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Is Public Utilities A Path Worth Considering?

Jill Caren
By Jill Caren
Updated December 17th, 2023

Public utilities careers are available in many areas. You can work in white-collar careers like marketing or sales, or blue-collar careers like manufacturing and service.

People looking for stable, rewarding work should consider public utilities careers. Public utilities provide essential services like power, water, and communications. These are all services people need everyday to be productive and happy. 

Public utilities can be a rewarding career path with good salaries and job security. The industry values relevant skills and experience more than formal education. Many jobs require only a high school diploma, though some advanced positions may need a college degree.

In this article we will answer the question, “is public utilities a good career path“. I hope this information can help you decide the sector is right for you.

Public Utilities Industry Sectors

Public utilities comprise multiple industry sectors. 

Petroleum & Gas Industry

Petroleum and gas careers help us heat our homes and fuel our cars. Various job opportunities are available in distribution, pipeline, and local government sectors.

Electric Industry

The electrical industry works to provide power to our communities. Electricity is an essential service that powers our phones, computers, and sometimes cars. Workers in electrical sectors do repairs, installations, and maintenance of electrical components. The industry has high-paying jobs like electrician or journeyman.

Water Industry

Water industry careers maintain a healthy supply of water. Some jobs in water include water plant operator, distribution operator, or pretreatment coordinator. 

Telecommunications Industry

Telecommunications keep our communication lines working. Popular careers include lineman, telephone equipment installer, or cable installer.

Sewage Removal Industry

Jobs in sewage removal can be done in sewage treatment plants or public sewer systems. Daily work will include collecting waste and then applying treatments to it so it can be disposed of without harming our environment.

Renewable Energy Industry

Renewable energy is a growing industry and focuses on building power sources from more natural resources. Solar panels and wind turbines are the most common energy sources currently being added to our power sources. 

Common Public Utilities Jobs

Below are common jobs in the public utilities field that require no college degree. Most of these jobs provide essential services that people need which means great job security. But, it also means working in challenging conditions like hurricanes, pandemics, and other natural disasters. 

Meter Reader

Average salary: $58,120

Meter readers collect usage data from electric, gas, or water meters installed at homes and businesses. Workers walk assigned routes, drive utility vehicles, or use radio equipment to remotely capture meter readings. These are then logged for billing and monitoring consumption.

Utility Locator & Marker

Average salary: $52,777

Utility markers identify underground infrastructure like pipes and cables by referencing utility maps and plans. Duties involve marking dig site perimeters with flags or paint. This helps excavators avoid striking hidden gas lines, water mains, electricity, or telecom conduits when digging trenches or holes.

Meet Marco and see his take on starting out as a utility locator.

Wind Turbine Technician

Average salary: $56,260

Wind turbine technicians maintain, install, and repair wind turbines. A typical day includes diagnosing and troubleshooting issues with mechanical, hydraulic, and electrical components. Performing routine inspections and maintenance are standard to ensure the turbines are operating efficiently. Specialized skills in areas like precision mechanics, electronics, and computer controls will need to be acquired. These are all required to keep the turbines functioning correctly.

Electrician

Average salary: $60,240

Electricians install, maintain, and repair electrical systems and equipment. They may work in residential, commercial, and industrial facilities. Duties involve wiring and troubleshooting circuits, installing fixtures and appliances, and ensuring compliance with codes. Additional work often includes providing upgrades to improve safety and efficiency. There are many other careers in power generation you can also consider.

Plumber / Steamfitter

Average salary: $60,090

Plumbers assemble, install, and repair pipes, fixtures, and other plumbing equipment. Plumbing equipment is used for water distribution and waste water disposal in residential, commercial, and industrial buildings. Duties involve bending, cutting, and joining pipes, installing appliances like sinks and toilets, maintaining drainage systems, and providing emergency leak repairs.

Sewer Pipe Cleaner

Average salary: $44,810

Sewer pipe cleaners utilize special equipment and techniques to clear blockages and remove built-up debris from underground sewer systems. Duties involve threading high-powered hoses down manholes to break up obstructions, suck up sludge, and pressure wash the interior pipe walls using hydro-jetting methods, This helps maintain proper wastewater flow and prevent hazardous backups or overflows.

