Power, or electricity, is a basic necessity of life that we just cannot do without. There is no way to live our comfortable, civilized lives without power generation. In other words, power generation is an essential service.
Jobs in essential services tend to provide greater job security than other jobs, as essential sectors need to keep operating no matter what. There could be a national recession or a global pandemic, but these sectors will keep operating regardless. So, people working in power generation have relatively secure jobs and fairly stable careers.
With growing concerns about environmental degradation and natural resource depletion, the demand for clean energy is constantly increasing. Today, the power generation industry is a continuously evolving and growing field that is generating employment opportunities in a variety of occupations.
Moreover, power generation is a field that offers ample opportunities in the private as well as the public sector. Power generation requires an enormous amount of capital, with some of the world’s biggest companies being engaged in this enterprise. Needless to say, these companies offer great pay and benefits.
For most people, all these things should be enough to answer the question, is power generation a good career path. However, in this article, we will delve deeper into the question and examine different aspects of power generation as a career option.
Table of Contents
Power generation refers to the process of producing electricity from various sources of energy. These include fossil fuels (like coal, oil, and natural gas), nuclear energy, and renewable sources of energy (like wind, solar, hydroelectric, geothermal) and more.
Burning fossil fuels is the most widely used method of power generation. It has been the primary source of electricity for decades, but lately it has been losing in popularity. This is because fossil fuels give off greenhouse gases and other pollutants that raise environmental concerns. Solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, and biomass technologies harness natural processes to generate electricity. These sources are more sustainable and environmentally friendly compared to fossil fuels and nuclear energy.
Once electricity is generated through any of these means, it is distributed through power lines and electrical grids to consumers, who use it for an array of both domestic and commercial purposes.
The industry is generating a variety of job opportunities all the time. As per the BLS, about 3,200 vacancies for power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers are expected each year in the U.S. between 2021 and 2031. Different professions in power generation are showing a lot of promise. The employment of wind turbine engineers, for example, is expected to increase by 44% by 2031.
Biden’s Investing in America agenda has given significant impetus to job growth in power generation. From 2021 to 2022, the growth rate of jobs in America was 3.1%. However, in the energy workforce, it was 3.8%; the energy industry produced 300,000 jobs during the year. Clean energy jobs all over the country increased by 3.9%. With the president announcing the goal to have an electrical grid run on 100% carbon-free sources by 2035, power jobs are expected to grow all over the country. Openings in power generation jobs are expected to increase by 16% by 2025, as per the NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers).
As per the BLS, the annual income for electricity generation, transmission, and distribution professions is $92,600, which is much higher than the national salary for all occupations in the U.S., i.e., $58,260. Clearly, the power generation sector offers high earning potential.
Discounting managerial roles, engineering jobs are generally the best paid jobs in the field. Research and development pays handsomely too, but there aren’t as many job opportunities in it. Your level of experience immensely affects how much you make, along with other factors like the region, the company, and so on.
Average annual pay in the U.S. – $69,784 - (Source: Salary.com)
Power plant operators are responsible for the safe and reliable operation of power generation facilities. They monitor and control the use of machinery like boilers, turbines, and control systems. Operators adjust the load of power generation equipment to match electricity demand. They balance the output of generators and other systems to maintain a stable power supply.
Power plant operators are in charge of starting up and shutting down power generation units as required, following established procedures and safety guidelines. They regularly check and analyze performance indicators, such as temperature, pressure, voltage, and fuel levels, to ensure optimal efficiency and output. They also perform routine maintenance functions like lubricating and cleaning plant machinery and doing minor repair work.
Educational requirement: The minimum educational requirement for the job of a power plant operator is a high school diploma or GED.
Average annual pay in the U.S. – $803,18 - (Source: Salary.com)
This job is getting more and more popular with the increase in demand for sustainable energy. A wind turbine is a device that harnesses the energy of the wind and converts it into electric energy. Wind turbine engineers are professionals who specialize in designing, developing, testing, and maintaining wind turbines. They typically have a background in engineering disciplines such as mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, or renewable energy engineering.
Wind turbine engineers work with construction crews to ensure wind turbines are erected according to design specifications. They are involved in the design and development of different turbine parts like blades, generators, gear boxes, and control systems.
