Refinery Operator

Keep the machines at a petroleum refining running smoothly.

Quick Stats


Salary Range
$38,000 – $81,000

Data from U.S. Department of Labor


What do Refinery Operators do?

The process of turning petroleum into kerosene, gas, and oil has more steps than the directions for setting up a backyard play structure. That means there are a lot of opportunities to learn a job in the industry. As a Refinery Operator, you run and maintain equipment, manage staff, and evaluate the system for safety and efficiency.

Most jobs in the industry revolve around the equipment that processes the petroleum. So as the Refinery Operator, you’re the go-to person as far as the machines in your area of the plant are concerned. That means while the equipment does the work, it’s the job of the Refinery Operator to make sure it removes the right amount of impurities, maintains the proper temperature, and remains within safe pressure and flow guidelines.

Of course, that requires you to specialize in one area. As a Furnace Operator, for example, you monitor the temperature gauges on the furnace, and make adjustments to the burners as necessary. As a Gauger, you gather and test samples, and control the flow of oil being released into the pipes.

In addition to reading meters and gauges, you are often responsible for inspecting and doing minor repairs on the equipment. You look for any indication of leaks or cracks, faulty parts, or valves and controls that are too tight or too loose.

Working in a refinery requires good communication and teamwork skills. You need excellent eyesight and hearing to watch needles and hear warning alarms, and the ability to react to each situation in a calm and quick manner.


Should I be a Refinery Operator?

You should have a high school degree or higher and share these traits:
  • Detail Oriented: You pay close attention to all the little details.
  • Trustworthy: You are known for your personal integrity and honesty.
  • Calm Under Pressure: You keep your cool when dealing with highly stressful situations.

  • Also known as: Boiler House Operator, Cat Cracker Operator, Crude Unit Operator, Dock Operator, Head Operator, Hydro Operator See More

    How to become a Refinery Operator

    Most Refinery Operators have no higher education and get on-the-job training. Think about earning a Certificate or Associate's degree to increase your competitiveness in the field. Chart?chd=s:9foaaa&chl=no+college+%2876%25%29|certificate+%287%25%29|associate%27s+%2818%25%29|||&cht=p3&chs=466x180&chxr=0,76,76
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