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Meter Readers, Utilities

Significant Points
  • Employment is expected to decline, as a result of new automated meter reading (AMR) systems that allow meters to be monitored and billed from a central point.
  • Most meter readers are employed by electric, gas, or water utilities or by local governments.
Nature of the Work

Meter readers read electric, gas, water, or steam consumption meters and record the volume used. They serve both residential and commercial consumers, either walking or driving along a designated route. Their duties include inspecting the meters and their connections for any defects or damage, supplying repair and maintenance workers with the necessary information to fix damaged meters, keeping track of the average usage, and recording reasons for any extreme fluctuations in volume.

Meter readers are constantly aware of any abnormal behavior or consumption that might indicate an unauthorized connection. They may turn off service for questionable behavior or nonpayment of charges, and they also are responsible for turning on service for new occupants. These workers usually keep records showing that the meters on which they have completed work have been serviced.

Working Conditions

Meter readers, who usually work 40 hours a week, work outdoors in all types of weather as they travel through communities and neighborhoods taking readings. The typical workweek is Monday through Friday.

Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement

Many meter readers are at the entry level and do not require more than a high school diploma. Employers, however, prefer to hire those familiar with computers and other electronic office and business equipment. Typing, recordkeeping, and other clerical skills also are important.

Utility meter readers usually work with a more experienced meter reader until they feel comfortable doing the job on their own. They learn how to read the meters and determine the consumption rate. They also must learn the route that they need to travel to read all their customers’ meters.

Advancement opportunities for meter readers vary with the place of employment.


Meter readers held about 50,000 jobs in 2004. About 44 percent were employed by electric, gas, and water utilities. Most of the rest were employed in local government, reading water meters or meters for other government-owned utilities.

Job Outlook

Employment of meter readers is expected to decline through 2014. New AMR systems allow meters to be monitored and billed from a central point, reducing the need for meter readers. However, because it will be many years before AMR systems can be implemented in all locations, there still will be some openings for meter readers, mainly to replace workers leaving the occupation.


Median annual earnings of utility meter readers in May 2004 were $29,440. The middle 50 percent earned between $23,000 and $38,890. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $18,550, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $47,830.

These workers usually receive the same benefits as most other workers. If uniforms are required, employers generally provide them or offer an allowance to purchase them.

Related Occupations

Other workers responsible for the distribution and control of utilities include power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers.

Sources of Additional Information

Information about job opportunities may be obtained from local employers and local offices of the State employment service.

  • Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition

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