Chemical Plant and System Operators
51-8091.00

Control or operate entire chemical processes or system of machines.

Sample of reported job titles: Chemical Operator, Loader Technician, Process Control Operator, Process Development Associate, Process Operator, Process Technician, Production Technician

Occupation-Specific Information

Tasks

  • Monitor recording instruments, flowmeters, panel lights, or other indicators and listen for warning signals to verify conformity of process conditions.
  • Regulate or shut down equipment during emergency situations, as directed by supervisory personnel.
  • Control or operate chemical processes or systems of machines, using panelboards, control boards, or semi-automatic equipment.
  • Move control settings to make necessary adjustments on equipment units affecting speeds of chemical reactions, quality, or yields.
  • Inspect operating units, such as towers, soap-spray storage tanks, scrubbers, collectors, or driers to ensure that all are functioning and to maintain maximum efficiency.
  • Draw samples of products and conduct quality control tests to monitor processing and to ensure that standards are met.
  • Record operating data, such as process conditions, test results, or instrument readings.
  • Patrol work areas to ensure that solutions in tanks or troughs are not in danger of overflowing.
  • Turn valves to regulate flow of products or byproducts through agitator tanks, storage drums, or neutralizer tanks.
  • Interpret chemical reactions visible through sight glasses or on television monitors and review laboratory test reports for process adjustments.
  • Confer with technical and supervisory personnel to report or resolve conditions affecting safety, efficiency, or product quality.
  • 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.
  • Notify maintenance, stationary engineering, or other auxiliary personnel to correct equipment malfunctions or to adjust power, steam, water, or air supplies.
  • Repair or replace damaged equipment.
  • Gauge tank levels, using calibrated rods.
  • Calculate material requirements or yields according to formulas.
  • Direct workers engaged in operating machinery that regulates the flow of materials and products.
  • Supervise the cleaning of towers, strainers, or spray tips.
  • Defrost frozen valves, using steam hoses.

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Technology Skills

  • Industrial control software — Alarm management system software; Distributed control system DCS; Interlock shutdown systems
  • Network security or virtual private network VPN management software — Coordinated incident management system CIMS software
  • Office suite software — Microsoft Office Hot technology
  • Spreadsheet software — Microsoft Excel Hot technology
  • Word processing software — Microsoft Word Hot technology
Hot technology Hot Technologies are requirements frequently included in employer job postings.

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Occupational Requirements

Work Activities

  • Getting Information — Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
  • Monitoring Processes, Materials, or Surroundings — Monitoring and reviewing information from materials, events, or the environment, to detect or assess problems.
  • Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events — Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
  • Controlling Machines and Processes — Using either control mechanisms or direct physical activity to operate machines or processes (not including computers or vehicles).
  • Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards — Using relevant information and individual judgment to determine whether events or processes comply with laws, regulations, or standards.
  • Training and Teaching Others — Identifying the educational needs of others, developing formal educational or training programs or classes, and teaching or instructing others.
  • Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Materials — Inspecting equipment, structures, or materials to identify the cause of errors or other problems or defects.
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems — Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates — Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
  • Documenting/Recording Information — Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
  • Performing General Physical Activities — Performing physical activities that require considerable use of your arms and legs and moving your whole body, such as climbing, lifting, balancing, walking, stooping, and handling materials.
  • Working with Computers — Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.
  • Handling and Moving Objects — Using hands and arms in handling, installing, positioning, and moving materials, and manipulating things.
  • Interpreting the Meaning of Information for Others — Translating or explaining what information means and how it can be used.
  • Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge — Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.
  • Processing Information — Compiling, coding, categorizing, calculating, tabulating, auditing, or verifying information or data.
  • Analyzing Data or Information — Identifying the underlying principles, reasons, or facts of information by breaking down information or data into separate parts.
  • Repairing and Maintaining Mechanical Equipment — Servicing, repairing, adjusting, and testing machines, devices, moving parts, and equipment that operate primarily on the basis of mechanical (not electronic) principles.
  • Coordinating the Work and Activities of Others — Getting members of a group to work together to accomplish tasks.
  • Estimating the Quantifiable Characteristics of Products, Events, or Information — Estimating sizes, distances, and quantities; or determining time, costs, resources, or materials needed to perform a work activity.

