Boiler operators may enter the field through apprenticeships. They require mechanical aptitude, manual dexterity, and math skills. The average annual salary for these positions is about $60,000.
Boiler operators are responsible for maintaining heating systems in large buildings in the boiler, engine, and mechanical rooms. They handle equipment such as low-pressure boilers, high-pressure boilers, power boilers, steam boilers, and hot water heating systems. It is required that boiler operators to be licensed by the state and local government in order to work. A high school diploma is required and an apprenticeship program teaches a prospective boiler operator the trade.
|Required Education||High school diploma|
|Other Requirements||Apprenticeship program; state and local licensure sometimes necessary|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||1% (slower than average)*|
|Average Salary (2015)||$60,480*|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
Job Description of a Boiler Operator
Boiler operators typically work in facilities like power plants or boiler, engine, and mechanical rooms. They can be responsible for all of the systems that generate heat or electricity in a facility. Some of the equipment that they are responsible for includes:
- Low-pressure boilers
- High-pressure boilers
- Power boilers
- Steam boilers
- Hot water heating systems
Boiler operators will make manual adjustments to this equipment during their servicing. They are often on their feet, but they also have to be physically fit to crawl inside boilers during their inspections. Oftentimes, they will work in teams or under supervision, especially early in their career. They typically work a 40-hour week, which can include weekends and holidays.
Boiler operators must perform routine maintenance on the equipment and systems in a facility as part of their job. They will use hand or power tools when performing tasks like replacing defective valves, filters, or steam gauges on a heating system. Corrosive deposits can damage a boiler system, so operators test the boiler water and balance it with chemicals, if needed. Keeping safety at the forefront, boiler operators will watch the system during operation and attend to any additional problems. Once all is in working order, they will record their service data in logs.
On the job, they can be exposed to extreme temperatures, electric shock, and loud noises. Due to the potentially hazardous conditions, they follow strict safety procedures during their work. Despite this, they still have a fairly high rate of injuries on the job, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov).
In addition to having general manual dexterity, basic math knowledge, and mechanical aptitude, boiler operators usually need to be licensed by the state and local government. Licensing applicants must pass a written examination, have a certain amount of experience (such as through an apprenticeship program), reside in the area in which they wish to work, and be at least 18 years old. Requirements vary by state jurisdiction, so operators must often pass an exam for a new license whenever they move or desire to work in a new state.
There are several classes of stationary engineering licenses that an operator can attain. For instance, the state of Minnesota offers ten different commercial licenses for boiler operators, including the chief engineer and special engineer licenses. Outside of the hobby level, the licensure levels include classes A, B, and C, signifying different amounts of skill and experience.
In Oklahoma, there are four class levels of license, known as first class through fourth class. Each requires a certain amount of documented on-the-job training, a passing score on a written exam and, in the case of the supervisory level, a written letter of recommendation. Once achieved in either state mentioned, the license is valid for two years before renewal is required.
Lower-level licensing might only require a high school education and working for a certain length of time. However, an operator may be required to work under supervision most of the time at a lower level. Achieving a top-level license allows an operator to supervise others, operate all types of equipment and even run an entire facility.
Salary Info and Job Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual salary earned by stationary engineers and boiler operators was $60,480 in May 2015. The employment of such workers is expected to grow by one percent between 2014 and 2024, per the BLS.
Boiler operators need only a high school diploma or GED and may learn their trade though an apprenticeship program. They may need state licensing, with requirements varying by state. The job outlook for boiler operators is expected to be slower than average.