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Become A Plant Operator

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Working As A Plant Operator

  • Monitor Processes, Materials, or Surroundings
  • Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards
  • Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
  • Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Material
  • Getting Information
  • Unpleasant/Angry People

  • Outdoors/walking/standing

  • Unpleasant/Hazardous Environment

  • Repetitive

  • $34,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Plant Operator Do

Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators manage a system of machines, often through the use of control boards, to transfer or treat water or wastewater.

Duties

Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators typically do the following:

  • Add chemicals, such as ammonia or chlorine, to disinfect water or other liquids
  • Inspect equipment on a regular basis
  • Monitor operating conditions, meters, and gauges
  • Collect and test water and sewage samples
  • Record meter and gauge readings and operational data
  • Operate equipment to purify and clarify water or to process or dispose of sewage
  • Clean and maintain equipment, tanks, filter beds, and other work areas
  • Follow U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations
  • Ensure safety standards are met

It takes a lot of work to get water from natural sources—reservoirs, streams, and groundwater—into people’s taps. Similarly, it is a complicated process to convert the wastewater from drains and sewers into a form that is safe to release into the environment.

The specific duties of plant operators depend on the type and size of the plant. In a small plant, one operator may be responsible for maintaining all of the systems. In large plants, multiple operators work the same shifts and are more specialized in their duties, often relying on computerized systems to help them monitor plant processes.

Water treatment plant and system operators work in water treatment plants. Fresh water is pumped from wells, rivers, streams, or reservoirs to water treatment plants, where it is treated and distributed to customers. Water treatment plant and system operators run the equipment, control the processes, and monitor the plants that treat water to make it safe to drink.

Wastewater treatment plant and system operators do similar work to remove pollutants from domestic and industrial waste. Used water, also known as wastewater, travels through sewer pipes to treatment plants where it is treated and either returned to streams, rivers, and oceans, or used for irrigation.

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How To Become A Plant Operator

Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators typically need a high school diploma and a license to work. They also typically undergo on-the-job training.

Education

Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators need a high school diploma or equivalent to become operators. Employers may prefer applicants who have completed a certificate or an associate’s degree program in a related field such as environmental science or wastewater treatment technology, as it reduces the amount of training a worker will need. These programs are generally offered at community colleges, technical schools, and trade associations.

Training

Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators need long-term on-the-job training to become fully qualified. Trainees usually start as attendants or operators-in-training and learn their skills on the job under the direction of an experienced operator. The trainees learn by observing and doing routine tasks, such as recording meter readings, taking samples of wastewater and sludge, and performing simple maintenance and repair work on plant equipment.

Larger treatment plants usually combine this on-the-job training with formal classroom or self-paced study programs. As plants get larger and more complicated, operators need more skills before they are allowed to work without supervision.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators must be licensed by the state in which they work. Requirements and standards vary widely depending on the state.

State licenses typically have multiple levels, which indicate the operator's experience and training. Although some states will honor licenses from other states, operators who move from one state to another may need to take a new set of exams to become licensed in their new state.

Advancement

Most states have multiple levels of licenses for water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators. Each increase in license level allows the operator to control a larger plant and more complicated processes without supervision.

At the largest plants, operators who have the highest license level work as shift supervisors and may be in charge of large teams of operators.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators must conduct tests and inspections on water or wastewater and evaluate the results.

Detail oriented. Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators must monitor machinery, gauges, dials, and controls to ensure everything is operating properly. Because tap water and wastewater are highly regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, operators must be careful and thorough in completing these tasks.

Math skills. Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators must have the ability to apply data to formulas that determine treatment requirements, flow levels, and concentration levels.

Mechanical skills. Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators must know how to work with machines and use tools. They must be familiar with how to operate, repair, and maintain equipment.

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Plant Operator Career Paths

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Average Length of Employment
Chemical Operator 5.5 years
Boiler Operator 5.5 years
Refinery Operator 5.3 years
Gas Plant Operator 4.4 years
Utility Operator 4.2 years
Plant Operator 4.0 years
Auxiliary Operator 3.6 years
Top Careers Before Plant Operator
Operator 9.2%
Supervisor 5.7%
Mechanic 5.6%
Cashier 5.3%
Technician 5.2%
Welder 4.0%
Foreman 3.8%
Driver 3.6%
Roustabout 3.3%
Top Careers After Plant Operator
Operator 10.3%
Technician 6.4%
Driver 5.9%
Mechanic 4.5%
Supervisor 4.5%
Foreman 4.3%
Owner 3.8%

Do you work as a Plant Operator?

