A licensed Professional Engineer in New York State, Amato spent seven years in industry working in various project engineering capacities before returning to graduate school. He holds degrees in mathematics and mechanical engineering from Syracuse University (B.S./B.S., 1976), and degrees in English from University at Albany (M.A., 1986, Doctor of Arts, 1989). Amato is the author of nine books, including a memoir and two novels, and numerous essays and reviews. With his frequent writing partner, Kass Fleisher, he's written a full-length play and several screenplays (none of which have been produced to date). Since 2003, Amato has taught writing and literature at Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois. He's the production manager at Steerage Press.