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Is Public Utilities a Good Career Path? - Open Education Online

Is Public Utilities a Good Career Path?

If you are wondering whether a career in public utilities is a good choice, the short answer to your query is: Yes! Public utilities is indeed a good career path. It is a rewarding career that provides not only a good salary and benefits but also a sense of fulfillment from your work since the work that you do in public utilities would be to provide the most essential things that people need to survive.

Although public utilities jobs, in general, are lucrative and provide security and opportunities, selecting a career for yourself will require more than a generalized idea of the industry. This article will help you understand more about the actual jobs and other things you can consider making a well-informed choice for yourself.

What are Public Utilities?

For any society and consequently an economy to function and grow, there are some very essential goods and services like electricity, water, gas, power, transport, communication, etc. that need to be generated and distributed in a timely fashion, appropriate quantity, and quality.

Public utilities are thus the organizations that are responsible for that to happen. To do so, they deal with planning, construction of infrastructure, management, maintenance, repair, distribution, customer service and many more. Public utilities are mostly managed by governmental bodies but there are also many private companies working solely or in collaboration with the government in the utilities sector.

What are the Jobs available in the Public Utilities?

As mentioned above, public utilities is an extremely interdisciplinary sector. As a result, people working in the utilities come from varied backgrounds, all levels of expertise, qualifications, and experience. You’ll often hear people saying that public utilities is an industry that offers something for everyone interested in pursuing a career here.

Let’s take a look at some of the jobs available in several areas of public utilities.

1. Electric Power Utilities:

Thanks to the invention of famous scientists like Edison, Tesla, Faraday, and others, generating electricity, transmitting electricity to our homes, and using it to light our bulbs was made possible. But running these complex systems on a day-to-day basis and at a massive scale requires a lot of manpower. In fact, 172,000 people were employed in just the generation of electricity in the US. Some of the jobs in this utilities sector are:

  • Power Plant Engineer: $100k-$143k per year.
  • Power System Dispatcher: $47k-$121k per year.
  • Nuclear Licensing Engineer: $76k-$145k per year.
  • Power Utility Manager: $47k-$115k per year.
  • Wind Turbine Technician: $50,000 per year.
  • Power lineman and electricians: $54,000 per year.

2. Water and Sewage Utilities Sector:

This sector is responsible for the overall flow of water necessary for all purposes in society. The water distribution, treatment and sewage utilities systems of the large cities are more complex than that in the sub-urban and countryside. Nevertheless, it is a requirement of all societies and thus generates large employment opportunities.

A report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics categorizes the jobs in water utilities with the following requirements and median hourly salaries:

  • General and Operations Managers: Bachelor’s Degree with 5+ years’ experience, $47.74/hour.
  • Supervisors: High school diploma with less than 5 years’ experience, $27.78/hour.
  • Pipelayers: No formal education and experience, $18.47/hour (Short On-the-job training)
  • Plumbers and Pipefitters: No formal education and experience, $24.74/hour (Apprenticeship)
  • Water and wastewater plant system operator: High school diploma and No experience, $22/hr.
  • Construction and Equipment Operators: High school diploma and No experience, $21.65/hr.
  • Utilities Meter Reader: High school diploma and No experience, $18.72/hr.
  • Maintenance and Repair Workers: High school diploma and No experience, $17.76/hr.
  • Construction Laborers: No formal education and experience, $16.07/hour

3. Natural Gas Utilities Sector:

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), In 2021 alone, the amount of natural gas consumed in the US was 30.28 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of which 37% was used in the generation of electricity, 33% in industry, 15% in residential, 11% in commercial and 3% in transportation.

Some of the high-paying jobs in the natural gas sector with their national average salaries include:

  • Driller: $50,800 per year.
  • Gas Technician: $53,682 per year.
  • Distribution Specialist: $54,710 per year
  • Project Accountant: $61,016 per year.
  • Project Engineer: $75,818 per year.
  • Environmental Health Officer: $76,036 per year.
  • Geologist: $84,955 per year.
  • Petroleum Engineer: $88,378 per year.

As is evident from the data above, the public utilities jobs boast diversified employment opportunities and a good salary. The same can be seen in other public utilities areas like telecommunication, transportation, etc.

Pros and Cons of a Career in Public Utilities

Finally, let’s have a look at the advantages and some disadvantages of pursuing a career in public utilities.

Pros/ Advantages:

  1. Good Salary: Public utilities jobs offer a good salary. The average salary in the public utilities sector ranges from $52,000 – $82,000 which is greater than the national average salary.
  2. Benefits: According to the nature of the jobs, most public utilities jobs come with benefits like on-the-job training, paid leaves, medical insurances, travel allowances and so on.
  • Minimum Entry Requirements: Landing a job in the public utilities sector is not hard at all even if you lack formal education and experience.
  1. Room for Growth and Diversity: Not only landing a job, growing the ranks from within the industry is very favorable in the utilities sector. Just a few years of experience opens new opportunities for growth and can result in a successful career.
  2. Job Fulfillment: At a time when most workers are dissatisfied and disengaged with the work they do, jobs in public utilities can provide job fulfillment upon realizing that the job you’re doing is directly responsible for ensuring thousands of people get the vital goods/services they need for survival.

Cons/Disadvantages:

  1. Risk factor: Many public utilities jobs are characterized by a rather high degree of risks for safety and security. For instance, despite all the safety gear and training, a power lineman is not what we would call a safe job to do daily.
  2. Repetitiveness: Public utilities jobs, because of their critical nature, require you to follow a rigid set of guidelines and code of conduct. As a result, the repetitive nature of some tasks can be a problem if you have a fire for creativity.
  • Technological progress: Several advancements in the technology of public utilities have rendered many previous jobs useless. This might make your job less secure especially if it is done physically with manual labor.

CONCLUSION

The need for skilled manpower in the public utilities sector is high at all levels of the organization. Moreover, new areas of the public utilities industry are growing at an unprecedented rate like the wind energy and solar energy sector. This creates more employment opportunities.

Since there are massive opportunities for advancing your career once you enter the public utilities industry, there is no point in wasting time doing so. So, start applying to the jobs that meet your qualifications and future goals if you are satisfied that public utilities is indeed a good career path.

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