Power Plant Operators
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Speciality
Overview
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Control, operate, or maintain machinery to generate electric power. Includes auxiliary equipment operators.
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
None
High School
Some College
Associate's/Cert.
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional 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, form a smaller workforce than 62% of careers.
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.
Salaries
Context: Median Salary
How do salaries for power plant operators compare to other jobs' salaries?
Distribution: What salary can you expect?
See what most power plant operators earn.
$82K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Gender
Women account for 7% 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 25% more the median woman's salary.
Race/Origin
About 12% 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%)
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. Blue indicates low density, with lighter shades moving to yellow indicating higher numbers working in this profession.
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Benefits
How do benefits for this career compare to other jobs?
Context: Employer offers health insurance
Context: Employer offers a pension plan
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:
Salary and diversity
What do power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers earn?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides company-reported job titles and corresonding salaries at the specialty level (power plant operators). This data excludes self-employed workers.
Distribution: Salaries for power plant operators (BLS Salary Data)
$82K$0$50K$100K$150K
Context: Median salaries across careers (BLS Salary Data)
$82K$0$50K$100K$150K
The American Community Survey (ACS) asks individuals to report their occupation and salary, and as such includes self-employed workers. This view of salaries is only available for all power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers.
Distribution: Salaries for power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers (ACS Salary Data)
$90K$0$50K$100K$150K
Context: Median salaries across careers (ACS Salary Data)
$90K$0$50K$100K$150K
Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers: Inflation-adjusted salary trend
This job's median $99KAll jobs' median $45K$81K$44K070809101112131415161718$0$50K$100K$150K$200K
A look at employers and corresponding salaries
The donut shares the break-down of workers by employer type, giving us a picture of what employers most typically hire power plant operators.
Employers of Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers (ACS)
Private for-profit (79.1%)
Private not-for-profit (4.6%)
Local government (7.5%)
State government (2.7%)
Federal government (5.7%)
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.
$90K$75K$92K$84K$80K$88K$0$50,000$100,000$150,000$200,000Working without payState 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.
$82K$0$20,000$40,000$60,000$80,000$100,000$120,000All

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

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? The higher a job's experience quotient, the more experience is rewarded with pay increases. Jobs in the green range have the best rewards with experience.

Take a minute to 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?

Salary distribution
$83K$94K$87K$97K$75K$101K$89K$94K$50K$0$50K$100K$150K$200K20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64
Number employed
02K4K6K8K20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers and gender

With 7% women, this occupation has a lower percentage of women than 84% of careers.

Context: Women in the workforce
7%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Gender of Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers
Men (93%)
Women (7%)
Distribution: Salaries by gender

The median (middle) salary for all full-time male workers in the US exceeds the full-time median salary for women by 19%, and the difference for power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers tops that, with the median salary for men 25% higher than the median salary for women.

$74K$92K$0$50K$100K$150KWomenMen
Context: Salary Inequity

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 all but about 20 jobs in which women typically earn more than men. Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers have one of the more significant inequity issues, with the increase in men's median salary over women's median salary even higher than that for 73% of other jobs.

25%0%20%40%60%80%100%

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

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

Here we check out the diversity of origin in this career. 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 (86% )
Black (7% )
Multiracial (2% )
Other (2% )
American Indian (1% )
Asian (1% )
Hispanic (1% )
Pacific Islander (0% )
Context: Representation of minorities in the workforce
12%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.

$81K$90K$92K$94K$0$50K$100K$150KBlackMultiracialWhiteAsian
Distribution: Salaries for power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers by nativity
$83K$91K$0$50K$100K$150K$200KAll foreign-bornAll native citizens

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

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 99% 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.

$90K$0$50K$100K$150KFull-time workers
Pathways to this career
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.

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. 

Education attained by power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers
None
High School
Some College
Associate's/Cert.
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Degree
Doctorate
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.

$84K$90K$92K$102K$116K$95K$0$50K$100K$150K$200KHigh School (30%)Some College (31%)Associate's/Cert. (18%)Bachelor's Degree (16%)Master's Degree (3%)Doctorate (0%)

We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.

Switching Careers
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 Technologists and TechniciansDispatchers and Public Safety TelecommunicatorsStationary Engineers and Boiler OperatorsElectrical Power-Line Installers and RepairersFirst-Line Supervisors of Production and Operating WorkersWater and Wastewater Treatment Plant and System OperatorsProduction, Planning, and Expediting ClerksSpecialized production workers, including computer-controlled tooloperatorsFirst-Line Supervisors of Retail Sales WorkersSpecialized Plant and System OperatorsElectric Motor, Power Tool, and Related RepairersGeneral and Operations ManagersTelephone OperatorsPumping station operatorsBuilding CleanersSpecialized electrical and electronic equipment mechanics, installers, andrepairersntsAcsOcc_1510GlaziersDriver/sales workers and truck driversOffice and administrative support workers, all otherFile ClerksFirst-Line Supervisors of Construction Trades and Extraction WorkersGeneral Office ClerksPressers, Textile, Garment, and Related Materials
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 8 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.

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.

Variation by state
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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0.00.51.01.5
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 tabs and education selector to find other careers that might be a good fit for you.

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?