Utilities provide career opportunities for persons with varying levels of experience and education. However, because the utilities industry consists of many different companies and products, skills developed in one segment of the industry may not be transferable to other segments.
High school graduates qualify for most entry-level production jobs. Production workers may start as laborers or in other unskilled jobs and, by going through an apprenticeship program and gaining on-the-job experience, advance into better-paying positions that require greater skills or have greater responsibility. Substantial advancement is possible even within a single occupation. For example, power plant operators may move up through several levels of responsibility until they reach the highest-paying operator jobs. Advancement in production occupations generally requires mastery of advanced skills on the job, usually with some formal training provided by the employer or through additional vocational training at a 2-year technical college. Additional formal education from an outside source is sometimes needed.
Most computer, engineering, and technician jobs require technical education after high school, although opportunities exist for persons with degrees ranging from an associate degree to a doctorate. These workers are usually familiar with company objectives and production methods which, combined with college education, equip them with many of the tools necessary for advancement to management positions. Graduates of 2-year technical institutes usually fill technician positions. Sometimes, graduates of engineering programs will start as technicians until an opportunity to advance into an engineering position arises.
Managerial jobs generally require a 4-year college degree, although a 2-year technical degree may be sufficient in smaller plants. Managers usually can advance into higher-level management jobs without additional formal training outside the workplace. Competition is expected to be keen for management positions, as industry restructuring is forcing utility companies to shed excess layers of management to improve productivity and competitiveness in the new deregulated environment.