Is becoming a power plant operator right for me?
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How to become a Power Plant Operator
Power plant operators undergo rigorous, long-term on-the-job training and technical instruction. Several years of onsite training and experience are necessary to become fully qualified. Even fully qualified workers must take regular training courses to keep their skills current. Nuclear power reactor operators usually start working as equipment operators or auxiliary operators, helping more experienced workers operate and maintain the equipment while learning the basics of how to operate the power plant.
Along with this extensive on-the-job training, nuclear power plant operators typically receive formal technical training to prepare for a license exam. To become licensed, operators must meet training and experience requirements, pass a medical exam, and pass the licensing exam. To keep their license, operators must pass a plant-operating exam each year, pass a medical exam every two years, and apply for license renewal every six years. Once licensed, operators are authorized to control equipment that affects the power of the reactor in a nuclear power plant. Operators continue frequent onsite training. Licenses cannot be transferred between plants, so an operator must get a new license to operate in another facility.
Power plant operators who do not work at a nuclear power reactor may be licensed as engineers or firefighters by licensing boards. Requirements vary by jurisdiction and depend on the specific job functions that the operator performs.
Power plant operators need at least a high school diploma. However, employers may prefer workers with college or vocational school degrees. Employers generally look for people with strong math and science backgrounds for these highly technical jobs. Understanding electricity and math, especially algebra and trigonometry, is important. Previous related work experience can be helpful. Many employers prefer experience in electricity generation, transmission, and distribution, or in other occupations in the utilities industry, such as a line worker or helper, or labourer in a power plant.
Some nuclear power reactor operators gain experience working with nuclear reactors in the armed services.