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What kind of work do you do at a power plant?

Power plants are facilities that generate electricity for residential, commercial and industrial use. They convert various forms of energy, like coal, natural gas, nuclear power, hydropower or solar power, into electrical energy. Power plants require teams of skilled workers to operate and maintain the equipment that generates this electricity.

Power Plant Jobs

There are many different types of jobs at power plants that keep electricity flowing to homes and businesses. Here are some of the main positions and responsibilities:

Plant Managers

Plant managers oversee daily operations and personnel at power generation facilities. Their duties include:

  • Coordinating maintenance and repair work
  • Ensuring safe working conditions
  • Managing plant budgets and resources
  • Overseeing compliance with regulations
  • Developing policies and procedures

Plant managers need leadership skills to guide operations and troubleshoot problems. They also analyze performance data to find ways to improve efficiency.

Control Room Operators

Control room operators work in a power plant’s central computerized control center. They perform tasks like:

  • Monitoring the plant’s electrical output and distribution systems
  • Controlling equipment to regulate voltage and electricity flow
  • Responding to alarms and troubleshooting issues
  • Keeping logs and records of operations

Strong technical skills are needed for this role. Control room operators use specialized software and control panels to adjust settings on generators, boilers, turbines and other equipment.

Power Plant Operators

Power plant operators work hands-on with the mechanical, electrical and digital components of the plant. Their duties can include:

  • Inspecting and maintaining equipment
  • Performing start-up and shutdown procedures
  • Controlling distributed control systems and programmable logic controllers
  • Taking readings and collecting operational data
  • Completing minor repairs

Operators need technical skills to work with complex systems and machinery. Strong mechanical aptitude is essential.

Maintenance Technicians

Maintenance techs are responsible for keeping power generation equipment in good working order. Their daily tasks may consist of:

  • Inspecting and diagnosing issues with turbines, pumps, generators, boilers and other components
  • Performing preventive maintenance and repairs
  • Replacing worn or defective parts
  • Conducting tests and troubleshooting problems
  • Documenting maintenance activities

This role requires trade skills like pipefitting, welding, machining and mechanical or electrical systems troubleshooting. These technicians have to be able to use both hand and power tools.


Electricians install, maintain and repair the electrical systems and components at plants. Their work may include:

  • Inspecting and replacing transformers, wires, breaker panels and relays
  • Connecting power generating equipment and distribution systems
  • Calibrating electrical instrumentation and control devices
  • Conducting preventive maintenance on motors and generators
  • Testing electrical circuits and equipment

Power plant electricians need training in high voltage systems and power distribution. They must follow safety procedures for working on live electrical connections.

Instrumentation Techs

Instrument techs install, maintain and repair the many monitoring and control instruments used at plants. Their responsibilities can include:

  • Calibrating, inspecting and adjusting sensors, transmitters, analyzers and other instruments
  • Repairing or replacing malfunctioning measurement and control equipment
  • Performing routine maintenance on pneumatic, hydraulic and electronic instruments
  • Testing equipment accuracy

Strong electrical and mechanical skills are needed for this position. Instrument techs also have to understand how plant equipment operates.

Chemical Technicians

Chemical technicians handle water treatment and chemical processes at power facilities. Their duties may include:

  • Monitoring and controlling water purification and treatment systems
  • Collecting and analyzing water and emission samples
  • Maintaining chemical supplies and inventories
  • Coordinating chemical deliveries and waste disposal

These technicians need knowledge of chemistry and chemical handling procedures. They ensure plant discharges comply with environmental regulations.

Health and Safety Specialists

Health and safety specialists are responsible for plant worker health, safety and environmental protection programs. Their key duties include:

  • Inspecting facilities, equipment and worker practices to identify hazards
  • Recommending and overseeing safety improvements
  • Investigating accidents and incidents
  • Developing and delivering training on safety practices, equipment and regulations
  • Monitoring compliance with occupational health and safety laws

These specialists have strong knowledge of safety standards and environmental regulations. They may conduct evacuation and emergency response drills.

Training Instructors

Power plant training instructors develop and deliver instructional programs that provide workers with the knowledge and skills needed to perform their roles. Their tasks can involve:

  • Assessing training needs
  • Designing classroom and hands-on training courses
  • Preparing lesson plans
  • Presenting technical information
  • Administering written and practical skills evaluations

Strong presentation abilities and technical expertise in plant systems are required for this job. Instructors keep workers up-to-date on procedures and safety practices.

Power Generation Processes

While individual duties vary, all power plant personnel work together to keep electricity flowing reliably. Here is an overview of the key processes involved in generating power:

Fuel Handling

Most power plants use a fuel like coal, oil or natural gas to produce energy. Fuel handling systems deliver fuel to the plant site and prepare it for burning. At a coal plant, coal is transported by train or barge, then crushed and pulverized before combustion. Workers coordinate fuel deliveries and operate equipment like conveyors, feeders and pulverizers.

