Boiler operators, known as stationary engineers operate the machinery used in the generation of heat, ventilation and power. An associate's degree in stationary engineering covers the operation, maintenance and repair of heavy heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) machines, many of which utilize boilers. Students learn about electrical and plumbing systems, high pressure boilers, hot water boilers, commercial refrigeration, sheet metal fabrication, hydraulics, blueprint reading and digital process controls. These programs also incorporate general education training in technical math, composition, computer applications and physical science. An associate's degree in stationary engineering can put an aspiring boiler operator ahead of the pack.
Prerequisites for these programs include a high school diploma or GED.
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Associate's Degrees in Stationary Engineering
Coursework generally focuses on the equipment used and how to install and repair them. Topics may be grouped into areas such as heating units, ventilation systems and air conditioning systems, industrial technology and environmental safety. Communication and leadership training classes may also be offered. Common topics include:
- Industrial electricity
- Blueprint reading
- Refrigeration and power engineering
- Steam boilers
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects slow employment growth for stationary engineers and boiler operators (www.bls.gov). Between 2014 and 2024, job growth for stationary engineers and boiler operators will increase by 1%. The BLS also noted that most employment gains will come from the need for boiler operators in large commercial and industrial buildings.
In May 2015, most stationary engineers and boiler operators worked for hospitals, local government, and colleges, universities and professional schools, according to the BLS. The median annual wage for all stationary engineers and boiler operators during this period was $58,530.
Continuing Education Information
Individuals who want to work as boiler technicians need to have a state license. The BLS reported that stationary engineers must be at least 18 years old, have work experience and be a local resident to apply for a state license. Licensing programs are available and typically consist of 2-3 courses which cover similar topics to associate degree programs such as boiler maintenance, power engineering and energy conversion processes. Employer-paid continuing education programs may be available to stationary engineers and boiler operators. This training is offered so individuals may learn about new types of machinery used in the industry.
Individuals working as boiler technicians may seek certification from professional and industry associations to demonstrate competency in their skills and help prepare them for state licensing. For example, the National Association of Power Engineers Inc., an education-focused industry group, offers certification for basic boiler and advanced boiler operators and for air conditioner refrigeration operator (www.powerengineers.com).
Boiler technology training is available through associate's degree programs in stationary engineering, though many operators receive training on the job. No matter how boiler operators learn the skills needed for their profession, all technicians who work with boilers must become licensed by their state before working professionally.