What is a Control Room Operator?

Control Room Operators work in the control rooms of large plants, in particular power plants, where they monitor all of the operations of the plants to ensure that everything is working properly. Control Room Operators control the creation and flow of electricity from power plants to businesses, homes and factories. Control Room Operators work at all kinds of power plants, including coal, gas, nuclear, hydroelectric, and wind and solar power. As electricity usages declines and more people shift to alternate forms of energy, Control Room Operator jobs may be declining over the coming years.

 

Control Room Operator Duties and Responsibilities 

In order to monitor and maintain the operations of a power plant, Control Room Operators must carry out a large range of duties. While duties vary from plant to plant, we determined these primary responsibilities of Control Room Operators after analyzing several job listings .

Monitor Plant Operations

From the control room, Control Room Operators monitor all plant operations on screens and computers. They watch closely to identify any abnormal operating and equipment conditions.

Fix Problems

When something abnormal is detected, the Control Room Operators troubleshoots and repairs the electrical and mechanical equipment to get everything back on track to minimize safety risks and economic losses.

Track and Log Operational Systems

The Control Room Operators is responsible for tracking and recording the status of the operational system using applicable journals and control system tools.

Make Recommendations

From their vantage point, Control Room Operators are in a great position to identify and recommend changes to improve overall plant reliability, performance and output.

Monitor Emissions

An important duty of the Control Room Operator is to monitor the operations of emissions control equipment and adjust it to meet State and Federal permits.

 

Control Room Operator Skills

The high stakes nature of the Control Room Operator job requires a candidate who can work well under pressure, and who adjusts quickly to change. Control Room Operators must remain flexible and productive in times of continuing change and high stress. They should also be good analytical thinkers, able to gather data, determine and take a course of action after identifying possible consequences. A good Control Room Operator is a creative problem solver and a leader. Along with these personality traits, Control Room Operators should also have the following skills.

Core skills: Based on job listings we found, employers are hiring Control Room Operators with these core skills. Make sure you have the following abilities if you want to land a job as a Control Room Operator.

  • Strong aptitude in math; ability to use addition, subtraction, multiplication and division to perform flow, pressure, performance and meter calculations
  • Ability to work both independently and in a team environment
  • Good interpersonal and communication skills
  • Knowledge of generating unit operation, engineering, or maintenance practices
  • Ability to operate various switches, control devices and valves, and knowledge of the effect each has on total plant operations

Advanced skills: The following skills aren’t required by most employers, but they will give you a boost in the job search. Add these skills to your resume to improve you chances of landing a Control Room Operator job.

  • Journeyman level mechanic or experience maintaining plant equipment
  • 40 hour Health & Safety, OSHA 29 CFR 1910.120, Confined Space Entry, and Trench Excavation Safety training
  • Ability to read and interpret blueprints, schematic diagrams, procedures and technical manuals.

Tools of the trade: Control Room Operators use many different tools to perform their day-to-day duties. If you plan on pursuing a career as a Control Room Operator, gain proficiency in the use of the following:

  • Hand and power tools (includes small tools, drills, hydraulic presses, and band saws)
  • Basic office computer equipment and programs
  • Reading and understanding mechanical plans and specifications

 

Control Room Operator Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for Power Plant Operators, distributors, and dispatchers, including Control Room Operators, is $75,000. The lowest-earning 10 percent of Control Room Operators make less than  $47,000 a year, but the top 10 percent highest paid can earn more than $101,000 annually. Washington stands out with the highest median annual wage, more than $90,000. Coming behind Washington are California, with a median salary of $85,000, and New Jersey with a median salary of about $83,000.

 

Control Room Operator Resources

To help you learn more about the job of a Control Room Operator, we searched the web for some great resources. From blogs to industry groups to helpful books, these links will give you all you need to know about becoming a Control Room Operator.

On the Web 

Power Mag – Read up on the latest news and advances in the power plant industry.

Power Talk – Learn about different types of power plants and power generation from this informative blog.

Industry Groups 

American Public Power Association – The American Public Power Association has tons of information of power, as well as learning opportunities and industry news.

Center for Energy Workforce Development – CEWD offers educational materials, events and information to promote workers in the Energy sector.

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission – Head here for more information specifically on nuclear power reactor operators, including licensing.

Control Room Operator Books 

Human Factors in the Design and Evaluation of Central Control Room Operations– This book will give you some insight into what goes on in various types of control rooms, and how they are designed to be the most efficient.

Power Plant Primer  – This book is an introduction into the power plant, providing an overview of the roles, mechanics, common issues and jargon of these important plants.

 

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