Educational requirements: At least a Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering or energy engineering is the basic educational requirement for this role.
Average annual pay in the U.S. – $78,504 - (Source: Salary.com)
A solar panel installer, also known as a photovoltaic (PV) installer, is a professional responsible for assembling, installing, and maintaining solar panel systems on residential, commercial, or industrial properties. Solar panel installers play a crucial role in the renewable energy industry by facilitating the adoption of solar power technology and helping individuals and businesses transition to clean and sustainable energy sources.
Their main job is mounting and securing solar panels onto rooftops, ground-mounted structures, or other suitable surfaces. This involves ensuring proper alignment, wiring, and connection to electrical systems. They collaborate with other professionals, such as electricians, engineers, and project managers, to ensure a successful installation process.
Solar panel installers may work for solar installation companies, construction firms, or as independent contractors.
Educational requirements: High school diploma is the basic requirement for this role.
Average annual pay in the U.S. – $95,969 (Source: Salary.com)
Mechanical engineers play a crucial role in power generation, contributing to the design, development, operation, and maintenance of various components and systems within power plants.
The duties of a mechanical engineer can vary from role to role. Typically, though, they are involved in the design and development of boilers, heat exchangers, turbines, generators, and other power generation components.
One of their most important roles is to analyze and optimize the fluid flow within power plant systems, ensuring that pumps, pipes, and valves transport fluids efficiently. They work closely with other professionals, such as electrical engineers, environmental experts, and technicians, to ensure that power plants operate smoothly, safely, and in compliance with industry standards.
Educational requirements: A bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.
Average annual pay in the U.S. – $57,870 (Source: Salary.com)
An energy policy specialist is a professional who specializes in analyzing, developing, and implementing policies related to energy use, production, distribution, and sustainability. Energy policy specialists work in various sectors, including government agencies, non-governmental organizations, research institutions, consulting firms, and private companies, to address complex energy-related challenges and promote effective energy management strategies.
They develop new energy policies, strategies, and recommendations that align with government priorities, industry trends, and environmental goals. They evaluate the environmental impact of energy policies and propose measures to promote sustainable energy practices, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and mitigate climate change.
They work at the intersection of energy, economics, and environmental considerations to create policies that support a balanced and responsible energy future.
Educational requirements: A bachelor’s degree in chemistry, physics, environmental science, or engineering.
Average annual pay in the U.S. – $79,839 (Source: Salary.com)
Power production can be really detrimental to the environment in different ways. Environmental compliance specialists are professionals who work to minimize the adverse affects of power generation on the environment.
An environmental compliance specialist in the power generation industry is responsible for ensuring that power plants and related facilities adhere to environmental laws, regulations, and standards to minimize their impact on the environment. They prepare accurate and timely reports detailing environmental compliance efforts for submission to regulatory agencies.
Environmental compliance specialists oversee the proper handling, storage, and disposal of waste generated by power plant operations, including hazardous materials and byproducts. They also assist in obtaining and renewing the necessary environmental permits required for power plant operations.
Educational requirements: A bachelor’s degree in a related field like, environmental science, biology, or chemistry.
Average annual pay in the U.S. – $252,700 (Source: Salary.com)
A nuclear engineer focuses on the design, operation, and maintenance of nuclear power plants, which use controlled nuclear reactions to produce electricity. Nuclear engineers in power generation play a critical role in ensuring the safe, efficient, and reliable operation of nuclear reactors and associated systems.
Nuclear engineers monitor and control reactor operations to maintain optimal performance. They oversee processes such as fuel loading, reactor startup, power adjustments, and shutdowns. They work on nuclear fuel assembly design, enrichment calculations, fuel loading schedules, and strategies for spent fuel management and disposal. They develop strategies for the proper handling, storage, and disposal of nuclear waste materials in accordance with regulatory guidelines.
Educational requirements: A bachelor’s degree in engineering, engineering technologies, or a physical science field.
Average annual pay in the U.S. – $194, 500 (Source: Salary.com)
An energy attorney is a legal professional who specializes in matters related to energy law and regulation. Energy law encompasses a wide range of legal issues and regulations pertaining to the production, distribution, consumption, and conservation of energy resources.
