The Substation Technician
Picture a subway line running underground, with stations along the way. (And keep your eyes open while you do this, so you can keep reading…)
The subway station, like the ones in New York, is the same kind of thing as an electrical substation. OK, so nobody is getting on or off a train at an electrical substation. But the electrical substation is a “stop” along the path of electricity delivery, and it’s serviced by a very important person: the substation technician.
Electrical substations are located between the generating source of the power, such as a power plant, and the end user (homes and businesses). Depending on the type, the substation transforms voltage from high to low or vice versa.
Though substations can be under the ground or inside buildings, they’re usually in enclosed spaces outdoors. And they contain steel structures made up of electrical equipment – a power transformer (or several), wires, regulators and generators.
The substation technician, or substation electrician, inspects, tests, maintains and repairs electrical equipment housed in these substations. It’s a specialized job. But it can be very rewarding.
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A SUBSTATION TECHNICIAN IN GEORGIA
- Carrying out regular maintenance
- Inspecting and testing equipment
- Making routine repairs
- Troubleshooting and solving problems with the equipment (and you might have to check with manuals and diagrams to do this)
- Writing reports about what you’ve inspected, tested and fixed
- Working with a team to come up with a plan – or explaining to others what you have found or think about a problem
WHAT IT TAKES TO BECOME A SUBSTATION TECHNICIAN (or work in one of those power plant jobs)
Those who work in this trade say you’ll need to have:
- A fundamental knowledge of electrical components and how they work
- Basic mechanical skills
- The ability to read manuals, drawings and blueprints
- Good communication skills
IS THIS YOU?
Here are a few things to consider as you decide whether a career as a substation technician is right for you.
- Good pay and benefits. Among all of the “skilled trade” positions on this website, this is one of the highest-paying gigs.
- The job of a substation technician can be different on any given day. One day you could be performing routine maintenance. The next day, you’re troubleshooting a problem. Some days, you’ve got to travel to other parts of the state to help out on a substation.
- Since the majority of substations are outdoors, you may work in all kinds of weather, including heat, cold, rain and snow.
- The work can be physically demanding: Climbing, crouching and standing for long periods of time, as well as lifting heavy equipment, are all part of the job
- You may be required to be “on call” at any hour during an emergency.
A FEW DETAILS OF INTEREST
What’s the pay for substation electrician jobs?
In Georgia, electrical and electronics repairers, powerhouse, substation and relay technicians earn an average salary of $75,750 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2016).
How do you become a substation technician?
During the technical training (on the job or at a school), you’ll learn things like…
- How to read diagrams and blueprints
- The different kinds of substations, the components of each, and how to maintain them.
- How to inspect, test and fix these components:
- Circuit breakers
- Air and disconnect switches
- How to build protective fencing around a substation
- How to put up steel support structures
- The basics of wiring, grounding, safety procedures
After you complete your training, you might elect to become certified by the InterNational Electrical Testing Association, also known as NETA.
GET TRAINED AS A SUBSTATION TECHNICIAN
SELCAT is a Newnan, Ga.-based industry group that provides apprenticeship training for those who want to become a substation technician.
APPLY FOR A SCHOLARSHIP
If you’re a high school senior and want to learn how to become a substation technician at one Georgia’s technical colleges, why not apply for a Trade Five Scholarship? Scholarship? Yes! Take me to the application >
OUTLOOK FOR SUBSTATION TECHNICIAN
While no hard data for future demand is available, utilities report they need talented people to service the power grid.
MORE NUTS AND BOLTS ABOUT SUBSTATION TECHNICIANS
Here’s a website that has a bit more detail on what people who hold substation electrician jobs actually do.
LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
Download this handy PDF for some facts on-the-go.