Public utilities offer a good career path with a large variety of jobs for skilled trade workers in sectors like water, gas, and electricity. Because of the significance that these jobs have on our daily lives, they come with good job security and wages and benefits that can allow for a comfortable life.
Careers in the public utilities sector are vast and whether you have a college degree or not, there are many options.
This article features everything you need to know about a career in public utilities – including salaries and the different paths you can take.
What Are Public Utilities?
Public utilities are the services we use every day like water, gas, phone, power, and electricity.
Every one of us will use some type of public utility every day – most of us will use many of them. From taking a shower to powering up that laptop, it takes a lot of different organizations and people to keep these utilities running for us to use.
This is why this is such a great industry to work in – opportunity!
Plus, there is definitely no shortage of skilled trade jobs in the public utilities sector.
There are also many other jobs available which can include administration, marketing, engineering, and so much more. While these jobs may not seem so essential to public utilities, without these support staff, those utility workers could not do what they do!
Public Utilities Sectors
Many of the career paths available in the public utilities industry require skills in the repair, maintenance, installation, and production of a variety of different utilities.
Below are a few of the most common niches within the utilities industry.
Many homes and businesses are heated with natural gas, but not many think about how it actually gets there. Natural gas is extracted from deposits that lie deep underground and is then transported through pipelines. From there it goes through a process with a local company that will prepare it for delivery to their customers.
In natural gas, you may find yourself working in distribution, on a pipeline, or in your local government.
Imagine having no internet! Well, if you did not have any electrical power – you would have to learn to live in the literal dark ages.
Electricity is a necessity these days, and working in the electrical segment of public utilities means you will be making quite an impact. Not only can you work on the consumer side of things – but you can also work within other utility segments to help keep the electricity working. With the growing interest in electricity generation to replace coal, there are many different types of work you can get into within this niche.
We should never take for granted the clean water we get to clean, bathe, and cook with. The companies that work with water help treat it so it meets specific guidelines and helps keep the distribution of the water “flowing” to our homes and businesses.
Related: Is water supply a good career path?
Telephone workers, linemen, and more are all part of the telecommunications sector that helps us communicate with our family and friends. From telephone lines to underground cables, they do the work needed so we can stay connected with the world.
Probably one of the dirtiest options in the public utilities sector is sewage removal. Those that work in this area will be responsible for what is going on in our sewage treatment plants and our sewer systems. Daily work will include collecting waste and then applying treatments to it so it can be disposed of without harming our environment.
Types Of Public Utilities Jobs
It would be almost impossible to list all the public utilities jobs you might find in the utilities sector.
But below we are sharing some of the more common jobs in the skilled trades. Additional careers that are not specifically trade jobs are also shown below.
Skilled Trade Careers In Public Utilities
These careers do not require any advanced degrees but might require some training or certification. Many are considered part of the manufacturing sector which can be an exciting industry for those that love to build and create.
Meter Readers / Utility Markers
Both of these jobs will have workers in the field and often working solo, so if you are an introvert – these are great options for you. Meter readers will go to homes and businesses and do meter readings so they can determine how much utility usage a location has. Utility markers will go around and mark the ground to show where underground lines may be for potential construction work.
If you are curious about the utility marker path, check out our interview with Marco – a new utility marker just starting his new career!
Wind Turbine Technician
One of our top pick for a public utilities career is a wind turbine technician. As an emerging career in the electric power sector, there is an expected growth of jobs of 68% through 2030. And with median salaries of $55k, there is a good living to be made.
Many of these technicians can make over 100K annually.
But, you will need to be a bit of a risk taker since these jobs can take you to some scary heights. So these jobs are definitely for workers that are fearless!
Electricians are always needed in so many different sectors of work, public utilities are no different.
Using testing instruments you might check on the installed electrical equipment to make sure they are functioning properly. Or, you may have to help determine when new electrical updates are needed and assist in acquiring new hardware.
Plumber / Steamfitter
Plumbers, steamfitters, and other relevant professionals in the utility industries have so many options. Working with steam or water would be the two strongest options, but there is room for them in other types of trades in utilities as well.
