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What does it take to become a Power Plant Operator?

What kind of certification and training would I need, and how long does it take? Do I need prior work experience, or are there training/apprenticeship programs for the position?

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Billy’s Answer

Great question! Depending on the employer, this can certainly be one of those fields that you can get into without any college education and it can pay pretty well! It's dangerous work that requires a lot a specialized, plant-specific training to perform. There will be a lot of high-pressure situations that have strict timing requirements, and you will be making decisions in real-time often without guidance. It will also require you to work shift work since the plant in a sense never "closes."

Many employers will be looking for prior related mechanical experience. A power plant includes a lot of other equipment to make electricity, not just the generator. Other equipment includes pumps, compressors, blowers, valves, motors, etc.

If you have experience working on or operating those kind of things, that will get the attention of somebody looking to hire a power plant operator. If you have any experience running diesel or natural-gas generators, that will also go a long way in getting you the job. Navy experience often translates extremely well in this field, and you'll find a lot of ex-military folks working in this industry as a result.

It depends on the plant, but once you get hired, expect about 6 months to 2 years of training. This will most likely include some type of classroom material, computer-based presentations, and finally training in the field with a qualified operator at the plant. This operator will be like a mentor to you, showing you the right way to perform tasks as an operator and how to do the job efficiently. They'll evaluate you and over time will let management know that you are "ready," at which that point in time the management team will perform some type of "qualification interview" before letting you work independently.

The training varies from site-to-site, but that should be something close to what to expect. Good luck! I worked 14 years in that field and if you've got what it takes, you will definitely enjoy your time as an operator and the friends you'll make along the way!
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Nicole’s Answer

Naes.com would be a great place for you to start. Also United States Navy As a machinist mate.( Great way to serve your country and get knowledge required). Also needing a background in general reactor theory and radiation. These would be great resources to start with. Also checking local power plants for any type of guidance and a programming. I would also get an OSHA certificate and any trade this is always a good thing to have.

Nicole recommends the following next steps:

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