Energy attorneys help clients navigate complex and evolving energy regulations at the local, state, federal, and international levels.
Energy attorneys assist clients in obtaining the necessary approvals from regulatory agencies, such as environmental permits, land use permits, and licenses for energy production facilities.
Energy attorneys negotiate and draft contracts and agreements related to energy transactions, including power purchase agreements (PPAs), supply contracts, distribution agreements, and joint venture agreements.
Educational requirements: Completing a graduate law degree and passing the bar exam
Average annual pay in the U.S. – $66,427 (Source: Salary.com)
Geoscientists are involved in both conventional and renewable energy sectors. Geoscientists help identify suitable locations for power generation facilities, such as fossil fuel power plants, hydroelectric dams, and renewable energy installations. They conduct geological surveys, evaluate terrain stability, assess seismic risks, and analyze soil and rock properties.
Geoscientists are involved in the exploration and assessment of energy resources, such as coal, oil, natural gas, and geothermal reservoirs. They assess geothermal reservoirs, analyze subsurface temperatures and fluid flow, and contribute to the design of geothermal energy systems.
For hydroelectric power generation, geoscientists study water bodies, analyze river flow patterns, assess sediment deposition, and provide input for dam and reservoir design.
Educational requirements: A master’s degree in geology or applied geology.
Average annual pay in the U.S. – $74,548 (Source: Salary.com)
In power generation, a civil engineer plays a crucial role in the planning, design, construction, and maintenance of the physical infrastructure required for power generation facilities.
Civil engineers assess potential sites for power generation facilities, considering factors like geology, topography, soil conditions, water availability, and environmental impact. They also design the foundations for various structures within power plants, including generators, turbines, cooling towers, and substations.
For hydroelectric power plants, civil engineers design water intake structures, dams, spillways, penstocks, and other hydraulic components to manage water flow and generate electricity.
Civil engineers need to collaborate closely with other professionals, including mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, environmental experts, and regulatory agencies.
Educational requirements: A bachelor’s degree in civil engineering
Here are some companies to look out for if you want to start a career in power generation:
Number of employees: 27,535
Headquarters: Charlotte, North Carolina, USA
Revenue for the quarter ending June 30, 2023: $6.578B
Glassdoor ratings: 3.9
Duke Energy is primarily involved in the generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity, as well as the distribution of natural gas. The company serves more than 7.2 million customers. It generates electricity through fossil fuels, nuclear power, and sustainable sources of energy. Over the past years, Duke Energy has been actively increasing its renewable energy capacity, particularly in wind and solar power.
Number of employees: 16,974
Headquarters: Columbus, Ohio, USA
Revenue for the quarter ending June 30, 2023: $4.373B
Glassdoor ratings: 4
American Electric Power is one of the largest electric utility companies in the U.S. , serving more than five million customers in eleven states. These include Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, and Oklahoma. The company possesses and manages the most extensive electricity transmission network in the country, encompassing roughly 10% of the Eastern Interconnection and 11% of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.
Number of employees: 19,063
Headquarters: Chicago, Illinois, USA
Revenue for the quarter ending June 30, 2023: $4.818B
Glassdoor ratings: 4.1
Exelon is one of the biggest electric parent companies in the U.S. It is known for its prominent presence in the energy sector, particularly electricity generation and distribution. It serves more than 10 million customers and ranks 90 on the Fortune 500. It’s well known subsidiaries include Commonwealth Edison, Atlantic City Electric, and Baltimore Gas and Electric.
Number of employees: 4,536
Headquarters: Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Revenue for the quarter ending June 30, 2023: $5.748B
Glassdoor ratings: 4.2
Southern Company is the second biggest utility company in the U.S. on the basis of revenue. The company has 9 million customers, most of whom are in the southwest region of the U.S. It provides gas and electricity to more than 1 million customers in 6 states. In addition to six subsidiaries, the company also has three retail outlets in the U.S.
Number of employees: 92,000
Headquarters: Dublin, Ireland
Revenue for the quarter ending June 30, 2023: $5.866B
Glassdoor ratings: 4.1
Eaton Corporation is an American-Irish company involved primarily in power management. It is a global leader in power management solutions. It’s customer base is spread over 175 countries and operates mainly in the following four sectors: electrical, aerospace, vehicle, and eMobility.
