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Electric Industry Careers

Utility worker Electric power generating plant operators control or operate machinery, such as stream-driven turbine generators, to generate electric power, often through the use of control boards or semi-automatic equipment. Electric power plant operators control and monitor boilers, turbines, generators, and auxiliary equipment in power generating plants. Operators distribute power demands among generators, combine the current from several generators, and monitor instruments to maintain voltage and regulate electricity flows from the plant. When power requirements change, these workers start or stop generators and connect or disconnect them from circuits. They may use computers to keep records of switching operations and loads on generators, lines, and transformers. Operators may also use computers to prepare reports of unusual incidents, malfunctioning equipment, or maintenance performed during their shift.

Power distributors and dispatchers coordinate, regulate, or distribute electricity or steam in generating stations, over transmission lines to substations, and over electric power lines. Also called load dispatchers or systems operators, these workers control the flow of electricity through transmission lines to industrial plants and substations that supply residential electric needs. They operate current converters, voltage transformers, and circuit breakers. Dispatchers monitor equipment and record readings at a pilot board, which is a map of the transmission grid system showing the status of transmission circuits and connections with substations and industrial plants.

Line installers and repairers install and repair cables or wires used in electrical power or distribution systems. They install insulators, wooden poles, and light or heavy-duty transmission towers. Blue-collar worker supervisors directly supervise and coordinate the activities of production workers. These supervisors ensure that workers, equipment, and materials are used and maintained properly and efficiently to maximize productivity.

Industrial machinery repairers install, repair, and maintain machinery in power generating stations, gas plants, and water treatment plants. They repair and maintain the mechanical components of generators, waterwheels, water-inlet controls, and piping in generating stations; steam boilers, condensers, pumps, compressors, and similar equipment in gas manufacturing plants; and equipment used to process and distribute water for public and industrial uses.

Maintenance mechanics perform work involving a variety of maintenance skills to keep machines, mechanical equipment, and the structure of an establishment in repair. They are generally found in small establishments, and their duties may involve pipefitting, boilermaking, electrical work, carpentry, welding, and installing new equipment.

Administrative support occupations account for about one-fifth of the jobs in the utilities industry. These occupations include customer service representatives, general office clerks, meter readers, and financial records processing occupations. Customer service representatives interview applicants for water, gas, and electric service. They talk with customers by phone or in person and receive orders for installation, turn-on, discontinuance, or change in service. General office clerks may do bookkeeping, typing, stenography, office machine operation, and filing. Meter readers read electric, gas, water, or steam consumption meters visually or remotely using radio transmitters and record the volume used by residential and industrial customers. Financial records processing occupations, such as billing, cost, and rate clerks, compile data, compute fees and charges, and prepare invoices for billing purposes, in addition to the routine calculating, posting, and verifying duties necessary to keep financial records complete.

Operator, fabricator, and laborer occupations include helpers, the entry-level occupation in almost all utilities occupations tied to production activities. Other helpers include refuse collectors, who collect and dump refuse from containers into a truck. Material moving equipment operators distribute refuse around landfills and ensure that the refuse is covered by the necessary amount of soil or cover each day. Truck drivers operate refuse collection trucks that are either self-loading or loaded by refuse collectors.

Executives, managers, and administrators in the utilities industry plan, organize, direct, and coordinate management activities. They are often responsible for maintaining an adequate supply of electricity, gas, water, steam, or sanitation service.

Professional specialty occupations in this industry include engineers and computer systems analysts, engineers, and scientists. Engineers develop technologies that allow, for example, utilities to produce and transmit gas and electricity more efficiently and water more cleanly. They may also develop improved methods of landfill or wastewater treatment operations in order to maintain compliance with government regulations. Electrical and mechanical engineers design electric power distribution systems and power plants.

Computer systems analysts, engineers, and scientists develop computer systems to automate utility processes, provide plant simulators for operator training, and improve operator decision making.

Technicians account for only a small proportion of total employment in this industry. Technician occupations include engineering and science technicians who assist engineers in research activities and may conduct some research independently.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook. (