What Is a Plant Electrician?

Plant electricians require some technical education. Learn about the training, job duties, licensure and salary to see if this is the right career for you.

Often working with large, electronic equipment in an industrial plant or factory, a plant electrician's primary duty is to maintain circuit boards and conduct routine repairs on a machine's electrical components. Two classifications of plant electricians are field and bench technicians.

Essential Information

Plant electricians maintain the circuit boards and electronic equipment for industrial plants and factories. Usually they travel around the factory performing routine maintenance on equipment, as well as troubleshooting electrical problems. Some plant electricians work on the factory floor, whereas others remain in repair workshops. Electricians learn their trade through apprenticeships and technical programs.

Required Education High school diploma and technical degree or apprenticeship
Other Requirements Licensure requirements vary by state
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 14% for electricians*
Mean Annual Wage (2015) $55,590 for electricians*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description for Plant Electricians

Plant electricians usually work with industrial-sized equipment used in production or to generate electricity. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, (BLS), plant electricians maintain electrical equipment and provide routine repairs on electrical components (www.bls.gov). Plant electrician technicians are typically separated into two categories field and bench technicians.

Plant electrician field technicians actively deal with electronic repairs and maintenance out on the plant floor, whereas bench technicians fix equipment in a workshop setting. Sometimes field technicians will remove the bad components and send them to a bench technician if repairs cannot be done safely on the plant floor.

Job Requirements for Plant Electricians

Plant electricians typically work on factory floors that are prone to loud sounds and cluttered workspaces. Some required physical abilities include working in awkward positions, like standing on a ladder, and being capable of lifting heavy tools or components. Various types of plants exist, such as power or manufacturing plants, and each type requires plant electricians to possess different skills.

According to the most recent information given by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job growth for electricians, including those who work in factories, is projected to be 14% from 2014 to 2024. Plant electricians could enjoy the most stable employment conditions since old equipment requires constant maintenance. Although the BLS doesn't provide salary data specifically for plant electricians, it reported that electricians in general earned a mean annual wage of $55,590 as of May 2015.

Power Plant Electrician

Powering civilization's technology, power plants use multiple techniques to generate electricity, including turbines, generators and green energy technologies. Power plant electricians (PPEs), also known as power plant technicians, regulate the equipment conducting and distributing electricity. They are responsible for diagnosing and maintaining circuit boards that verify accurate electricity readings.

Since power distribution is highly regulated by the government, each state has different requirements for PPEs. The BLS states that those working with nuclear power need additional licensing provided by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Most power plants require that PPEs take specific exams to verify knowledge of electronic equipment and safety procedures. Prior to employment, many PPEs acquire some formal education or serve as an apprentice for 2-4 years to become a certified journey level electrician.

Manufacturing Plant Electrician

Manufacturing Plant Electricians (MPEs) work with computer technicians to update electronic systems in manufacturing plants, as well as maintain updated devices. Most employers prefer MPEs with a minimum of an associate's degree in electronics or a certificate in industrial equipment and work experience. Since most manufacturing plants use computerized equipment, additional certification and degrees in computer sciences and technology could prove beneficial. Many employers prefer MPEs with 3-4 years experience, according to O*Net Online. Individuals must meet state licensing laws to work as a MPE.

Becoming a plant technician requires a technical degree or apprenticeship, which can last from 2 to 4 years. Two specific work environments for plant electricians are power plant electricians and manufacturing plant electricians.

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