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Career Story: Principal Corrosion Engineer For A Public Utility

Principal Corrosion Engineer For A Public Utility

Job Title: Principal Corrosion Engineer - New England

Type of Company: I work for a public utility which distributes natural gas to homes and businesses.

Education: BS, Industrial Technology, UMass-Lowell

Previous Experience: I have done this job since I was a senior in high school.

Job Tasks: A corrosion engineer in the natural gas industry is primarily responsible for protecting steel pipelines from corrosion. We are required to do this by the federal government for all steel gas mains installed on or after 8/1/1971. We have one year to have the pipeline cathodically protected and have to test the pipe annually to make sure the protection's intact. This has to be done for every pipe in service. We use both in-house technicians and contractors to do the testing; they have to have passed an operator qualifications test in order to perform the work -- another government mandate. We also have to inspect all piping that is exposed to the atmosphere once every three years, not to exceed 39 months. We get audited periodically by both the state and federal government to make sure that we're adhering to the law.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of the job is being able to work outside and meet people.

The worst is getting the folks working in the field to understand corrosion control, and what we need every time a hole is opened up on a gas main that needs work. We supply a lot of training, but corrosion control is very technical and can be confusing to basic laborers in the field. Overall, though, it's a great and rewarding job.

Job Tips: Stay in school and get your college degree, but even before college, be sure to apply yourself in high school. I didn't realize how much my job required a thorough knowledge of both math and English. I have learned along the way, but wish I'd worked harder in school. In the future, of course, computer skills are going to be a must in this industry; words and phrases like "field data capture," "remote monitoring," "desktop applications," "email" etc. are on everyone's lips and they're an everyday part of the job. At the moment, however, there is only one college (in Ohio) that offers a corrosion degree.

Additional Thoughts: One of the most important personal qualities you will need is an ability to communicate. Face-to-face communication is very important. Don't hide behind an email or a voice mail; get right out there and discuss issues, concerns and recommendations one-on-one.

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