Water Treatment Plant Operator

Average salary: $51,600

Water treatment plant operators monitor and operate equipment to purify and clean water for community water supplies. Duties involve controlling treatment systems like filtration, disinfection, and chemical injection to remove impurities and contaminants from source water. This work ensures the finished water meets regulatory safety standards before distribution to the community. View some other water supply careers here.

Petroleum Pump System Operators

Average salary: $55,556

Petroleum pump operators operate and maintain equipment to pump crude oil, refined products, and natural gas liquids through pipelines and tanks. Work involves starting and stopping pumps, monitoring gauges, performing preventive maintenance, testing for leaks, and generating inventory reports. 

is public utilities a good career path, wind turbine technician

Best Paying Public Utility Jobs

The best paying utility careers typically require at least a Bachelor’s degree. Below are some of the top-paying careers if college is in your future. 

  • Telecommunications Engineer
  • Petroleum Engineer
  • Public Works Director
  • Electrical Engineer
  • Radiation Engineer
  • Water Resource Engineer

Public Utilities Jobs: Pros & Cons

Below are pros and cons of working in the utility sector. 

PROS

  • Good salaries after a few years
  • Benefits including health insurance, 401K, vacation and more
  • AI cannot replace most jobs
  • Job growth and promotion opportunities
  • Jobs are essential services which offers job security
  • Many jobs require no experience and minimal education

CONS

  • Risk of injury, especially in electrical sectors.
  • Some roles involve dirty or gross tasks
  • Most jobs are physically demanding
  • May have to work outdoors in all weather conditions
  • May start at lower salaries

How Much Can You Earn in Public Utilities?

Public utilities is an industry that can pay very well. The salaries listed above are averages based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Salary.com. These indicate the halfway point of what the average utilities worker makes for that specific job. This means some workers make more – and some make less than what is noted.

Here are some key factors that can affect salary levels for jobs in the public utilities sector:

  • Experience level – more experienced workers earn higher pay. Those with 5-10+ years see the biggest jump.
  • Specific skills and training – workers with technical certifications, specialized abilities, and on-the-job training can command higher salaries.
  • Job role and responsibility – more advanced roles like engineers, supervisors, and managers have higher pay grades.
  • Type of utility – salaries may vary working for electric, water, gas or combinations. Municipal-owned utilities sometimes pay less.
  • Union membership – many utility workers belong to a union which bargains for higher wages.
  • Location – cost of living differences between cities/states impact pay levels.
  • Facility size – larger utility systems tend to pay more than smaller rural co-ops.
  • Education – while many jobs require less than a bachelor’s degree, those with one can qualify for higher starting salaries.
  • Shortages – hard-to-fill skilled trades roles often incentivize with higher compensation.
  • Overtime/bonuses – utilities rely heavily on OT during storms etc. And some offer annual bonuses.
  • Government vs private – pay can vary between publicly vs privately owned utilities.

How to Get Started in A Career in Public Utilities

Here are some tips for starting a career in the public utilities sector:

  • Research jobs at your local municipal water department, gas/electric companies, and waste management organizations to understand the available roles – common positions include plant/systems operators, technicians, engineers, customer service reps etc.
  • Check for apprenticeship programs that provide paid on-the-job training – these are common for things like becoming a lineman, substation technician, or power plant operator.
  • Attend a technical or trade school for a certificate or associates degree relevant to utilities – programs in areas like power plant technology, waste water treatment, and electronics are applicable.
  • Make sure you meet any license or certification requirements which vary by role – e.g. water/wastewater treatment operators need to get certified.
  • Apply for entry-level jobs to get your foot in the door even if you don’t meet every single qualification. Highlight any related training or experience you have.
  • Explore professional associations like the American Water Works Association which offer training programs, job boards and networking events.
  • Once employed, take advantage of any on-the-job training and focus on building your skills and expertise within the industry.

The public utilities sector offers stable careers that support an essential public service. There are both technical and professional roles available across a diverse range of specializations. Let me know if you have any other questions!


Data sources:

Salary.com
BLS.gov


Jill Caren is an international SEO consultant and founder of 2Dogs Media. She is also a trainer, journalist, and speaker who helps brands increase their organic search visibility, traffic, and conversions. She is also the co-founder of Blue Collar Brain, a resource for those looking to enter a trade career.

She has been featured on MSN, Wealth of Geeks, Hubspot, SEO Powersuite, and other publications for her work as an SEO and advocate for skilled trades.