Job duties of stationary engineers
Stationary engineers operate and maintain the stationary boilers that control the heating, air-conditioning, refrigeration, and ventilation systems of buildings and other facilities. They are responsible for starting up, regulating, repairing, and shutting down the boilers and other equipment. They may also regulate the flow of fuel and air into the boilers as well as maintain the logs of operation and maintenance. In addition to maintaining boilers, stationary engineers may also be responsible for maintaining steam engines, generators, motors and turbines (BLS.gov/ooh, 2012).
Stationary engineers also perform routine maintenance on the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems, including lubricating moving parts, replacing filters, and removing soot and corrosion. as well as completely overhauling a broken or defective boiler. They may test boiler water and add chemicals to prevent buildup of harmful deposits. In large buildings, stationary engineers may oversee the entire mechanical system of the building, supervising the work of assistants, operators, tenders, and mechanics.
Skills, training and education for stationary engineers
Stationary engineers typically need a high school diploma and often begin their careers in positions as mechanics or helpers, where they receive on-the-job training by experienced engineers. Some have completed an apprenticeship program sponsored by the International Union of Operating Engineers. Such an apprenticeship program generally last around four years and may include 8,000 hours of on-the-job training and 600 hours of technical education. According to the BLS, some employers reward employees for pursuing continued education or skills improvement (BLS.gov/ooh, 2012).
On-the-job training programs and classes at technical schools typically teach stationary engineers about heating, ventilation, air- conditioning and refrigeration (HVACR) systems, as well as how to perform work on these systems safely. Some state and local governments may require stationary engineers to be licensed, which may include taking a licensure class in addition to passing an examination. Usually there are several classes of stationary engineer and boiler operator licenses, with each class specifying the type and size of equipment permitted to be operated by the engineer without supervision (BLS.gov/ooh, 2012).
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, stationary engineers will likely benefit from having strong mechanical, technical, and problem-solving skills, as well as good manual dexterity (BLS.gov/ooh, 2012).
Job outlook for stationary engineers
The BLS projects the employment growth of stationary engineers and boiler operators may increase up to 6 percent from 2010 to 2020, nationally, which is slower than average for all occupations (BLS.gov/ooh, 2012). Growth will come from continuing commercial and industrial development, which will increase the number of buildings housing stationary engines and boiler systems. Faster employment growth is projected in educational services and hospitals, since more buildings are being built to accommodate the increasing populations needing these services. Fewer jobs are expected to be added in manufacturing and government, two sectors experiencing slower or declining employment growth (BLS.gov/ooh, 2012).
As of May 2011, stationary engineers and boiler operators earned a national median annual wage of $53,070, with the highest and lowest 10 percent earning $33,050 and $75,210, respectively (BLS.gov/oes, 2012). During that same year, there were 34,580 stationary engineers and boiler operators employed in the U.S. nationally, with the highest employment levels in New York, California, and Illinois.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Stationary Engineers and Boiler Operators, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/stationary-engineers-and-boiler-operators.htm
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2011, Stationary Engineers and Boiler Operators, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes518021.htm
International Union of Operating Engineers, 2010, http://www.iuoe.org/