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Power Plant Operator  What They Do

Just the Facts


Controls, operates or maintains machinery to generate electric power. Includes auxiliary equipment operators.

This career is part of the Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources cluster Power, Structural and Technical Systems pathway.


A person in this career:

  • Adjusts controls to generate specified electrical power or to regulate the flow of power between generating stations and substations.
  • Monitors power plant equipment and indicators to detect evidence of operating problems.
  • Controls generator output to match the phase, frequency, or voltage of electricity supplied to panels.
  • Controls or maintains auxiliary equipment, such as pumps, fans, compressors, condensers, feedwater heaters, filters, or chlorinators, to supply water, fuel, lubricants, air, or auxiliary power.
  • Controls power generating equipment, including boilers, turbines, generators, or reactors, using control boards or semi-automatic equipment.
  • Starts or stops generators, auxiliary pumping equipment, turbines, or other power plant equipment as necessary.
  • Opens and closes valves and switches in sequence to start or shut down auxiliary units.
  • Communicates with systems operators to regulate and coordinate line voltages and transmission loads and frequencies.
  • Inspects records or log book entries or communicates with plant personnel to assess equipment operating status.
  • Regulates equipment operations and conditions, such as water levels, based on instrument data or from computers.

Insider Info

Dig into the details and check out what people in this job have to say about their work.



Working Conditions and Physical Demands

People who do this job report that:

  • You would often handle loads up to 20 lbs., sometimes up to 50 lbs. You might do a lot of lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling.
  • Work in this occupation involves use of protective items such as safety shoes, glasses, gloves, hearing protection, a hard hat, or personal flotation devices
  • Exposure to pollutants, gases, dust, fumes, odors, poor ventilation, etc.
  • Lighting is either extremely bright or inadequate
  • Conditions are very hot (above 90 F) or very cold (under 32 F)
  • Work in this occupation involves using your hands to hold, control, and feel objects more than one-third of the time
  • Exposed to conditions such as high voltage electricity, combustibles, explosives, and chemicals more than once a month
  • Exposed to hazardous equipment such as saws, machinery, or vehicular traffic more than once a month
  • Work in this occupation requires being inside most of the time
  • Sound and noise levels are loud and distracting
  • Work in this occupation requires being outside most of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves standing more than one-third of the time
  • Work at heights above 8 feet more than once a month on structures such as ladders, poles, scaffolding, and catwalks

Working in this career involves (physical activities):

  • Picking out a particular sound in the presence of other sounds
  • Seeing clearly at a distance
  • Seeing clearly up close
  • Speaking clearly enough to be able to be understood by others
  • Identifying and understanding the speech of another person

Work Hours and Travel

  • Rotating shift work
  • Weekend work

Specialty and Similar Careers

Careers that are more detailed or close to this career:

  • Stationary Engineer -- Maintains heating, air conditioning, and ventilation in buildings and commercial facilities, such as malls and offices.
  • Carbon Capture Power Plant Operator --
  • Hydrogen Plant Operator --