Employers often seek high school graduates for entry-level operator, distributor, and dispatcher positions. Candidates with strong mathematics and science skills are preferred. College-level courses and prior experience in a mechanical or technical job are becoming increasingly helpful in a competitive job market. With computers now used to keep records, generate reports, and track maintenance, employers are increasingly requiring computer proficiency. Most entry-level workers start as helpers or laborers. Depending on the results of aptitude tests, their own preferences, and the availability of openings, workers may be assigned to train for one of many utility positions.
Workers selected for training as a fossil-fueled power plant operator or distributor undergo extensive on-the-job and classroom instruction. Several years of training and experience are required for a worker to become a fully qualified control room operator or power plant distributor. With further training and experience, workers may advance to shift supervisor. Utilities generally promote from within; therefore, opportunities to advance by moving to another employer are limited.
Extensive training and experience are necessary to pass the NRC examinations for reactor operators and senior reactor operators. To maintain their license, licensed reactor operators must pass an annual practical plant operation exam and a biennial written exam administered by their employers. Training may include simulator and on-the-job training, classroom instruction, and individual study. Entrants to nuclear power plant operator trainee jobs must have strong mathematics and science skills. Experience in other power plants or with Navy nuclear propulsion plants also is helpful. With further training and experience, reactor operators may advance to senior reactor operator positions.
In addition to receiving preliminary training as a power plant operator, distributor, or dispatcher, most workers are given periodic refresher trainingfrequently in the case of nuclear power plant operators. Refresher training usually is taken on plant simulators designed specifically to replicate procedures and situations that might be encountered at the trainee’s plant.