CAREER GUIDE FOR POWER PLANT OPERATOR

SOC Code: 51-8013.01

Pay Band(s): 3         (Salary Structure)

Standard Occupational Description: Control or operate machinery, such as steam-driven turbogenerators, to generate electric power, often through the use of panelboards, control boards, or semi-automatic equipment.

Power Plant Operator positions in the Commonwealth are assigned to the following Roles in the Utility Plant Operations Career Group:

Utility Plant Specialist II

While Power Plant Operators within the Commonwealth are all located within the Utility Plant Operations Career Group, individuals may want to pursue other opportunities within the Commonwealth depending upon individual training, education, knowledge, skills, abilities, and interests.   

Other Career Group(s) that may be of interest are:

Engineering Technology

Equipment Service and Repair

Building Trades

Computer Operations

SKILLS, KNOWLEDGE, ABILITIES AND TASKS

(Technical and Functional Expertise)

Skills

Note: The technical and functional skills listed below are based on general occupational qualifications for Power Plant Operators commonly recognized by most employers.  Typically, you will not be required to have all of the skills listed to be a successful performer.  Recruitment and selection standards for an individual state job must be based on the specific knowledge, skills, and abilities for that job as indicated in the job announcement and job description in the Employee Work Profile.

  1. Watching gauges, dials, or other indicators to make sure a machine is working properly.
  2. Controlling operations of equipment or systems.
  3. Repairing machines or systems using the needed tools.
  4. Determining the kind of tools and equipment needed to do a job.
  5. Determining causes of operating errors and deciding what to do about it.
  6. Performing routine maintenance on equipment and determining when and what kind of maintenance is needed.
  7. Using scientific rules and methods to solve problems.
  8. Conducting tests and inspections of products, services, or processes to evaluate quality or performance.
  9. Performing mechanical repairs.

Knowledge

Note: The technical and functional knowledge statements listed below are based on general occupational qualifications for Power Plant Operators commonly recognized by most employers.  Typically, you will not be required to have all of the knowledge listed to be a successful performer.  Recruitment and selection standards for an individual state job must be based on the specific knowledge, skills, and abilities for that job as indicated in the job announcement and job description in the Employee Work Profile.

The Knowledge of:

  1. Practical application of engineering science and technology. This includes applying principles, techniques, procedures, and equipment to the design and production of various goods and services.
  2. Machines and tools, including their designs, uses, repair, and maintenance.
  3. Arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
  4. Operational systems parameters.
  5. Applicable rules and regulations for environmental control and other regulatory authorities.
  6. Applicable standards and code associations.
  7. American Society of Mechanical Engineers pressure vessel codes.

Abilities

Note: The technical and functional abilities listed below are based on general occupational qualifications for Power Plant Operators commonly recognized by most employers.  Typically, you will not be required to have all of the abilities listed to be a successful performer.  Recruitment and selection standards for an individual state job must be based on the specific knowledge, skills, and abilities for that job as indicated in the job announcement and job description in the Employee Work Profile.

The Ability to:

  1. 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.
  2. Concentrate on a task over a period of time without being distracted.
  3. Apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
  4. Quickly and repeatedly adjust the controls of a machine or a vehicle to exact positions.
  5. Make fast, simple, repeated movements of the fingers, hands, and wrists.
  6. Tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing there is a problem.
  7. See details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
  8. Quickly move your hand, your hand together with your arm, or your two hands to grasp, manipulate, or assemble objects.
  9. Read meters and gauges.

Tasks

Note:  The following is a list of sample tasks typically performed by Power Plant Operators.  Employees in this occupation will not necessarily perform all of the tasks listed. 

  1. Operates or controls machinery that generates electric power, using control boards or semiautomatic equipment.
  2. Compiles and records operational data on specified forms.
  3. Maintains and repairs electrical power distribution machinery and equipment, using hand tools.
  4. Examines and tests electrical power distribution machinery and equipment, using testing devices.
  5. Monitors control and switchboard gauges to determine electrical power distribution meets specifications.
  6. Adjusts controls on equipment to generate specified electrical power.

INTERESTED?

Like people, occupations have traits or characteristics.  These characteristics give important clues about the nature of the work and work environment, and give you an opportunity to match your own personal interests to a specific occupation.  When you choose a job in an occupation that matches your own interests you have taken an important step in planning a successful and rewarding career.

The occupation of Power Plant Operator has Realistic characteristics as described below:

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.

LICENSURE, REGISTRATION, OR CERTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS

Generally this is not required for Power Plant Operator positions in state government.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) licenses operators of nuclear power plants. Reactor operators are authorized to control equipment that affects the power of the reactor in a nuclear power plant. In addition, a NRC-licensed senior reactor operator must be on duty during each shift to act as the plant supervisor and supervise the operation of all controls in the control room.

Extensive training and experience are necessary to pass the NRC examinations for reactor operators and senior reactor operators. To maintain their license, licensed reactor operators must pass an annual practical plant operation exam and a biennial written exam administered by their employers. Training may include simulator and on-the-job training, classroom instruction, and individual study.

Certification as Power Plant Operating Engineer through the American Society of Power Engineers is a voluntary competency program. This program provides the recognition and promotion of high professional standards in the field of Power Engineering. This certification enhances professional development and career progression.