If you want to grow and expand your career, then looking towards the future as a utility manager is a great step to work towards. Utility managers are the people who manage staff, create budgets, and oversee the overall health and wellness of different public utility facilities like power plants. Skilled utility managers are needed by most major utility companies, so if you have great management skills, then this is a great path to consider within the industry.
Water Treatment Plant Operator
Working in these plants means you will be part of the team that cleans the community water. Pretty important work right?
Water treatment plant operators will run the machinery and monitor the processes used to make our water clean to drink and use for washing and bathing.
Other Public Utilities Careers
There are so many opportunities to work in the utility industry. If a trade job is not your thing, here are a few other options for you which include support occupations, marketing careers, and finance.
If you love organizing and want to support workers that make our world a better place, being a part of an administrative team may be a perfect fit.
Your responsibilities may include things like bookkeeping, scheduling, filing, or completing paperwork. Essentially you will be the key to a smooth-running office and support upper-level management.
If you are a people pleaser, then a customer service position is a great chance to make people happy. You will spend your days helping customers deal with issues that they may be having with their utilities. Scheduling appointments for repairs, installations, or deactivations will be a big part of your job.
More advanced financial needs may need more than just a bookkeeper As an auditor or accounting professional you will be crunching numbers to make sure profits are happening and that customers are being billed accordingly.
Engineers and Engineering Technicians
A key part of these jobs is the engineers. As an engineer, you will assist in the creation of technologies and processes that can help improve the utilities that your organization handles.
From faster distribution to better cleaning, engineers provide a variety of services that are big contributors to the efforts of the business.
In today’s computer-run world, computer specialists will be needed. Keeping the systems running, improving automation, and developing new computer systems to create better utility processes are just a few of the many jobs you may do.
Public Utilities Careers Pros and Cons
Let’s talk about some of the good – and not so good that utility workers need to deal with. Job satisfaction can range for careers in the industry based on location, type of work you do, and of course the company you decide to work with.
- Salary. The salaries can be very high for experienced and dedicated workers.
- Benefits. Most jobs will offer health benefits as well as other perks including vacations, sick days, etc.
- Growth. If you are dedicated and want a path to grow, these fields can offer great opportunities.
- Security. These jobs offer long-term security ensuring you always have a paycheck coming in.
- Injury. There is always a risk of injury, especially in the electrical sector.
- Dirty. Some of the paths, like sewage treatment, can be pretty gross.
- Physical. Most jobs will be very physical in nature so it is important to be in good health.
- Environment. Many jobs will require being outside, which means working in all types of weather.
Salary Information For Jobs In Public Utilities
Generally speaking, the salaries of employees in the utility industry are very good. Of course, this will depend on the level of experience and type of services you will be doing. Becoming an administrative assistant for example is not going to earn as much as someone who is dealing with sewage waste.
Average annual earnings as shown by the Bureau of Labor Statistics of all public utility employees is $96,782.00*
Now let’s look at some additional salaries.
Working as a power plant operator can bring you a median salary of $83,740. The top-paying states include Washington, California, and New Jersey.
Gas Plant Operators can make a median annual wage of $77,850. The highest earnings come from the chemical manufacturing industry and the top 3 earning states are Utah, California, and New Jersey.
The average annual median salary for all jobs in the water treatment career path is $52,320. Jobs that are in waste treatment and disposal can earn more than some of the other jobs. The 3 top paying states include the District of Columbia, Washington, and Nevada.
So, as you can see – the salaries in the utility industry are pretty good. The health insurance and other benefits are also usually very good.
So, what do you think? Does a job in public utilities sound good to you?
There will be some education and certification requirements for most public utilities jobs, and having a high school diploma (or GED) is typically required. Having a passion for the industry and wanting to improve your skills can reward you greatly as you grow!
Many public utilities industry workers do start their careers in entry-level positions. This can be during or after attending a trade school. But, do not let this be a deterrent. Be patient, learn all you can during that entry-level period of time and you will be on your way to a great career path and some high-paying jobs.
With long-term growth, fair wages, and good benefits, the a public utilities career can definitely be a good one! So, we hope you might give it some consideration.