How to Become a Power Distributor: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a power distributor. Research the education requirements, training, licensure information, and experience you will need to start a career in power distribution. View article »

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  • 0:41 Career Requirements
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Video Transcript

Should I Be a Power Distributor?

A power distributor is an electrical engineer tasked with distributing and regulating the flow of electrical currents across electric power lines to generating stations and load centers. Power distributors monitor and inspect equipment to ensure that the correct amount of power is going to the proper load centers at all times. They also might be responsible for repairing equipment malfunctions.

Power distributors typically work for utility companies, though some work for local governments; those who are able to secure government positions may enjoy job security and good benefits.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree; master's degree is sometimes preferred
Degree Field Electrical engineering
Licensure and/or Certification Power distributors who affect the grid must be certified through the North American Energy Reliability Corporation (NERC)
Experience Varies by employer, but typically two to four years
Key Skills Mechanical and mathematical abilities; communication skills; use of mainframe computers, industrial control software, map creation software; knowledge of how to use, troubleshoot and repair AC/DC panel-boards; understanding of circuit boards, processors, chips and computer programming
Salary (2015) $71,940 per year (Median salary for power plant operators)

Sources: Multiple job postings (December 2012), U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2015), O*NET OnLine

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Steps to Be a Power Distributor

What steps do I need to take to be a power distributor?

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Most employers prefer candidates for power distributor jobs who possess at least a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering. Some employers prefer candidates who hold a master's degree, for which the bachelor's is a necessary prerequisite.

A bachelor's degree program in electrical engineering could include coursework in computer hardware, data analysis, calculus, engineering, electronics, AC/DC networks, physics, and computer programming. Beyond that, an engineering student wishing to prepare for work as a power distributor may choose to specialize in analog systems, digital systems, electro-mechanical systems, or power and alternative energy systems. Students enrolled in bachelor's degree programs may be required to complete capstone projects prior to graduation.

It's a good idea to complete an internship to boost your career. Many prospective employers require that job applicants have anywhere from two to four years of experience working with electrical systems, and some employers specify a preference for candidates who have completed a relevant internship. Interns may work in projects related to power generation and equipment maintenance, the engineering and construction of power distribution systems, planning, licensing, and land conservation.

It's also a good idea to attain certifications specific to interns and engineers in training. Some employers seek entry-level candidates who have taken the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam or who have completed an Engineer in Training (EIT) certification. These voluntary certifications measure the technical expertise of student engineers. An individual wishing to attain the EIT or FE designations must pass an examination for each credential.

Step 2: Obtain NERC Certification

According to the BLS, all power distributors who affect the power grid must become certified. NERC (which stands for North American Electric Reliability Corporation) offers four different kinds of certification; the one applicable here is the system operator/dispatcher certification, which must be renewed once every three years. Once certified, a power distributor must take continuing education classes to maintain the credential.

Step 3: Gain Expertise

Many positions require applicants to have extensive work experience. While some potential power distributors obtain sufficient experience through internships, others may find it advantageous to work in other entry-level positions in the energy industry at the beginning of their careers.

Step 4: Complete a Master's Degree

While most positions for power distributors require a bachelor's degree, some employers prefer job candidates who hold a master's degree. A master's degree program may combine intensive coursework in physics, mathematics, and electrical engineering with specialized laboratory projects and opportunities for advanced research. A master's degree also might incorporate elements of leadership training that prepare an engineer for long-term career advancement.

Power distributors distribute and regulate the flow of electrical currents across electric power lines to generating stations and load centers. They have college degrees, mechanical and mathematical skills, and knowledge of industry-related computer and electrical technology. And, they earn a median annual salary of $71,940.

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