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Detailed Work Activities

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Work Context

  • Face-to-Face Discussions — 99% responded “Every day.”
  • Wear Common Protective or Safety Equipment such as Safety Shoes, Glasses, Gloves, Hearing Protection, Hard Hats, or Life Jackets — 98% responded “Every day.”
  • Exposed to Hazardous Conditions — 95% responded “Every day.”
  • Exposed to Contaminants — 86% responded “Every day.”
  • Sounds, Noise Levels Are Distracting or Uncomfortable — 80% responded “Every day.”
  • Indoors, Not Environmentally Controlled — 91% responded “Every day.”
  • Frequency of Decision Making — 74% responded “Every day.”
  • Telephone — 68% responded “Every day.”
  • Indoors, Environmentally Controlled — 83% responded “Every day.”
  • Outdoors, Exposed to Weather — 77% responded “Every day.”
  • Importance of Being Exact or Accurate — 57% responded “Extremely important.”
  • Responsible for Others' Health and Safety — 61% responded “Very high responsibility.”
  • Pace Determined by Speed of Equipment — 56% responded “Extremely important.”
  • Contact With Others — 59% responded “Constant contact with others.”
  • Freedom to Make Decisions — 32% responded “Some freedom.”
  • Outdoors, Under Cover — 67% responded “Every day.”
  • Consequence of Error — 56% responded “Extremely serious.”
  • Time Pressure — 61% responded “Every day.”
  • Work With Work Group or Team — 47% responded “Extremely important.”
  • Very Hot or Cold Temperatures — 42% responded “Every day.”
  • Importance of Repeating Same Tasks — 37% responded “Extremely important.”
  • Impact of Decisions on Co-workers or Company Results — 54% responded “Important results.”
  • Duration of Typical Work Week — 49% responded “More than 40 hours.”
  • Spend Time Using Your Hands to Handle, Control, or Feel Objects, Tools, or Controls — 34% responded “More than half the time.”
  • Exposed to Minor Burns, Cuts, Bites, or Stings — 13% responded “Never.”
  • Coordinate or Lead Others — 34% responded “Very important.”
  • Exposed to High Places — 47% responded “Every day.”
  • Degree of Automation — 67% responded “Highly automated.”
  • Exposed to Hazardous Equipment — 52% responded “Every day.”
  • Responsibility for Outcomes and Results — 49% responded “High responsibility.”
  • Electronic Mail — 45% responded “Every day.”
  • Physical Proximity — 37% responded “Moderately close (at arm's length).”
  • Structured versus Unstructured Work — 38% responded “Some freedom.”
  • Letters and Memos — 24% responded “Never.”
  • Cramped Work Space, Awkward Positions — 47% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
  • Extremely Bright or Inadequate Lighting — 34% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
  • Spend Time Standing — 35% responded “More than half the time.”
  • Wear Specialized Protective or Safety Equipment such as Breathing Apparatus, Safety Harness, Full Protection Suits, or Radiation Protection — 32% responded “Once a month or more but not every week.”
  • Spend Time Walking and Running — 32% responded “More than half the time.”
  • Spend Time Making Repetitive Motions — 38% responded “Less than half the time.”

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Experience Requirements

Job Zone

Title
Job Zone Two: Some Preparation Needed
Education
These occupations usually require a high school diploma.
Related Experience
Some previous work-related skill, knowledge, or experience is usually needed. For example, a teller would benefit from experience working directly with the public.
Job Training
Employees in these occupations need anywhere from a few months to one year of working with experienced employees. A recognized apprenticeship program may be associated with these occupations.
Job Zone Examples
These occupations often involve using your knowledge and skills to help others. Examples include orderlies, counter and rental clerks, customer service representatives, security guards, upholsterers, and tellers.
SVP Range
3 months to 1 year of preparation (4.0 to < 6.0)

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Training & Credentials

State training
Local training
Certifications
Apprenticeships
Have a career path or location in mind? Visit Apprenticeship.gov external site to find apprenticeship opportunities near you.

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Worker Requirements

Skills

  • Operations 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.
  • Active Learning — Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
  • Complex Problem Solving — Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
  • Judgment and Decision Making — Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
  • Reading Comprehension — Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents.
  • Time Management — Managing one's own time and the time of others.
  • Speaking — Talking to others to convey information effectively.
  • Writing — Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.

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Knowledge

  • Production and Processing — Knowledge of raw materials, production processes, quality control, costs, and other techniques for maximizing the effective manufacture and distribution of goods.
  • Chemistry — Knowledge of the chemical composition, structure, and properties of substances and of the chemical processes and transformations that they undergo. This includes uses of chemicals and their interactions, danger signs, production techniques, and disposal methods.
  • Mechanical — Knowledge of machines and tools, including their designs, uses, repair, and maintenance.
  • English Language — Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
  • Public Safety and Security — Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.
  • Customer and Personal Service — Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.

