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Become An Utility Operator

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Working As An Utility 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

  • $116,942

    Average Salary

What Does An Utility 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 An Utility 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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Utility Operator Jobs

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Utility Operator Career Paths

Utility Operator
Welder Production Supervisor Operations Director
Chief Of Operations
7 Yearsyrs
Technician Engineer Project Engineer
Construction Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Plant Operator Operator Foreman
Construction Superintendent
9 Yearsyrs
Assembler Production Supervisor Facilities Manager
Director, Facilities & Operations
7 Yearsyrs
Plant Operator Service Technician Engineer
Engineering Supervisor
7 Yearsyrs
Driver Safety Manager Health And Safety Manager
Environmental Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Welder Field Service Technician Project Engineer
Estimator Project Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Equipment Operator Maintenance Technician Maintenance Manager
Facilities Maintenance Manager
11 Yearsyrs
Technician Maintenance Technician Maintenance Supervisor
Facilities Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Process Operator Forklift Operator Carpenter
General Contractor
6 Yearsyrs
Process Operator Process Technician Production Supervisor
General Supervisor
7 Yearsyrs
Driver Branch Manager Operations Vice President
Head Operator
6 Yearsyrs
Maintenance Technician Maintenance Supervisor
Maintenance Director
11 Yearsyrs
Assembler Operator Control Room Operator
Operation Shift Supervisor
5 Yearsyrs
Maintenance Technician Maintenance Manager Operations Manager
Plant Manager
12 Yearsyrs
Heavy Equipment Operator Material Handler Production Supervisor
Plant Superintendent
9 Yearsyrs
Heavy Equipment Operator Technician Foreman
Project Superintendent
10 Yearsyrs
Numerical Control Operator Engineering Technician Civil Engineer
Public Works Director
10 Yearsyrs
Equipment Operator Technician Service Technician
Technical Services Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Truck Driver Plant Operator Water Treatment Operator
Water Superintendent
9 Yearsyrs
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Do you work as an Utility Operator?

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Do you work as an Utility Operator?

Utility Operator Demographics

Gender

Male

81.1%

Female

17.8%

Unknown

1.1%
Ethnicity

White

65.1%

Hispanic or Latino

14.5%

Black or African American

11.3%

Asian

6.1%

Unknown

3.1%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

75.5%

French

5.7%

Carrier

5.7%

German

3.8%

Italian

3.8%

Cantonese

1.9%

Mandarin

1.9%

Hmong

1.9%
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Utility Operator Education

Schools

University of Phoenix

13.9%

Kirkwood Community College

6.6%

Indian Hills Community College

6.6%

Community College of the Air Force

5.7%

Cape Fear Community College

5.7%

College of Southern Idaho

5.7%

University of Alabama

4.9%

Murray State University

4.9%

Lamar Institute of Technology

4.9%

Calhoun Community College

4.9%

Lamar University

4.1%

American InterContinental University

4.1%

Liberty University

4.1%

Kaplan University

4.1%

Butler County Community College

3.3%

Columbia Southern University

3.3%

Ashford University

3.3%

Davidson County Community College

3.3%

North Carolina State University

3.3%

Indiana State University

3.3%
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Majors

Business

26.6%

General Studies

6.4%

Industrial Technology

6.2%

Electrical Engineering

5.8%

Electrical Engineering Technology

5.6%

Criminal Justice

4.9%

Management

4.6%

Computer Science

4.5%

Automotive Technology

4.3%

Education

3.4%

Heating And Air Conditioning

3.4%

Environmental Control Technologies/Technicians

3.3%

Health Care Administration

3.1%

Mechanical Engineering

3.0%

Accounting

2.7%

Precision Metal Working

2.5%

Biology

2.5%

Information Technology

2.5%

Liberal Arts

2.4%

Psychology

2.4%
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Degrees

Other

43.0%

Bachelors

21.9%

Associate

18.4%

Certificate

8.3%

Diploma

3.8%

Masters

3.5%

License

0.8%

Doctorate

0.2%
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Top Skills for An Utility Operator

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  1. Plant Operations
  2. Safety Procedures
  3. Boilers
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Review operational reports, analysis, database management systems and informational systems as may be required to insure efficient plant operations.
  • Follow all safety procedures including the wearing of all required personal protective equipment.
  • Certified in operations on power/recovery boilers.
  • Repair maintenance, Chilled & Condensers water pumps, AHU, Cooling tower chemical treatment and PM.
  • Run feed water samples and lab tests for plant optimization.

How Would You Rate Working As an Utility Operator?

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Top Utility Operator Employers

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