EDUCATIONAL, TRAINING, AND LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES 

The Department of Labor provides the following information:

Power plant operators control and monitor boilers, turbines, generators, and auxiliary equipment in power-generating plants. Operators distribute power demands among generators, combine the current from several generators, and monitor instruments to maintain voltage and regulate electricity flows from the plant. When power requirements change, these workers start or stop generators and connect or disconnect them from circuits. They often use computers to keep records of switching operations and loads on generators, lines, and transformers.

Employers seek high school graduates for entry-level operator positions. Candidates with strong mathematics and science skills are preferred. College-level courses or prior experience in a mechanical or technical job may be helpful.

Workers selected for training as a fossil-fueled power plant operator or distributor undergo extensive on-the-job and classroom instruction. Several years of training and experience are required to become a fully qualified control room operator or power plant distributor. With further training and experience, workers may advance to shift supervisor.

There are 3 recognized apprenticeable specialties associated with this occupation:
Hydroelectric-Station Operator; Power-Plant Operator; and Turbine Operator.

Training to perform the job follows:

Training on Boiler Control Systems

Training on Spill Control

Training on Water Test & Treatment

Information for power plant operators' apprenticeship in Virginia can be found on the Department of Labor & Industry's web site at: http://www.dli.state.va.us/

COMMONWEALTH COMPETENCIES

Competencies are a set of identified behaviors, knowledge, skills, and abilities that directly and positively impact the success of employees and the organization. Competencies can be observed and measured.  When consistently demonstrated, competencies make employees particularly effective in their work.  Competencies help lay out a road map to career success.  You can use the Commonwealth Competencies to help improve your individual performance by adopting behaviors that make high performing employees successful in their jobs. In this way, you can use the Commonwealth Competencies for your further professional development.

The Commonwealth Competencies are:

  1. Technical and Functional Expertise
  2. Understanding the Business     
  3. Achieving Results
  4. Serving the Customer
  5. Teamwork
  6. Interpersonal and Communication Skills
  7. Leadership and Personal Effectiveness

The above competencies may be applied to employees throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia.  They can be rank-ordered by agencies and hiring managers to represent the needs of a specific job.  The rank ordering will change depending upon the occupation, an organization's priorities, the actual job requirements, and the supervisor's preferences. 

Career success is both about what you do (applying your technical knowledge, skills, and ability) and how you do it (the consistent behaviors you demonstrate and choose to use) while interacting and communicating with others.  Hopefully, by studying the Commonwealth competencies, identifying your developmental opportunities, and working to refine your own competence, you can take charge of your career!

For additional information about the Commonwealth Competencies go to: http://jobs.state.va.us/cc_planningctr.htm.  For the competencies, we first list the competencies and then define each.  Finally, we list competency indicators; to describe what successful performance looks like. 

COMMONWEALTH CAREER PATH

Career opportunities in the Commonwealth are not limited to moving “up” to the next highest role and pay band, changing positions, or to becoming a supervisor.  That's because most roles describe a broad group of occupationally related positions that perform a range of work that requires increased knowledge and skills.  For that reason, Commonwealth roles describe the career paths within the same or higher-level role for the same or different Career Group.  The broad salary range and the Commonwealth's pay practices provide flexibility in recognizing career development and advancement. (Salary Structure)

For example: Power Plant Operator

PAY BAND

PRACTITIONER ROLES

 

PAY BAND

MANAGER ROLES

3

Utility Plant Specialist II

 

4

Utility Plant Manager I

     

5

Utility Plant Manager II

         
         

Sample Career Path

Utility Plant Specialist II

The Utility Plant Specialist II role provides career tracks for utility plant operators performing entry level to first line supervisory responsibilities in the operations/repair of plant equipment including boilers, turbines, and water and wastewater treatment systems. May prefer ASOPE Engineering Certification-5th class Engineer.

Utility Plant Manager I

The Utility Plant Manager I role provides career tracks for managers responsible for maintaining efficient utility plant equipment operation and supervision by establishing operational procedures; managing the daily operations, maintenance and repair of plant equipment; conducting periodic inspections, analyses, and reviews and maintaining related documents; and ensuring equipment life and safety and operational efficiencies. May prefer ASOPE Engineering Certification-4th class Engineer.

Utility Plant Manager II

The Utility Plant Manager II role provides career tracks for managers responsible for the overall management of complex utility plants that are multiple and freestanding, provide utility services to multiple agencies, or generate electricity for an in-house utility company. Employees require expert knowledge of and experience with high-pressure boiler and/or turbine operations and auxiliary equipment. May prefer ASOPE Engineering Certification-4th class Engineer or higher.

ADDITIONAL OCCUPATIONAL INFORMATION CAN BE FOUND AT: 

O*NET (Occupational Information Network) 

http://online.onetcenter.org/gen_search_page

Virginia Employment Commission 

http://www.alex.vec.state.va.us/

Career One Stop

http://www.careeronestop.org/

Virginia Career Resource Network

http://www.vacrn.net/

American Public Power Association:

http://www.appanet.org

American Society of Power Engineers, Inc

http://www.asope.org/