Number of employees: 17,000
Headquarters: Richmond, Virginia, USA
Revenue for the quarter ending June 30, 2023: $5.866B
Glassdoor ratings: 3.8
Dominion Energy serves more than 7 million customers across six American states, including Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. The company also operates America’s largest natural gas storage facility. Like many other companies, Dominion Energy has lately been focusing a lot on environmental sustainability and reducing its carbon footprint.
Number of employees: 6,603
Headquarters: Houston, Texas, United States
Revenue for the quarter ending June 30, 2023: $6.348B
Glassdoor ratings: 3.9
The company is primarily involved in energy generation and retail energy. Their other businesses include natural gas production, oil production, nuclear energy, and so on. The company is best known for their retail energy and electricity services. They have eleven subsidiaries in production and retail.
Number of employees: 14,900
Headquarters: Juno Beach, Florida, USA
Revenue for the quarter ending June 30, 2023: $7.349B
Glassdoor ratings: 3.7
NextEra Energy operates through its subsidiary, Florida Power & Light Company (FPL), which is one of the largest electric utilities in the United States. NextEra Energy is known for it’s renewable energy projects across the United States. This includes wind farms, solar installations, and energy storage facilities. On the basis of market capitalisation, NextEra Energy is the largest electric utility holding company in the U.S.
Number of employees: 13,003
Headquarters: Rosemead, California, USA
Revenue for the quarter ending June 30, 2023: $3.964B
Glassdoor ratings: 3.5
Edison International is a major electric holding company in the U.S. that operates primarily through its subsidiary, Southern California Edison. It generates electricity from a diverse mix of energy sources, including natural gas, coal, renewable sources (such as wind and solar), and purchased power agreements.
Number of employees: 1,72,000
Headquarters: Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Revenue for the quarter ending June 30, 2023: $16.699B
Glassdoor ratings: 4.0
General Electric (GE) is a multinational conglomerate corporation that operates in various industries, with a historical focus on energy, aviation, healthcare, and manufacturing. The company produces a variety of power generation and distribution products like gas turbines and steam turbines, generators and motors, transformers, switchgear, etc. The company's Grid Solutions segment provides products like high-voltage equipment, substation automation systems, and advanced metering solutions.
Let’s summarize the good and bad sides of the field to settle the question, ‘’is power generation a good career path.’’ The biggest obvious appeal of the sector is the essential nature of its services, which translates to job security. You can rest assured of stability with a career in power generation. You can get a decent job in the government or a multinational company and have a comfortable career without too many upheavals.
Another significant advantage is the emergence of new employment opportunities in power generation that are relatively unpopular and have less competition. These new opportunities arise mostly from innovations in clean and sustainable energy generation.
You can also feel good about your daily work knowing that you are contributing to providing an essential service to society in the form of electricity. Also, working in energy generation can help you learn valuable technical skills that you can use to get a job in other industries like operations, engineering, and mechanics.
Talking about the downsides, there are but a few. Some jobs have irregular work schedules that disrupt your work-life balance, while others are simply too physically taxing. You might be required to work with dangerous machinery and be on call 24/7. However, if your heart is in your work, you may not think much of these inconveniences.
Finding a good job in this sector is no different from any other sector, really. The same general guidelines apply to power generation as you’d expect for a conventional, safe, career path.
There are countless openings for energy generation jobs on different job search portals. Just make a good resume, a stellar cover letter, and start applying to jobs left and right. Remember, it is about volume, the more jobs you apply to, the higher your chances of landing interviews.
And don’t forget about the paid and free online courses either. They can really help enhance your credentials and open up opportunities for you. Check out courses available on platforms like:
For motivation, read how to get a job without any experience and remember to stay consistent with your job search.
Also, make sure to keep an eye on the websites of prominent companies in the field. Read the careers section on these websites. And lastly, network, network, network! LinkedIn is a great platform for reaching out to professionals in the field for specific advice. Socialize and talk to people offline more frequently, and don’t shy away from talking about your ambitions and aspirations. In small towns in particular, word of mouth is still a prominent recruitment channel in fields like power generation, mining, fisheries, forestry, and so on. So, remember to talk to people.