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Career profile Chemical Plant Operator

Also known as Chemical Operator, Loader Technician, Process Control Operator, Process Development Associate, Process Operator, Process Technician, Production Technician

Chemical Plant Operator

Also known as Chemical Operator, Loader Technician, Process Control Operator

Interests Profile
  • Realistic
  • Conventional
  • Investigative
Pay Range
$38,160 - $95,860 (annual)
Required Skills
  • Operations Monitoring
  • Operation and Control
  • Monitoring
Knowledge Areas
  • Production and Processing
  • Chemistry
  • Mechanical
Core tasks
  • Monitor recording instruments, flowmeters, panel lights, or other indicators and listen for warning signals to verify conformity of process conditions.
  • Regulate or shut down equipment during emergency situations, as directed by supervisory personnel.
  • Control or operate chemical processes or systems of machines, using panelboards, control boards, or semi-automatic equipment.
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What does a Chemical Plant Operator do?

Chemical Plant Operators control or operate entire chemical processes or system of machines.

What kind of tasks does a Chemical Plant Operator perform regularly?

Chemical Plant Operators are often responsible for overseeing or executing some or all of the following tasks:

  • Monitor recording instruments, flowmeters, panel lights, or other indicators and listen for warning signals to verify conformity of process conditions.
  • Regulate or shut down equipment during emergency situations, as directed by supervisory personnel.
  • Control or operate chemical processes or systems of machines, using panelboards, control boards, or semi-automatic equipment.
  • Move control settings to make necessary adjustments on equipment units affecting speeds of chemical reactions, quality, or yields.
  • Inspect operating units, such as towers, soap-spray storage tanks, scrubbers, collectors, or driers to ensure that all are functioning and to maintain maximum efficiency.
  • Draw samples of products and conduct quality control tests to monitor processing and to ensure that standards are met.
  • Patrol work areas to ensure that solutions in tanks or troughs are not in danger of overflowing.
  • Record operating data, such as process conditions, test results, or instrument readings.
  • Turn valves to regulate flow of products or byproducts through agitator tanks, storage drums, or neutralizer tanks.
  • Interpret chemical reactions visible through sight glasses or on television monitors and review laboratory test reports for process adjustments.
  • Notify maintenance, stationary engineering, or other auxiliary personnel to correct equipment malfunctions or to adjust power, steam, water, or air supplies.
  • Confer with technical and supervisory personnel to report or resolve conditions affecting safety, efficiency, or product quality.
  • Start pumps to wash and rinse reactor vessels, to exhaust gases or vapors, to regulate the flow of oil, steam, air, or perfume to towers, or to add products to converter or blending vessels.
  • Repair or replace damaged equipment.

The above responsibilities are specific to Chemical Plant Operators. More generally, Chemical Plant Operators are involved in several broader types of activities:

Getting Information
Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
Monitoring Processes, Materials, or Surroundings
Monitoring and reviewing information from materials, events, or the environment, to detect or assess problems.
Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
Controlling Machines and Processes
Using either control mechanisms or direct physical activity to operate machines or processes (not including computers or vehicles).
Training and Teaching Others
Identifying the educational needs of others, developing formal educational or training programs or classes, and teaching or instructing others.

What is a Chemical Plant Operator salary?

The median salary for a Chemical Plant Operator is $65,960, and the average salary is $65,460. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Chemical Plant Operator salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Chemical Plant Operators earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Chemical Plant Operators earn less than $38,160 per year, 25% earn less than $48,430, 75% earn less than $81,360, and 90% earn less than $95,860.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Chemical Plant Operators is expected to change by -0.3%, and there should be roughly 3,000 open positions for Chemical Plant Operators every year.

Median annual salary
$65,960
Typical salary range
$38,160 - $95,860
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)
-0.3%

What personality traits are common among Chemical Plant Operators?

Interests

Career interests describe a person's preferences for different types of working environments and activities. When a person's interest match the demands of an occupation, people are usually more engaged and satisfied in that role.

Compared to most occupations, those who work as a Chemical Plant Operator are usually higher in their Realistic interests.

Chemical Plant Operators typically have very strong Realistic interests. Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.

Values

People differ in their values, or what is most important to them for building job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Compared to most people, those working as a Chemical Plant Operator tend to value Support, Working Conditions, and Independence.

Most importantly, Chemical Plant Operators strongly value Support. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees.

Second, Chemical Plant Operators moderately value Working Conditions. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer job security and good working conditions.

Lastly, Chemical Plant Operators moderately value Independence. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions.

Psychological Demands

Each occupation brings its own set of psychological demands, which describe the characteristics necessary to perform the job well.

In order to perform their job successfully, people who work as Chemical Plant Operators must consistently demonstrate qualities such as dependability, attention to detail, and integrity.

Below, you'll find a list of qualities typically required of Chemical Plant Operators, ranked by importance:

Dependability
Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
Attention to Detail
Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
Integrity
Job requires being honest and ethical.
Stress Tolerance
Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high-stress situations.
Analytical Thinking
Job requires analyzing information and using logic to address work-related issues and problems.

What education and training do Chemical Plant Operators need?

Working as a Chemical Plant Operator usually requires a high school diploma.

Chemical Plant Operators need anywhere from a few months to one year of working with experienced employees. A recognized apprenticeship program may be associated with this occupation.

Educational degrees among Chemical Plant Operators

  • 9.2% did not complete high school or secondary school
  • 33.9% completed high school or secondary school
  • 33.7% completed some college coursework
  • 11.2% earned a Associate's degree
  • 11.1% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 0.6% earned a Master's degree
  • 0.3% earned a doctorate or professional degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Chemical Plant Operators

Chemical Plant Operators may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as production and processing, chemistry, or mechanical knowledge.

The list below shows several areas in which most Chemical Plant Operators might want to build proficiency, ranked by importance.

Production and Processing
Knowledge of raw materials, production processes, quality control, costs, and other techniques for maximizing the effective manufacture and distribution of goods.
Chemistry
Knowledge of the chemical composition, structure, and properties of substances and of the chemical processes and transformations that they undergo. This includes uses of chemicals and their interactions, danger signs, production techniques, and disposal methods.
Mechanical
Knowledge of machines and tools, including their designs, uses, repair, and maintenance.
Public Safety and Security
Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.
Customer and Personal Service
Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.

Important Abilities needed by Chemical Plant Operators

Chemical Plant Operators must develop a particular set of abilities to perform their job well. Abilities are individual capacities that influence a person's information processing, sensory perception, motor coordination, and physical strength or endurance. Individuals may naturally have certain abilities without explicit training, but most abilities can be sharpened somewhat through practice.

For example, Chemical Plant Operators need abilities such as selective attention, near vision, and problem sensitivity in order to perform their job at a high level. The list below shows several important abilities for Chemical Plant Operators, ranked by their relative importance.

Selective Attention
The ability to concentrate on a task over a period of time without being distracted.
Near Vision
The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
Problem Sensitivity
The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing that there is a problem.
Deductive Reasoning
The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
Oral Comprehension
The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.

Critical Skills needed by Chemical Plant Operators

Skills are developed capacities that enable people to function effectively in real-world settings. Unlike abilities, skills are typically easier to build through practice and experience. Skills influence effectiveness in areas such as learning, working with others, design, troubleshooting, and more.

Chemical Plant Operators frequently use skills like operations monitoring, operation and control, and monitoring to perform their job effectively. The list below shows several critical skills for Chemical Plant Operators, ranked by their relative importance.

Operations Monitoring
Watching gauges, dials, or other indicators to make sure a machine is working properly.
Operation and Control
Controlling operations of equipment or systems.
Monitoring
Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
Quality Control Analysis
Conducting tests and inspections of products, services, or processes to evaluate quality or performance.
Critical Thinking
Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.

What is the source of this information?

The information provided on this page is adapted from data and descriptions published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration under the CC BY 4.0 license. TraitLab has modified some information for ease of use and reading, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

If you have any questions or suggestions about this information, please send a message.