Chemical Plant Operator: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Working as a chemical plant operator requires little to no formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

Chemical plant operators manage the operations of chemical plants, including supervising personnel. They require little education and often move into these positions through advancement. These positions are predicted to decline in the next decade.

Essential Information

Chemical plant operators oversee the personnel and equipment necessary to run a successful chemical manufacturing operation. Their goal is to improve plant quality, efficiency and safety. They typically advance to their positions after accruing on-the-job experience. Employers also might show hiring preference for applicants who hold a degree.

Required Education On-the-job training; associate's degree in chemical technology and bachelor's degrees in business administration could prove beneficial
Other Requirements Professional experience in a related position or field might be preferred by employers
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 9% decline for chemical plant and systems operators*
Median Salary (2015) $59,320 for chemical plant and systems operators*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description

Chemical plant operators oversee the entire production process of a given facility. They manage both the workers and the equipment within their plant. Their goal is to ensure that the production process runs safely and smoothly and that the plant produces quality results. They coordinate their efforts with technical and supervisory workers to get all plant workers on the same page.

Duties

Chemical plant operators primarily monitor the equipment under their charge. They both control instruments and make sure they're working properly, and they might schedule and coordinate maintenance efforts if necessary. They're also in charge of shutting down or otherwise handling equipment during an emergency.

Plant operators perform other administrative tasks as well. For instance, they record test results and other data germane to a plant's operation. They also keep an eye on test results over time and suggest adjustments to the manufacturing process as necessary. They then relay those findings to supervisors and other managerial personnel.

Requirements

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), chemical plant operators typically work their way up to their position by gaining significant work experience, as well as technical training in the production process (www.bls.gov). Many employers provide formal training to their workers. However, chemical technicians can also receive training through various community college programs. For instance, students can earn an A.A.S. in Chemical Technology.

The BLS also suggests that those interested in managerial occupations at chemical plants might earn a 4-year degree in a field like business administration. However, this isn't a typical job path for plant operators. In fact, a December 2010 search of open job postings on the website Careerbuilder.com confirmed that employers looking for plant operators only required a high school diploma plus on-the-job experience.

Career Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the number of jobs for chemical plant and system operators was expected to decline by approximately 9% from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). The bureau also reported that the median wage for chemical plant and systems operators was $59,320 in 2015.

Chemical plant operators often require only a high school diploma, but many employers may prefer those with an associate's or bachelor's degree. Positions usually require direct or related experience. They can expect a median annual salary of about $59,000.


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