How to Become a Stationary Engineer and Boiler Operator

The first of many central steam boiler plants that would become the backbone of New York Steam was completed in 1881 at Cortlandt, Dey, Greenwich, and Washington Streets in New York City. One of the first attempts at providing heating and hot water to a large group of customers, this century-old tangle of tubing, some 105 miles in length, still services 1,800 customers in the Manhattan area.

$52,140
High School or GED
None
Long-term
37,600
6%
2,300
Find Related CareersSOURCE: US Bureau of Labor Statistics
While easily one of the most grandiose examples of the proliferation of the boiler in the 19th and 20th centuries, large examples of the device can also be found as the central heating unit in all structures that use radiators for heat, while small boilers can be found in nearly every residential unit in the country for the purpose of hot water. Boilers are part of a class of machine known as stationary engine, a designation that also includes air-conditioning units, refrigeration units, pumps and compressors, generators, and turbines.

Given public utilities make heavy use of the stationary engine, there is a particularly robust market that deals in the inspection and maintenance of this class of machine. These professionals, known as stationary engineers or boiler operators, are responsible for maintaining logs of various gauge information displayed by a stationary engine, making adjustments in various feeds to ensure optimal performance, routine inspection of the integrity of the device as a whole, and repair or maintenance of the stationary engine should it break down or fall below a suitable functionality threshold.

Stationary Engineer and Boiler Operator Education

Given their classification as mechanical professions that do not require a great deal of engineering knowledge, particularly due to the professions’ propensity to be all about maintenance and operation rather than the more involved role of fabrication, a prospective stationary engineer or boiler operator only requires a high school diploma or GED to be ostensibly qualified to get started in the profession.

As with most professions of this sort, however, apprenticeships are the norm for those who seek a leg up on the competition. Sponsored by the International Union of Operating Engineers, these four-year apprenticeship programs include 8,000 hours of paid on-the-job training and 600 hours of technical instruction.

Advancement

Given its nature as a mechanical support role, a stationary engineer or boiler operator should expect to look after the sort of devices with which he is specialized for his entire career. As he progresses through his career, higher wages and perhaps a supervisory role will become available simply as a function of experience.

Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the professions of stationary engineer and boiler operator are expected to gain new slots at a much slower rate, an expected 1 to 6 percent, than the average industry, an expected 14 percent, from 2010 to 2020. While boilers and other stationary engines are by no means obsolete thanks to the fantastic expansion and heat capacity properties of common water, the sudden drop in manufacturing in the United States reduces the absolute number of buildings that require large boiler systems as part of their operation. Hospitals, utilities, and other, growing sectors are poised to post most of the gains that help to offset this drop in manufacturing.

Thanks to the boiler’s ability to proliferate throughout many industries, the role of stationary engineer or boiler operator is nearly impervious to total destruction; however, every move within the economy as a whole that removes the centralization of any industry is one that can damage the overall health of a support role designed to be a part of the operation of a large structure.

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