Power Generation As A Career Path: Is It Right For You?

Jill Caren
By Jill Caren
Updated December 17th, 2023

Have you been considering a career in power generation?

If so, you’re not alone! In fact, power generation is one of the fastest-growing career fields in the world.

According to The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), career opportunities for power generation jobs are expected to increase by 16 percent between now and 2025. So if you’re interested in a career that’s both versatile and ever-changing, power generation might be the right path for you.

In this article, we’ll outline everything you need to know about power generation – from what it is to the salaries and career opportunities available in this field. We’ll also give you an idea of which kinds of power generation jobs might be best suited for you. So read on and let us help you make an informed decision about your future career path!

What is power generation?

Power generation is the process of converting different sources of energy from one form to another. In most cases, this involves transforming mechanical or thermal energy into electrical energy.

Power generation enables us to have electricity in our homes and businesses. It is the stage that is required before electricity can be delivered to an end user. Energy is a good career path as well if you want to be involved in the stage after power generation! Some jobs have some overlap, but there are a few differences.

Power generation can be divided into three main categories: fossil fuels, nuclear power, and renewable resources (like solar and wind).

Fossil fuel power plants are the oldest type of power plant in use today and have been on of the most common energy sources for the last decade. These plants use natural gas, oil, coal or wood as their primary source of fuel.

However, it is no longer environmentally friendly and more companies are turning to solar power or renewable energy to fulfill their electrical needs.

Is Power Generation a good career path?

Yes, power generation is a good career path for those who want to work in a field that is constantly growing and changing. Want to be the change in the world? Then, this field brings a lot of opportunities for you to make a difference!

With some of the highest paying jobs out there, a ton of opportunities, and a solid path for growth; it is definitely a career worth considering.

Related: Does the water supply industry offer good careers?

The different types of power generation

When it comes to power generation, there are different types that exist; which also means you may be working in one of many kinds of power generation plants.

Some of the most common types of plants include:

  • Fossil fuel power plant
  • Hydroelectric power plant
  • Nuclear power plant
  • Wind power
  • Geothermal power plant

The nuclear power plant is well-known thanks to Homer Simpson! But it is not as easy as he makes it seem, so read on and find out more about the different career paths in power generation.

simpsons nuclear power plant
The Simpons nuclear power plant. image credit: 20th Century Fox

Power generation career salaries

Power generation is one of the most important and essential industries in the world. It’s responsible for powering everything from homes to businesses, and plays a vital role in keeping us safe and healthy.

The average salary of different careers in the power generation field ranges from $50,000 to over $100,000 per year.

The best paying jobs are typically reserved for engineers which do require degrees. Jobs in civil engineering or chemical engineers as an example pay well, but require a lot of advanced education.

This does not mean there are not high-paying jobs for those with a high school diploma or vocational training! Many of the jobs below are well-paying with salaries in the $80,000 range with jobs in the green or renewable sectors being some of the best paying.

Power Generation Careers

The following are all career opportunities within the power generation industry. Many are skilled trades and will only require a high school diploma, but some job opportunities do require a college degree.

Power Generation Engineer/Power Plant Operator

Median annual salary: $94,790

Power engineers and power plant operators typically work on the boiler systems or mechanical systems in a commercial building. Their work will include doing repairs, maintenance, and renovations that keep these important machines running.

There is no one specific thing they actually do and the work can vary greatly depending on their specialty and where they work.

A few of the items they may work on include:

  • Generators
  • Turbines
  • Steam systems/boilers
  • Diesel engines
  • HVAC
  • Refrigeration

Along with the manual work, there is a lot of record keeping to ensure there is a clear outline of the work done on different units. They may also keep track of different values like water level, steam pressure, and power output to be able to track these important metrics.

While some power engineers may go on to get a degree in engineering, it is not required. Many people employed in this career are high school graduates. Many power plant operators are also high school graduates that receive on the job training to get into the field.

If you are wondering how to explain to your friends and family what you do, this Reddit thread has some fun ideas! Think “homer Simpson” is a great one!

power generation plant
Power generation plant

PLC Programmer

Salaries: Average around $75,000 – $95,000 annually based on experience

PLC is short for Programmable Logic Controller, which is a computer that assists in the control of different processes of machinery. A PLC programmer is the person who will create the code needed to have the computer do what it does.

They can work in a lot of different industries, power generation being one of them.

Some of the work they might do includes:

  • Write custom code to create applications to improve processes
  • Offer support to help fixing or coding other computer systems
  • Testing of programs to ensure they meet various criteria and specifications
  • Find issues or problems that might create downtime and fix them

Many people get into PLC programming after being an electrician or doing some other trade career. While college is not required, it can be beneficial for future growth.

Some do start out with no experience and are trained on the job if they have a real knack for it and go on to get a PLC certification. Having a passion for computers is a must!

Petroleum Engineer (Degree)

Salaries: Median pay is $141,570

The job profile of petroleum engineers is diverse and includes designing, developing, managing and implementing oil & gas exploration projects as well as pipeline construction. A petroleum engineer might design equipment that pulls oil and gas deep from the ground or develop new ways to force out even more elements from underground.