Average Yearly Salary
$34,000
Show Salaries
$15,000
Min 10%
$34,000
Median 50%
$34,000
Median 50%
$34,000
Median 50%
$34,000
Median 50%
$34,000
Median 50%
$34,000
Median 50%
$34,000
Median 50%
$77,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Graphic Packaging International
Highest Paying City
Stockton, CA
Highest Paying State
Alaska
Avg Experience Level
4.2 years
How much does a Plant Operator make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Plant Operator in the United States is $34,390 per year or $17 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $15,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $77,000.

How Would You Rate The Salary Of a Plant Operator?

Have you worked as a Plant Operator? Help other job seekers by rating your experience as a Plant Operator.

Top Skills for A Plant Operator

  1. Plant Operations
  2. Boilers
  3. Safety Procedures
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Monitored plant operations and responded efficiently to emergencies.
  • Blow down boilers, Operated automatic combustion controls on automatic, manual, or local manual as necessary to meet conditions.
  • Promote safety awareness and compliance of all applicable safety procedures and regulations.
  • Fork Lift and heavy equipment operation Testing materials and product, maintaining quality standards Assist with equipment repairs and preventative maintenance
  • Performed Lab analysis and made necessary process adjustments accordingly.

Rank:

Average Salary:

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Top 10 Best States for Plant Operators

  1. Alaska
  2. Nevada
  3. Wyoming
  4. California
  5. Montana
  6. Utah
  7. Arizona
  8. District of Columbia
  9. Florida
  10. South Carolina
  • (9 jobs)
  • (28 jobs)
  • (25 jobs)
  • (450 jobs)
  • (28 jobs)
  • (46 jobs)
  • (89 jobs)
  • (16 jobs)
  • (295 jobs)
  • (77 jobs)

Plant Operator Resume Examples And Tips

The average resume reviewer spends between 5 to 7 seconds looking at a single resume, which leaves the average job applier with roughly six seconds to make a killer first impression. Thanks to this, a single typo or error on your resume can disqualify you right out of the gate. At Zippia, we went through over 10,147 Plant Operator resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

Learn How To Create A Top Notch Plant Operator Resume

View Resume Examples

Plant Operator Demographics

Gender

Male

85.6%

Unknown

7.3%

Female

7.1%
Ethnicity

White

60.4%

Hispanic or Latino

18.9%

Black or African American

11.4%

Asian

5.9%

Unknown

3.4%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

66.1%

Carrier

6.1%

French

5.2%

German

3.5%

Italian

2.6%

Korean

1.7%

Arabic

1.7%

Portuguese

1.7%

Polish

1.7%

Swedish

0.9%

Turkish

0.9%

Cherokee

0.9%

Romanian

0.9%

Dutch

0.9%

Somali

0.9%

Welsh

0.9%

Malay

0.9%

Russian

0.9%

Thai

0.9%

Kurdish

0.9%
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Plant Operator Education

Schools

University of Phoenix

19.0%

Houston Community College

6.6%

Bismarck State College

6.0%

The Academy

5.3%

Texas A&M University

5.3%

California State University - Sacramento

5.1%

San Juan College

4.6%

Odessa College

4.6%

Del Mar College

4.4%

Ashford University

4.2%

Pennsylvania State University

4.2%

Lee College

4.0%

Community College of the Air Force

3.8%

Maine Maritime Academy

3.5%

A-Technical College

3.5%

Midland College

3.3%

Amarillo College

3.3%

Columbia Southern University

3.1%

Western Wyoming Community College

3.1%

Excelsior College

3.1%
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Majors

Business

19.7%

General Studies

6.7%

Environmental Control Technologies/Technicians

6.7%

Electrical Engineering Technology

5.9%

Automotive Technology

5.7%

Electrical Engineering

5.6%

Criminal Justice

5.1%

Industrial Technology

4.7%

Management

4.4%

Heating And Air Conditioning

4.1%

Mechanical Engineering

4.0%

Precision Metal Working

3.8%

Engineering

3.8%

Chemical Engineering

3.4%

Computer Science

3.3%

Education

3.1%

Environmental Science

2.8%

Biology

2.6%

Chemistry

2.5%

Accounting

2.3%
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Degrees

Other

43.1%

Bachelors

22.8%

Associate

17.0%

Certificate

9.1%

Masters

4.2%

Diploma

2.6%

License

0.8%

Doctorate

0.3%
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