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Education

How much education does a new hire need to perform a job in this occupation? Respondents said:

  • High school diploma or equivalent required for some jobsmore info
  • Bachelor’s degree required for some jobs
  • Post-secondary certificate required for some jobs

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Worker Characteristics

Abilities

  • Near Vision — The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
  • Problem Sensitivity — The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing that there is a problem.
  • Selective Attention — The ability to concentrate on a task over a period of time without being distracted.
  • Deductive Reasoning — The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
  • Oral Comprehension — The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
  • Oral Expression — The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
  • Control Precision — The ability to quickly and repeatedly adjust the controls of a machine or a vehicle to exact positions.
  • Far Vision — The ability to see details at a distance.
  • Information Ordering — The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).
  • Perceptual Speed — The ability to quickly and accurately compare similarities and differences among sets of letters, numbers, objects, pictures, or patterns. The things to be compared may be presented at the same time or one after the other. This ability also includes comparing a presented object with a remembered object.
  • Arm-Hand Steadiness — The ability to keep your hand and arm steady while moving your arm or while holding your arm and hand in one position.
  • Hearing Sensitivity — The ability to detect or tell the differences between sounds that vary in pitch and loudness.
  • Auditory Attention — The ability to focus on a single source of sound in the presence of other distracting sounds.
  • Reaction Time — The ability to quickly respond (with the hand, finger, or foot) to a signal (sound, light, picture) when it appears.
  • Written Comprehension — The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
  • Flexibility of Closure — The ability to identify or detect a known pattern (a figure, object, word, or sound) that is hidden in other distracting material.
  • Inductive Reasoning — The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
  • Manual Dexterity — The ability to quickly move your hand, your hand together with your arm, or your two hands to grasp, manipulate, or assemble objects.
  • Speech Clarity — The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.
  • Speech Recognition — The ability to identify and understand the speech of another person.
  • Visual Color Discrimination — The ability to match or detect differences between colors, including shades of color and brightness.
  • Written Expression — The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.
  • Category Flexibility — The ability to generate or use different sets of rules for combining or grouping things in different ways.
  • Finger Dexterity — The ability to make precisely coordinated movements of the fingers of one or both hands to grasp, manipulate, or assemble very small objects.

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Interests

Interest code: RC
Want to discover your interests? Take the O*NET Interest Profiler at My Next Move.
  • Realistic — Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.
  • Conventional — Conventional occupations frequently involve following set procedures and routines. These occupations can include working with data and details more than with ideas. Usually there is a clear line of authority to follow.

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Work Values

  • Support — Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees. Corresponding needs are Company Policies, Supervision: Human Relations and Supervision: Technical.
  • Working Conditions — Occupations that satisfy this work value offer job security and good working conditions. Corresponding needs are Activity, Compensation, Independence, Security, Variety and Working Conditions.
  • Independence — Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions. Corresponding needs are Creativity, Responsibility and Autonomy.

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Work Styles

  • Dependability — Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
  • Attention to Detail — Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
  • Integrity — Job requires being honest and ethical.
  • Stress Tolerance — Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high-stress situations.
  • Analytical Thinking — Job requires analyzing information and using logic to address work-related issues and problems.
  • Cooperation — Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
  • Initiative — Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.
  • Independence — Job requires developing one's own ways of doing things, guiding oneself with little or no supervision, and depending on oneself to get things done.
  • Concern for Others — Job requires being sensitive to others' needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.
  • Self-Control — Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
  • Persistence — Job requires persistence in the face of obstacles.
  • Achievement/Effort — Job requires establishing and maintaining personally challenging achievement goals and exerting effort toward mastering tasks.
  • Leadership — Job requires a willingness to lead, take charge, and offer opinions and direction.
  • Social Orientation — Job requires preferring to work with others rather than alone, and being personally connected with others on the job.

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Workforce Characteristics

Wages & Employment Trends

Median wages (2021)
$33.75 hourly, $70,200 annual
State wages
Local wages
Employment (2020)
29,500 employees
Projected growth (2020-2030)
Little or no change
Projected job openings (2020-2030)
3,000
State trends
Top industries (2020)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics 2021 wage data external site and 2020-2030 employment projections external site. “Projected growth” represents the estimated change in total employment over the projections period (2020-2030). “Projected job openings” represent openings due to growth and replacement.

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Job Openings on the Web

State job openings
Local job openings

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More Information

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Sources of Additional Information

Disclaimer: Sources are listed to provide additional information on related jobs, specialties, and/or industries. Links to non-DOL Internet sites are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement.

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