Process Technology Jobs: Options and Requirements

Sep 24, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed for a career in process technology. Get a quick view of the requirements, as well as details about degree programs, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

Those who wish to pursue a process technology position have many choices. Most positions only require a high school diploma to apply, but an associate's degree could be required.

Essential Information

Process technology jobs are found in many fields, including manufacturing, power generation and water treatment. Every industry involved in chemical processing - from extracting and refining fuels to making products using chemicals - uses process technology to control its systems. Because of the wide variety of industries that use process technology, there is a range of job options available in this field. The three most common types of jobs are manufacturing process technician, water plant operator and power plant operator/technician.

Career Manufacturing Process Technician Water Plant Operator Non-Nuclear Power Plant Operator Nuclear Power Plant Operator
Education Requirements Associate's degree High school diploma or equivalent High school diploma or equivalent High school diploma or equivalent
Other Requirements None State Licensure State Licensure Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Licensure
Median Salary (2018)* $47,280** annually $46,780 annually $79,610 annually $94,350 annually
Job Growth (2018-2028)* 2%** -5% -4% -16%

*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

**Estimate for all chemical technicians

Career Options

Manufacturing Process Technician

Nearly all companies that process raw materials into consumer products hire process technicians. These include oil and gas refineries as well as factories that produce everything from medicines, food, beverages and cosmetics to building materials, electronics and plastic components. Process technicians monitor all of the manufacturing processes and equipment. They also often perform quality-assurance testing, design improvements to the process and ensure that safety procedures are followed in the workplace.

Most companies require that individuals who are interested in becoming a manufacturing possess at least an associate's degree with an emphasis in math and science courses. Many community colleges and vocational/technical schools offer a 2-year program and some also offer a shorter certificate program for specific types of jobs. These programs usually include both classroom training and hands-on experience with the equipment, a key requirement for many jobs. Once hired by a company, technicians will receive intensive on-the-job training that will further prepare them for the type of work they will complete.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), workers in the job category of chemical technicians, which includes manufacturing process technicians, earned a median annual wage of $47,280 as of May 2018 and had a predicted job growth rate of two percent for the 2018-2028 decade.

Water Plant Operator

Water and water treatment is another field that employs workers trained in process technology. Plants that treat water for waste or that transfer water from one area to another, such as for heating, all involve a system of machines whose functions must be controlled by a plant or system operator.

Individuals seeking a career as a water or water treatment operator should have at least a high school diploma. They will receive training after being hired that will be long-term and that will include observations as well as classroom or self-paced study ( Water treatment operators must also be state-certified.

The BLS projected that jobs in this sector would decrease by 5% during 2018-2028, which is about the slow for all occupations. In May 2018, the BLS reported a median annual wage of $46,780 for operators of water-processing systems and wastewater-treatment plants.

Power Plant Operator/Technician

Power-generating plants, including nuclear reactors, are another key source of process technology jobs. Operators and technicians are responsible for monitoring and troubleshooting all the instrumentation that controls the power generation. They work with computerized control boards, sampling the processes and checking the plant's equipment to ensure the safe, efficient production of power.

In addition to a high school diploma and extensive on-the-job training, power plant technicians must earn a license to work in certain positions. For example, some states require non-nuclear power plant operators to be licensed as firefighters or engineers. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission must license all nuclear power plant operators.

For non-nuclear power plant operators, the BLS reported a median annual wage of $79,610 as of May 2018. While the number of jobs was expected to decline 4% during 2018-2028, job prospects for qualified candidates were projected to be excellent because of the high rate of retirement expected. For nuclear power plant operators, the BLS projected the number of jobs was expected to decline by 16%, between 2018 and 2028. The median annual wage for nuclear plant operators was $94,350 in May 2018.

Some positions in the process technology field require exceptional mathematical skills while others look for individuals who are willing to learn. Depending on the position they obtain, employees may expect to earn anywhere from $45,000 to over $106,000 annually.

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