degree (19%)Bachelor's Degree (16%)Master's Degree (3%)
Switching Careers
Most common new jobs
The most common next careers for power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers

What jobs will most power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers hold next year?

The data in this chart comes from person interviews for the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. The survey interviews households eight times over a two-year period, allowing us a glimpse into how people move from job to job. You can see more details from the results of the survey in our last tab in this section, and you can read about our methodology in our source descriptions.

Here we see all of the jobs that at least 1% of power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers reported holding in their second year's survey. Is your future job on this list?

Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchersEngineering techniciansManagers (specialized areas)DispatchersElectriciansElectrical power-line installers and repairersFirst-line supervisors of production and operating workersWater and wastewater treatment plant and system operatorsProduction, planning, and expediting clerksFirst-line supervisors of retail sales workersElectric motor, power tool, and related repairersPlant and system operatorsGeneral and operations managersTelephone operatorsHuman resources workersPumping station operatorsJanitors and building cleanersElectrical and electronics repairersnacsOcc_1510GlaziersOffice and administrative support workersComputer occupations (specialized areas)File clerksProduction workersFirst-line supervisors of construction trades and extraction workersStationary engineers and boiler operatorsGeneral office clerksPressers, textile, garment, and related materialsTeachers and instructors (specialized areas)Computer systems analystsMetal and plastic workers
Lateral career moves
Lateral job transitions for power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers

A lateral career transition is a move to a job with similar pay and responsibilities. A move to such a job can offer a change of pace without an increase in stress or a decrease in pay. The following table simply identifies all 10 jobs which were held by at least 1% of survey respondents before working as power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers as well as 1% of respondents after working as power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers. Select a row to investigate the job's full description and determine if it truly offers an opportunity for a lateral transition.

Full prior and next career listings
Prior and next careers for power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers: full listings

What do people typically do before and after they work as power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers? Here are the full lists of all jobs that at least 1% of power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers surveyed reported as holding a year earlier or later.

Choose which type of transition to view
Prior jobs
Next jobs
Read about power plant operators
Responsibilities and activities
Responsibilities and activities

Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers typically do the following:

  • Control power-generating equipment, which may use any one type of fuel, such as coal, nuclear power, or natural gas
  • Read charts, meters, and gauges to monitor voltage and electricity flows
  • Check equipment and indicators to detect evidence of operating problems
  • Adjust controls to regulate the flow of power
  • Start or stop generators, turbines, and other equipment as necessary

Electricity is one of our nation’s most vital resources. Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers control power plants and the flow of electricity from plants to substations, which distribute electricity to businesses, homes, and factories. Electricity is generated from many sources, including coal, gas, nuclear energy, hydroelectric energy (from water sources), wind, and solar power.

Nuclear power reactor operators control nuclear reactors. They adjust control rods, which affect how much electricity a reactor generates. They monitor reactors, turbines, generators, and cooling systems, adjusting controls as necessary. Operators start and stop equipment and record the data produced. They also respond to abnormalities, determine the causes, and take corrective action.

Power distributors and dispatchers, also known as systems operators, control the flow of electricity as it travels from generating stations to substations and users. In exercising such control, they monitor and operate current converters, voltage transformers, and circuit breakers over a network of transmission and distribution lines. They prepare and issue switching orders to route electrical currents around areas that need maintenance or repair. They detect and respond to emergencies, such as transformer or transmission line failures, which can cause cascading power outages over the network. They may work with plant operators to troubleshoot electricity generation issues.

Power plant operators control, operate, and maintain machinery to generate electricity. They use control boards to distribute power among generators and regulate the output of several generators. They monitor instruments to maintain voltage and electricity flows from the plant to meet fluctuating consumer demand throughout the day.

Personality and skills
Personality and skills

Can you see yourself in the ranks of power plant operators? Here are the skills and traits that could lead to success.

Concentration skills
Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers must be careful, attentive, and persistent. They must be able to concentrate on a task, such as monitoring the temperature of reactors over a certain length of time, without being distracted.
Detail oriented
Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers must monitor complex controls and intricate machinery to ensure that everything is operating properly.
Dexterit
y. Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers must use precise and repeated motions when working in a control room.
Mechanical skills
Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers must know how to work with machines and use tools. They must be familiar with how to operate, repair, and maintain equipment.
Problem-solving skills
Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers must find and quickly solve problems that arise with equipment or controls.
Trends in employment
Salary trends
Distribution and trends: Salaries for power plant operators
Choose actual dollars or inflation-adjusted dollars to view
Adjusted for inflation
Historic dollars

In 2018, the median (middle) salary for power plant operators was higher than 84% of all other jobs' middle salaries. This graphic shows how the salary distribution (adjusted for inflation) has changed for this job over recent years. The gray line, as a comparison, shows the median salary of all US workers.

