Every month, you likely get a bill in the mail for utilities like water and electricity, based on how much of each resource you used during the previous month. But how does each company know how much you used? They install meters and hire meter readers.
How do utility meters work? Every household and building has meters that correspond with that property’s utility usage; usually each building has at least three meters for gas, water, and electricity. Each meter measures the amount you use, in exact quantities. For example, the amount of electricity you use is measured in kilowatt hours (kWh). If you accidently leave all the lights on in your home during a vacation, your bill will reflect that you used more kWh of electricity than the month before. Unless a meter is broken, it should accurately reflect exactly what you used.
What are meter readers? Meter readers drive throughout a city and record how much of a utility your household consumed during the month (as measured on your specific meter), and then send this reading to the utility company to aid in billing and inventory. Meters are small devices that have several dials, and meter readers must know how to properly analyze the data from the dials and record it accurately. They are also responsible for inspecting the meters and making sure each meter is running properly. If a meter is damaged or defective in some way, meter readers must record exactly what is wrong with the meter and alert maintenance workers to the problem.
What about training and education? Usually you need a high school diploma or its equivalent to become a meter reader. The utility company will train you how to read the meters. During training, you will also learn what meter readings are normal and expected for various home and commercial buildings, so that you will know when something is wrong with the meter. Because meter readers travel all over a city or utility service area, you will also need a valid driver’s license. Depending on the utility and region, you may be walking quite a bit, so being able-bodied and healthy may be a plus.
How much do meter readers earn? On average, meter readers earn about $32,000 a year, depending on the utility company. Entry-level readers usually earn around $29,000, while the higher levels earn $50,000 or more. The highest earnings usually go to the meter readers who must use advanced technical knowledge in order to accurately read and diagnose the meters.
What is the job outlook? Because growing numbers of utility companies now use Automatic Meter Reader (AMR) systems, there is not as much need for meter readers as in the past. For this reason, employment of meter readers will likely decline dramatically in the future, at a predicted rate of 20 percent over the next decade. However, utility companies will continue to hire some meter readers and replace those who leave the field for other jobs.
How do I break into this field? If you want to find a job as a meter reader, you should expect competition because fewer meter-reader jobs are available. But with persistence, you should be able to find a meter-reader job. The key is to check the classified ads regularly, because new positions may open up daily. In addition to newspaper classifieds, use online search engines regularly. You may also want to note the utility companies in your area and visit their websites for employment information. If you lack experience, you may want to take a different job in the field that will help you gain knowledge and increase your exposure to meters—on your resume, this will show prospective companies that you’re serious about the field.