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Become A Control Room Operator

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Working As A Control Room Operator

  • Controlling Machines and Processes
  • Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Material
  • Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
  • Monitor Processes, Materials, or Surroundings
  • Getting Information
  • Unpleasant/Hazardous Environment

  • Stressful

  • $78,650

    Average Salary

What Does A Control Room Operator Do

Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers control the systems that generate and distribute electric power.

Duties

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 fuel, 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), and 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 also start and stop equipment and record the data produced. They may need to 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, operators 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 must detect and respond to emergencies, such as transformer or transmission line failures, which can cause cascading power outages over the network of transmission and distribution lines they control. 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 consumer demand for electricity—demand that fluctuates throughout the day.

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How To Become A Control Room Operator

Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers need extensive on-the-job training, which may include a combination of classroom and hands-on training. Nuclear power reactor operators also need a license. Many jobs require a background check, and workers are subject to drug and alcohol screenings.

Many companies require prospective workers to take the Power Plant Maintenance and Plant Operator exams from the Edison Electrical Institute to see if they have the right aptitudes for this work. These tests measure reading comprehension, understanding of mechanical concepts, spatial ability, and mathematical ability.

Education

Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers need at least a high school diploma. 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.

Training

Power plant operators and dispatchers undergo rigorous, long-term on-the-job training and technical instruction. Several years of onsite training and experience are necessary for a worker to become fully qualified. Even fully qualified operators and dispatchers must take regular training courses to keep their skills up to date.

Nuclear power reactor operators usually start working as equipment operators or auxiliary operators, helping more experienced workers operate and maintain the equipment while learning the basics of how to operate the power plant.

Along with this extensive on-the-job training, nuclear power plant operators typically receive formal technical training to prepare for the license exam from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Once licensed, operators are authorized to control equipment that affects the power of the reactor in a nuclear power plant. Operators continue frequent onsite training, which familiarizes them with new monitoring systems that provide operators better real-time information regarding the plant.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Nuclear power reactor operators must be licensed through the NRC. 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 operate 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 distributors and dispatchers who are in positions in which they could affect the power grid must be certified through the North American Electric Reliability Corporation’s System Operator Certification Program. With sufficient training and experience, workers can become shift supervisors, trainers, or consultants.

Nuclear power plant operators begin working in nuclear power plants, typically as nonlicensed operators. After in-plant training and passing the NRC licensing exam, they become licensed reactor operators. Licensed operators can then advance to senior reactor operators, who supervise the operation of all controls in the control room. Senior reactor operators also may become plant managers or licensed operator instructors.

Important Qualities

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.

Dexterity. 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.

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Control Room Operator Jobs

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Control Room Operator Career Paths

Control Room Operator
Technician Service Manager General Manager
Area Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Lead Operator Production Supervisor Maintenance Supervisor
Chief Engineer
10 Yearsyrs
Project Manager Construction Manager
Commissioning Manager
11 Yearsyrs
Operations Manager Project Manager
Construction Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Operations And Maintenance Technician Service Technician Field Supervisor
Construction Superintendent
9 Yearsyrs
Lead Operator Operation Supervisor Facilities Manager
Director Of Facilities
11 Yearsyrs
Operations And Maintenance Technician Maintenance Technician Facilities Manager
Director, Facilities & Operations
7 Yearsyrs
Production Technician Production Manager Estimator
Estimator Project Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Production Technician Maintenance Technician Property Manager
General Contractor
6 Yearsyrs
Project Manager Program Manager Managing Director
Head Operator
7 Yearsyrs
Production Supervisor Production Manager
Manufacturing Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Maintenance Technician Field Service Technician Service Manager
Operations Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Operation Supervisor Operations Manager
Plant Manager
11 Yearsyrs
Maintenance Supervisor Project Engineer Production Supervisor
Plant Superintendent
9 Yearsyrs
Maintenance Technician Maintenance Manager Operations Manager
President Of Operations
11 Yearsyrs
Production Supervisor Manufacturing Engineer
Production Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Operations Manager General Manager Maintenance Technician
Production Supervisor
7 Yearsyrs
Operation Supervisor Project Manager
Program Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Technician Engineer Project Engineer
Project Engineering Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Maintenance Supervisor Field Service Technician Project Engineer
Quality Control Manager
8 Yearsyrs
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Do you work as a Control Room Operator?

Control Room Operator Demographics

Gender

Male

84.2%

Female

14.8%

Unknown

1.1%
Ethnicity

White

80.4%

Hispanic or Latino

11.5%

Asian

5.9%

Unknown

1.6%

Black or African American

0.6%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

48.4%

French

11.3%

Bulgarian

4.8%

German

4.8%

Russian

4.8%

Arabic

4.8%

Vietnamese

3.2%

Carrier

3.2%

Thai

3.2%

Somali

1.6%

Kurdish

1.6%

Portuguese

1.6%

Turkish

1.6%

Japanese

1.6%

Greek

1.6%

Swahili

1.6%
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Control Room Operator Education

Schools

University of Phoenix

16.1%

Bismarck State College

14.1%

Maine Maritime Academy

6.0%

Columbia Southern University

5.0%

Thomas Edison State University

4.5%

Southeastern Louisiana University

4.5%

A-Technical College

4.5%

Ashford University

4.0%

Arizona State University

4.0%

Indiana State University

4.0%

Lassen Community College

3.5%

West Virginia University

3.5%

Community College of the Air Force

3.5%

Liberty University

3.5%

University of Idaho

3.5%

Northern Virginia Community College

3.5%

Massachusetts Maritime Academy

3.0%

Northern Arizona University

3.0%

Jacksonville State University

3.0%

Excelsior College

3.0%
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Majors

Business

19.4%

Criminal Justice

11.9%

Electrical Engineering

7.8%

Environmental Control Technologies/Technicians

5.8%

General Studies

5.4%

Industrial Technology

4.9%

Electrical Engineering Technology

4.8%

Engineering

4.7%

Communication

4.1%

Management

4.0%

Computer Science

3.7%

Mechanical Engineering

3.6%

Information Technology

3.1%

Accounting

2.8%

Plant Sciences

2.6%

Liberal Arts

2.5%

Chemistry

2.3%

Psychology

2.3%

Photography

2.2%

Computer Information Systems

2.1%
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Degrees

Other

37.5%

Bachelors

30.7%

Associate

16.1%

Certificate

8.0%

Masters

5.0%

Diploma

1.6%

License

1.0%
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How Would You Rate The Salary Of a Control Room Operator?

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Top Skills for A Control Room Operator

ControlRoomOperationsSteamTurbineSafetyProceduresFacilityEmergencySituationsPlantOperationsDCSBoilersMWControlSystemPlantEquipmentWaterChemistryStart-UpAuxiliaryEquipmentTurbineGeneratorCctvWaterTreatmentTroubleshootPreventativeMaintenanceEfficientOperation

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  1. Control Room Operations
  2. Steam Turbine
  3. Safety Procedures
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Coordinate and direct control room operations to ensure consistent power productions working within established operating standards and specifications.
  • Operated 620 MW Combined Cycle Plant encompassing two Siemens Electric 501FD Gas Turbine Engines and one Toshiba Steam Turbine.
  • Helped develop safety procedures for starting and shutting down operating units and process equipment.
  • Created Request for Proposals/Quotes for the facility's gas turbine (CTG) Combustion/Hot Gas Path Inspection.
  • Regulated or shut down equipment during emergency situations.

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