Employment of power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers is expected to experience little or no change from 2010 to 2020. Although electricity usage is expected to grow, advances in technology and increased energy efficiency are projected to result in a 2 percent decline in employment for the occupation. Employment growth will vary by specialty.
Employment of power plant operators in nonnuclear power plants is expected to decline 3 percent from 2010 to 2020. Energy companies are increasingly promoting energy efficiency to cut costs and comply with environmental regulations. Consequently, the demand for electricity is expected to grow much more slowly than in the past, resulting in fewer new job opportunities for workers.
In addition, as old power plants close, they will be replaced with new plants that produce electricity more efficiently and, in many cases, have higher capacities. New plants are also built with more digital controls, which require fewer operators. As a result, fewer workers will be needed to produce the same amount of energy.
Employment of power distributors and dispatchers is expected to decline 3 percent from 2010 to 2020. Although some distributors and dispatchers will be needed to manage an increasingly complex electrical grid, employment growth will be tempered by advances in technology and smart grid projects that automate some of the work of dispatchers.
Employment of nuclear power reactor operators is expected to grow 4 percent from 2010 to 2020 as a result of new plant construction. Although no new plants have opened since the 1990s, new sites have applied for construction and operating licenses, and they will need to be staffed before the end of the decade.
Job prospects should be good for those with related training and good mechanical skills. As many power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers near retirement age, companies will need workers to replace operators and dispatchers who retire. Many individuals may show interest in these high-paying jobs, and job prospects will be best for those with strong technical and mechanical skills.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition