"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.
Meter readers read gas, water, electric and steam usage meters for public
utilities and private companies.
Automatic 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 reading is a job that challenges decision-making abilities. You
often have to make hundreds, if not thousands, of decisions every day," says
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."
It 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.
Meter 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.
Meter readers generally work a 40-hour week. Contract workers can be part
You 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
Most 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
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."