There are several career opportunities for graduates after completion of their education with numerous major companies such as ExxonMobil Corporation, Royal Dutch Shell plc., BP plc., Chevron Corporation, and more.

Petroleum engineers are one of the best paying jobs with salaries that are typically in the six-figures. A bachelor’s degree in engineering is typically required.

Electrical Power Line Installer

Salaries: Median pay is $78,310

Electrical power line installers are the technicians that actually maintain and install power lines that run from generator plants or grids to customers. It is a very dangerous job since they are working with high voltage electricity!

Some of the responsibilities might include:

  • Climb poles (so must love heights) and transmission towers to gain access to equipment
  • Look for defective equipment like transformers, voltage meters, and more
  • Test power lines
  • Run power lines from poles to buildings

Salaries are very good for this career, and working as a line installer or repairer in the power generation field can bring salaries in the $90,000 and up range. A public utilities career path is another to consider, so be sure to check out those opportunities as well.

electrical substation for power generation
Electrical substation used for power generation

Maintenance Engineer (Degree)

Salaries: Median pay is $141,570

Maintenance engineers are responsible for making sure plant equipment is running smoothly. This will require them to monitor and test various machinery and advise on what is needed to fix any issues.

Some technical knowledge of the following items might be needed:

  • Chemical water testing and treatment
  • Turbines
  • HVAC
  • Boilers

Typically a maintenance engineer will require an advanced degree, like a Bachelor’s in science or engineering. Salaries can easily exceed $100,000 depending on experience and education.

Some jobs may also require addition certifications for refrigeration or other required equipment you may need to work on.

Electrical Engineer (Degree)

Salaries: Median pay is $101,780

Electrical engineers are the brains behind the electrical equipment that is often used in power generation plants. They are often found developing, maintaining, or repairing needed systems.

Some common duties include:

  • Creating new ways to use electrical power to improve products
  • Evaluate systems and see if there is opportunities to do design modifications to improve processes
  • Testing electrical equipment and recommend solutions if issues are find
  • Address complaints from the public when electrical issues arise

These jobs do require a bachelor’s degree, most commonly it is in electrical engineering. Having knowledge of the solar industry can be a huge asset in this job with the increase of need for renewable sources.

Oil and Gas Service Unit Operator

Salaries: Median pay is $48,410

Oil and gas service unit operators are responsible for operating the equipment that improves the flow of oil from wells. They have a variety of responsibilities which can include maintenance, detection of issues with engines, or finding well issues that prevent the movement of the oil.

Fixing issues within the pipes that are preventing the oil from coming to the surface is a challenging, but fun part of the job!

There is no advanced degree required and most employed in this field have a high-school diploma. You may undergo some on-the-job training with a more experienced operator before heading out on your own.

Solar Power Installer

Salaries: Median pay is $47,670

Solar power installers install and maintain solar panels on homes, businesses, or on a solar farm. With the growth in the green sector, this is a great path to consider as it will continue to grow.

Working outside is a must for this job since most solar panels are placed on the roofs of buildings. These installations can be on residential homes or commercial buildings which means you might be working at extreme heights as well.

Duties might include some or all of the following:

  • Test PV systems
  • Plan PV systems based on a customers solar power equipment needs
  • Install modules and panels
  • Measure and cut panels
  • Maintain systems

Advanced degrees are not required for this job. You can either learn on the job working side by side with an experienced installer and then go on to get certified.

Solar is a growing part of the power generation industry, so not only is a solar panel installer a job option, but you can also do sales, management, or engineering. Working on solar farms to create solar systems can also be a huge opportunity.

Solar software developers are another great opportunity for those that love computers and want to be a part of the solar industry.

No matter which path you take, a job in the renewable industry is our top pick for power generation career paths!

solar power panels for power generation on roof

Field Service Technician

Salaries: Average around $75,000 annually based on experience

As a field service technician, you can work in a variety of settings and locations, which is perfect for those that would get bored easily. You will need excellent customer service skills, problem-solving abilities, and mechanical aptitude.

Your days will be spent going to different businesses or residential homes to assist with power issues. Doing repairs or maintaining complex power systems are the most common duties.

The salaries for this career vary depending on experience and location, but are generally good overall.

Is Power Generation Right For You?

So, how do you know if power generation is right for you? There are a few things you should consider before making the decision to jump into this career path.

  • The growth in this industry is very good
  • Wages are above average
  • You will need to be dependable and have a strong attention to detail
  • Problem-solving skills are critical
  • Multi-tasking is a needed skill
  • Good hearing is required to be able to diagnose issues
  • An aptitude for math is highly recommended
  • High school diploma or GED is required
  • Must have good hand-eye control to be able to make quick adjustments and see small parts

Hopefully you found this article somewhat helpful and have a better understanding of what kinds of careers exist in power generation. There are so many other jobs in power generation, this is just a few examples for you to consider.

If you do decide to head down this path, you are making a great choice.

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.