Meter Reader  What They Do

Just the Facts

Meter Readers, Utilities Career Video

Insider Info

dot"I choose to read meters because I can do my work alone without any supervision. I get to walk from five to 10 miles every day and get paid for it. The only thing that I don't like is the frequent encounters with dogs, but I guess I am used to it now," says Jose Quirino of California.

dotMeter readers read gas, water, electric and steam usage meters for public utilities and private companies.

dotAutomatic meter reading (AMR) is a big issue affecting the field. But it is not yet too widespread. Some predict that there will always be a need for meter readers.

"Meter reading is a job that challenges decision-making abilities. You often have to make hundreds, if not thousands, of decisions every day," says Quirino.

Jim Teeter is a former manager of a meter reading department in California. He says that AMR is affecting the job in other ways.

"For the typical meter reader, there has been no direct job impact due to AMR, except those companies which have installed universal AMR," he says.

"But indirectly, as productivity standards are raised, many meter readers are required to read more meters or work longer hours. Also, at many companies, meter reading is more often now considered an entry-level position rather than a career."

dotIt is a profession that demands 100 percent accuracy. Misread meters can cost utilities (or their customers) big money. Good meter readers can read a meter accurately in five to 10 seconds. Basic math skills are helpful.

dotMeter readers record usage information in a handheld computer or a logbook. They also check for and report meter tampering and readings that are unusually low or high. They may have to discuss unusual readings with customers.

dotMeter readers generally work a 40-hour week. Contract workers can be part time.

dotYou have to be in good physical condition for this job. Meter readers need to drive a car or a bike, read street directions and walk long distances every day, even in bad weather. To reach the meters in different locations, a meter reader may need to bend or stand on a ladder, sometimes pushing heavy brush out of the way.

You can get dirty. Some meters are behind fences and need to be read from a distance, so good vision, including color perception, is required. You may need binoculars.

dotMost meter readers will mention problems with dogs as one of the things they don't like about their jobs. It's the biggest safety issue in the field. (Sometimes they also run into snakes, insects and even bears.) Some customers have been known to intentionally let dogs loose or harass meter readers when they are upset about their bills.

"The job has one of the higher injury rates in the utility industry," says Teeter.

Still, it's not all bad. "Meter reading is a great job for someone who wants to be on their own, be responsible for themselves, be outdoors all day enjoying nature and the elements and having mostly friendly contacts with customers," says Teeter. "Very few employees can enjoy a job with less supervision than a meter reader."

Just the Facts

Want a quick overview of what this career is about?Check out Just the Facts for simple lists of characteristics.

At a Glance

Figure out how much a customer is using a utility company's service

  • Automatic meter reading is a big issue affecting the field
  • Good meter readers can read a meter accurately in five to 10 seconds
  • You'll need a high school education and a valid driver's license