Boiler Operation

In the boiler, or steam generator, the prepared fuel is burned to heat water into high-pressure steam. The boiler has tubes filled with water surrounding the fire. As fuel burns, it heats the water in the tubes. The steam produced drives the plant’s turbines. Operators control the fuel and air supply to the boiler fire, monitor steam conditions and perform maintenance on boiler components.

Steam Turbines

The pressurized steam from the boiler is piped to turn the blades of the facility’s steam turbines. As the steam rushes past them, it causes the turbine shaft to rotate at high speeds. Turbine operators regulate the steam flow and monitor machine operation. Technicians maintain the turbine blades, casings, bearings and other elements.

Electric Generator

The rotating turbine shaft spins coils of wire inside large electric generators. This motion between the wire coils and generator magnets produces AC electric current. Voltage regulators control generator output, which is stepped up to higher voltages for transmission on the electric grid. Operators monitor the generator cooling systems and other components.

Pollution Control

Plants utilize scrubbers, precipitators, filters and other pollution control devices to remove particulates and gases like sulfur dioxide from plant emissions before they reach the atmosphere. Technicians operate, monitor and perform maintenance on these air and water filtration systems to comply with environmental regulations.

Water Treatment

Water treatment systems remove impurities from plant process water and condensate returned from the turbines. Chemical technicians monitor and adjust water treatment processes which can include filtration, chemical dosing, reverse osmosis and ion exchange. Proper water purification increases plant efficiency and equipment service life.


After the generated electricity passes through transformers at the plant site, it is sent through high voltage cables on the transmission and distribution grid. Dispatchers route power between utility companies to meet changing customer demands. Line workers inspect and maintain the power lines, towers and substations carrying electricity to homes and businesses.

Environmental Monitoring

Strict air quality and water discharge limits are placed on power plants by environmental agencies. Environmental technicians regularly sample and analyze emissions, effluents and other discharges to verify regulatory permit compliance. Readings outside allowed limits can trigger operating adjustments, equipment repairs or process changes.


Power plants contain an enormous amount of equipment that must be constantly maintained in peak operating condition. Outages and failures can disrupt vital electricity service. Teams of technicians and maintenance workers conduct preventive maintenance, repairs and overhauls on all plant components, from circuit breakers to boiler tubes to generator windings.

Plant Security

Highly trained power plant security forces control access to facilities to prevent sabotage or attacks. Security workers monitor surveillance systems, conduct inspections and patrol perimeters to protect plants from threats or unauthorized entry. They ensure only properly identified personnel enter secure areas.

Work Environment

Most power plant jobs involve indoor and outdoor work in diverse plant locations. Settings can range from clean control rooms to loud turbine halls to confined high-voltage areas. Hazards include moving equipment, chemicals, high voltage, high heat and elevated work locations. Proper safety precautions and equipment are needed at all times.

Power plants run 24/7, so shift work is common. Rotating 12 hours shifts are typical for control room and plant operations positions. Maintenance teams may work day, evening or overnight shifts. Schedules often follow a 5 days on, 2 days off rotation. Overtime and on-call hours are also common, especially for emergency repairs.


Educational requirements vary, but many power plant jobs need training beyond a high school diploma. Degrees and certifications typical for different roles include:

  • Plant Managers – Bachelor’s degree in Engineering, Business Administration or related field
  • Control Room Operators – Associate’s degree or specialized operator training
  • Technicians – Associate’s degree or technical certification
  • Maintenance Workers – High school diploma plus technical training
  • Electricians – Electrician certification
  • Instrument Techs – Instrumentation and controls certification

Hands-on experience with power plant systems or related mechanical/electrical equipment is also valuable. New workers often enter as assistants or trainees before advancing to operator and technician roles. Leadership and management skills are needed for supervisory positions.

Other key qualifications for power plant personnel include:

  • Mechanical aptitude
  • Technical and troubleshooting skills
  • Computer familiarity
  • Manual dexterity and physical fitness
  • Communication and teamwork skills
  • Problem-solving ability
  • Attention to detail
  • Stress management skills

Career Advancement

With experience, operators can advance to control room supervisor or shift manager roles. Maintenance technicians and electricians can become lead workers. Instrument techs may move into instrumentation and electrical supervisor positions. Safety specialists can become risk managers. With additional management training, top candidates can advance to plant manager positions.


Power plant personnel carry major responsibility for safely generating the electricity that powers homes, hospitals, schools, businesses and cities. Their specialized skills and knowledge keep these vital facilities running around the clock to meet community energy needs. A career at a power plant provides the opportunity to work with innovative, cutting edge technology in an essential public service field.