This job's median $80KAll jobs' median $39K$69K$38K200420052006200720082009201020112012201320142015201620172018$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Projected versus actual employment
Exploring actual employment trends versus projected trends

Currently, jobs for power plant operators are anticipated to shrink by 5%. over the next decade; 86% of jobs are projected to grow more.

The projected employment for power plant operators is the best guess created by talented economists and statisticians at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, as you look through several careers you'll notice that the projections are heavily influenced by past performance and may miss current trends. No one can tell the future, and as new information and better techniques are developed, actual counts and future projections may change. Here's a glimpse at the actual counts versus the projections over time.

2000201020202030010,00020,00030,00040,00050,000
Employment counts
Actual measured employment
BLS 10-year predictions
Variation by state
Employment
State-by-state employment numbers

Some careers tend to be centered in specific parts of the country. For example, most jobs in fashion are in New York or California. Let's see if your dream job is easy to find in your dream location! We have a few choices for viewing the data that can help you get a full employment picture.

Job density versus job count

Which states hire the most power plant operators? We wonder if that's a fair question since states come in all sizes, so instead let's start with the question of which states have the highest density of people working as power plant operators. You can choose to view the number of jobs per state if you prefer.

BLS vs ACS data

This map defaults to employment information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which provides job totals carefully compiled for accuracy and with a primary focus on how employers describe their workers. The BLS job totals do not count self-employed workers. We've also compiled totals using the Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS) which are based on how workers describe themselves. Sometimes ACS results are quite a bit different from the employer-based BLS data.

One important factor in the differences between ACS and BLS data is that the ACS numbers are for all power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers, comprised of all specialities listed in the menu bar, and you can choose to view the BLS at the specialty or full career level.

Choose the metric to review
Jobs per 1000 working
Number of jobs
Use this data source
BLS for this specialty
Number of Power Plant Operators per 1,000 workers (BLS)
Select a state to see local area details
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0.00.51.01.52.0
Salary
Salaries by state
Let's get a feel for where power plant operators earn the highest salaries. There are several choices for which data we consider and how we view that data, and each can lead to different conclusions, so please read on...
Median salary versus state ratio

We use two methods to compare salaries across states:

  • In-state comparisons: the ratio of median (middle) salaries for power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers compared to the median salary for all people working in each state, or
  • Median salary: the unaltered median salaries for power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers.

We hope the ratio allows perspective about how salaries may compare to the regional cost-of-living.

BLS vs ACS data

We have two sources for statewide salary information with important distinctions. The BLS data is created by surveying companies, missing individuals who are self-employed or work for smaller companies. The ACS data is compiled from multi-faceted household surveys and may reflect the inconsistencies that people may have in reporting information. The ACS salaries are for all power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers, which combines the specialities from which you can choose at the top of the page.

Choose the metric to review
Location-adjusted median salary
Median salary
Use this data source
BLS for this specialty
Location-adjusted median salary for Power Plant Operators (BLS for this specialty)
The darkest shading corresponds to states in which power plant operators earn the highest salary when compared to other jobs in the state. We think this ratio might be a better indicator than the actual salary for your buying power as a state resident.
Select a state to see local area details
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$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Compare to similar jobs

If this job interests you, then use the dots below to find other jobs you might like. The dots closer to the top represent jobs that are like Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers (shown with a blue star). Look for the dots to the right to find the best salaries! (We pulled salary data from BLS, and they give a top salary value of just over $200K to protect privacy, so our graph would go much higher if the salaries were not top coded.)

How should the career similarity be computed

There are a number of ways to measure the similarity of jobs, here are a few we provide:

  • Interests: Also known as a Holland Code - Are you a thinker? A helper? What fits your personality?
  • Environment: Are there hazards? Will you be comfortable? Will it be stressful?
  • Knowledge: What do you need to know the most about?
  • Physical Abilities: Do you need to especially strong or coordinated?
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