How to Become a Power Distributor: Education and Career Roadmap
Learn how to become a power distributor. Research the education requirements, training, licensure information and experience you will need to start a career in power distribution.
Education Requirements to Become a Power Distributor
A power distributor is an electrical engineer tasked with distributing and regulating the flow of electrical currents across electric power lines to generating stations and load centers. Power distributors monitor and inspect equipment to ensure that the correct amount of power is going to the proper load centers at all times, and they also might be responsible for repairing equipment malfunctions. Power distributors typically work for utility companies, though some work for local governments. The following table describes the core requirements for a career as a power distributor:
|Degree Level||Bachelor's degree*|
|Degree Field(s)||Electrical engineering*|
|Licensure and/or Certification||Power distributors who affect the grid must be certified through the North American Energy Reliability Corporation (NERC)**|
|Experience||Varies by employer, but typically two to four years*|
|Key Skills||Mechanical and mathematical abilities; active listening, critical thinking, complex problem solving, reading comprehension, speaking and operation monitoring skills; strong judgment and decision making abilities, time management skills, ability to coordinate work and personnel***|
|Computer Skills||Use of mainframe computers, industrial control software, map creation software; understanding of circuit boards, processors, chips and computer programming***|
|Technical Skills||Knowledge of how to use, troubleshoot and repair AC/DC panelboards***|
|Additional Requirements||Must pass alcohol and drug screenings**|
Sources: *Multiple job postings (December 2012), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), ***O*NET OnLine.
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
According to December 2012 job postings, most employers prefer candidates for power distributor jobs who possess at least a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering. Some employers prefer candidates who hold a master's degree, for which the bachelor's is a necessary prerequisite.
A bachelor's degree program in electrical engineering could include coursework in computer hardware, data analysis, calculus, engineering, electronics, AC/DC networks, physics and computer programming. Beyond that, an engineering student wishing to prepare for work as a power distributor may choose to specialize in analog systems, digital systems, electro-mechanical systems or power and alternative energy systems. Students enrolled in a bachelor's degree program may be required to complete a capstone project prior to graduation.
- Complete an internship. Many prospective employers require that job applicants have anywhere from two to four years of experience working with electrical systems, and some employers specify a preference for candidates who have completed a relevant internship. Interns may work in projects related to power generation and equipment maintenance, the engineering and construction of power distribution systems, planning, licensing and land conservation.
- Attain certifications specific to interns and engineers in training. Some employers seek entry-level candidates who have taken the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam or who have completed an Engineer In Training (EIT) certification. These voluntary certifications measure the technical expertise of student engineers. An individual wishing to attain the EIT or FE designations must pass an examination for each credential.
Step 2: Obtain NERC Certification
According to the BLS, all power distributors who affect the power grid must become certified. NERC offers four different kinds of certification; the one applicable here is the system operator/dispatcher certification, which must be renewed once every three years. Once certified, a power distributor must take continuing education classes to maintain the credential.
Step 3: Gain Experience
Many positions require applicants to have extensive work experience. While some potential power distributors obtain sufficient experience through internships, others may find it advantageous to work as power plant operators or in other entry-level positions in the energy industry, at the beginning of their careers.
- Take continuing education courses. The NERC requires all certified individuals to take a certain number of continuing education classes each year to maintain certification. Complete information on the classes offered is available to NERC members on the organization's official website.
Step 4: Complete a Master's Degree
While most positions for power distributors require a bachelor's degree, some employers prefer job candidates who hold a master's degree. A master's degree program may combine intensive coursework in physics, mathematics and electrical engineering with specialized laboratory projects and opportunities for advanced research. A master's degree also might incorporate elements of leadership training that prepare an engineer for long-term career advancement.
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