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Chemical Plant or System Operator

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What Do Chemical Plant or System Operator Do?

Job Description: Control or operate entire chemical processes or system of machines.

Life As a Chemical Plant or System Operator: What Do They Do?

  • Direct workers engaged in operating machinery that regulates the flow of materials and products.
  • Start pumps to wash and rinse reactor vessels, to exhaust gases or vapors, to regulate the flow of oil, steam, air, or perfume to towers, or to add products to converter or blending vessels.
  • Monitor recording instruments, flowmeters, panel lights, or other indicators and listen for warning signals, to verify conformity of process conditions.
  • Notify maintenance, stationary-engineering, or other auxiliary personnel to correct equipment malfunctions or to adjust power, steam, water, or air supplies.
  • Confer with technical and supervisory personnel to report or resolve conditions affecting safety, efficiency, or product quality.
  • Turn valves to regulate flow of products or byproducts through agitator tanks, storage drums, or neutralizer tanks.

What a Chemical Plant or System Operator Should Know

Below is a list of the skills most Chemical Plant and System Operators say are important on the job.

Operation Monitoring: Watching gauges, dials, or other indicators to make sure a machine is working properly.

Operation and Control: Controlling operations of equipment or systems.

Monitoring: Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.

Quality Control Analysis: Conducting tests and inspections of products, services, or processes to evaluate quality or performance.

Critical Thinking: Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.

Active Listening: Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.

  • Process Operator
  • Tower Operator
  • Ammonia Technician
  • Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Machine Operator
  • Operator

Job Outlook for Chemical Plant and System Operators

In 2016, there was an estimated number of 33,200 jobs in the United States for Chemical Plant or System Operator. There is little to no growth in job opportunities for Chemical Plant or System Operator. Due to new job openings and attrition, there will be an average of 2,800 job openings in this field each year.


The states with the most job growth for Chemical Plant or System Operator are South Dakota, North Dakota, and Arizona. Watch out if you plan on working in Kentucky, California, or South Carolina. These states have the worst job growth for this type of profession.

Chemical Plant or System Operator Average Salary

The salary for Chemical Plant and System Operators ranges between about $34,830 and $88,630 a year.


Chemical Plant and System Operators who work in Wyoming, Texas, or Alabama, make the highest salaries.

How much do Chemical Plant and System Operators make in different U.S. states?

State Annual Mean Salary
Alabama $68,800
Arizona $60,790
Arkansas $48,360
California $58,160
Colorado $49,320
Delaware $62,910
Florida $59,080
Georgia $52,160
Illinois $66,700
Indiana $50,040
Iowa $60,250
Kansas $54,240
Kentucky $60,090
Louisiana $68,150
Maryland $58,400
Massachusetts $55,270
Michigan $54,840
Minnesota $51,340
Mississippi $59,920
Montana $61,240
Nevada $52,630
New Jersey $62,880
New York $56,400
North Carolina $50,370
Ohio $60,820
Oregon $57,220
Pennsylvania $63,170
Rhode Island $48,310
South Carolina $54,470
South Dakota $48,140
Texas $69,010
Utah $57,500
Virginia $51,040
Washington $52,690
West Virginia $63,980
Wisconsin $56,770
Wyoming $72,950

What Tools & Technology do Chemical Plant and System Operators Use?

Although they’re not necessarily needed for all jobs, the following technologies are used by many Chemical Plant and System Operators:

  • Microsoft Excel
  • Microsoft Word
  • Microsoft Office
  • Distributed control system DCS
  • Interlock shutdown systems

Becoming a Chemical Plant or System Operator

What education is needed to be a Chemical Plant or System Operator?


How many years of work experience do I need?


Where do Chemical Plant and System Operators Work?


The table below shows some of the most common industries where those employed in this career field work.


Other Jobs You May be Interested In

Those thinking about becoming a Chemical Plant or System Operator might also be interested in the following careers:

Are you already one of the many Chemical Plant or System Operator in the United States? If you’re thinking about changing careers, these fields are worth exploring:


Image Credit: NASA via Public domain

More about our data sources and methodologies.

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