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Careers in Electricity

Electric power generating plant operators.  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 often 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, also called load dispatchers or systems operators, control the flow of electricity through transmission lines to industrial plants and substations that supply residential electric needs. They monitor and 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.

Electrical line installers and repairers work on the vast networks of wires and cables that provide customers with electrical power. Also called line erectors, they install and maintain the networks of power lines that go from generating plants to the customer.  Line installers construct new lines by erecting utility poles and towers, or digging underground trenches, to carry the wires and cables.

Industrial machinery mechanics install, repair, and maintain machinery in power generating stations. Maintenance mechanics perform work involving a variety of maintenance skills to keep machines, mechanical equipment, and the structure of an establishment in repair. These employees are responsible for cleaning and lubricating machinery, performing basic diagnostic tests, checking performance, and testing damaged machine parts to determine whether major repairs are necessary. In carrying out these tasks, maintenance workers must follow machine specifications and adhere to maintenance schedules. Maintenance workers may perform minor repairs, but major repairs are generally left to machinery mechanics.

Office and administrative support occupations account for about one quarter of the jobs in the utilities industry. Customer service representatives interview applicants for utility 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. Utility meter readers read electric consumption meters visually or remotely using radio transmitters, and they record the volume used by residential and industrial customers. Financial clerks, such as bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks, compute, classify and record numerical data to keep financial records complete. They perform any combination of routine calculating, posting, and verifying duties to obtain primary financial data for use in maintaining accounting records.

Professional and managerial occupations in this industry include engineers and computer specialists. Engineers develop technologies that allow, for example, utilities to produce and transmit electricity more efficiently. Computer specialists develop computer systems to automate utility processes, provide plant simulators for operator training, and improve operator decision making. Engineering technicians assist engineers in research activities and may conduct some research independently. Executives, managers, and administrators in this industry plan, organize, direct, and coordinate management activities.

Source: Occupational Outlook Handbook, U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics