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Career profile Water Plant Operator

Also known as Plant Operator, Process Operator (Process Op), Relief Operator, SCADA Operator (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition Operator), Waste Water Treatment Plant Operator (WWTP Operator), Wastewater Operator (WW Operator), Water Control Dispatcher, Water Plant Operator, Water Treatment Operator, Water Treatment Plant Operator

Water Plant Operator

Also known as Plant Operator, Process Operator (Process Op), Relief Operator

Interests Profile
  • Realistic
  • Conventional
  • Investigative
Pay Range
$29,730 - $79,620 (annual)
Required Skills
  • Operations Monitoring
  • Operation and Control
  • Monitoring
Knowledge Areas
  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Mechanical
Core tasks
  • Add chemicals, such as ammonia, chlorine, or lime, to disinfect and deodorize water and other liquids.
  • Collect and test water and sewage samples, using test equipment and color analysis standards.
  • Record operational data, personnel attendance, or meter and gauge readings on specified forms.
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What does a Water Plant Operator do?

Water Plant Operators operate or control an entire process or system of machines, often through the use of control boards, to transfer or treat water or wastewater.

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

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

  • Add chemicals, such as ammonia, chlorine, or lime, to disinfect and deodorize water and other liquids.
  • Collect and test water and sewage samples, using test equipment and color analysis standards.
  • Record operational data, personnel attendance, or meter and gauge readings on specified forms.
  • Operate and adjust controls on equipment to purify and clarify water, process or dispose of sewage, and generate power.
  • Inspect equipment or monitor operating conditions, meters, and gauges to determine load requirements and detect malfunctions.
  • Maintain, repair, and lubricate equipment, using hand tools and power tools.
  • Clean and maintain tanks, filter beds, and other work areas, using hand tools and power tools.
  • Direct and coordinate plant workers engaged in routine operations and maintenance activities.

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

Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards
Using relevant information and individual judgment to determine whether events or processes comply with laws, regulations, or standards.
Controlling Machines and Processes
Using either control mechanisms or direct physical activity to operate machines or processes (not including computers or vehicles).
Monitoring Processes, Materials, or Surroundings
Monitoring and reviewing information from materials, events, or the environment, to detect or assess problems.
Processing Information
Compiling, coding, categorizing, calculating, tabulating, auditing, or verifying information or data.
Making Decisions and Solving Problems
Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.

What is a Water Plant Operator salary?

The median salary for a Water Plant Operator is $49,090, and the average salary is $51,890. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Water Plant Operator salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Water Plant Operators earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Water Plant Operators earn less than $29,730 per year, 25% earn less than $37,830, 75% earn less than $62,890, and 90% earn less than $79,620.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Water Plant Operators is expected to change by -2.5%, and there should be roughly 10,500 open positions for Water Plant Operators every year.

Median annual salary
$49,090
Typical salary range
$29,730 - $79,620
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)
-2.5%

What personality traits are common among Water 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 Water Plant Operator are usually higher in their Realistic interests.

Water 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 Water Plant Operator tend to value Support, Independence, and Achievement.

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

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

Lastly, Water Plant Operators somewhat value Achievement. Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment.

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 Water Plant Operators must consistently demonstrate qualities such as integrity, dependability, and attention to detail.

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

Integrity
Job requires being honest and ethical.
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.
Independence
Job requires developing one's own ways of doing things, guiding oneself with little or no supervision, and depending on oneself to get things done.
Initiative
Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.

What education and training do Water Plant Operators need?

Water Plant Operators often have training in vocational schools, related on-the-job experience, or an associate's degree.

Water Plant Operators usually need one or two years of training involving both on-the-job experience and informal training with experienced workers. A recognized apprenticeship program may be associated with this occupation.

Educational degrees among Water Plant Operators

  • 3.0% did not complete high school or secondary school
  • 36.6% completed high school or secondary school
  • 31.1% completed some college coursework
  • 13.3% earned a Associate's degree
  • 13.4% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 2.4% earned a Master's degree
  • 0.2% earned a doctorate or professional degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Water Plant Operators

Water Plant Operators may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as chemistry, biology, or mechanical knowledge.

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

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.
Biology
Knowledge of plant and animal organisms, their tissues, cells, functions, interdependencies, and interactions with each other and the environment.
Mechanical
Knowledge of machines and tools, including their designs, uses, repair, and maintenance.
Mathematics
Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
Production and Processing
Knowledge of raw materials, production processes, quality control, costs, and other techniques for maximizing the effective manufacture and distribution of goods.

Important Abilities needed by Water Plant Operators

Water 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, Water Plant Operators need abilities such as oral comprehension, oral expression, and written comprehension in order to perform their job at a high level. The list below shows several important abilities for Water Plant Operators, ranked by their relative importance.

Oral Comprehension
The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
Oral Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
Written Comprehension
The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
Near Vision
The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
Deductive Reasoning
The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.

Critical Skills needed by Water 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.

Water 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 Water 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.
Active Listening
Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Quality Control Analysis
Conducting tests and inspections of products, services, or processes to evaluate quality or performance.

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.

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