Bureau of Labor Statistics

Stationary Engineers and Boiler Operators

stationary engineers and boiler operators image
Stationary engineers and boiler operators manage utility or industrial equipment such as boilers, stationary engines, and generators.
Quick Facts: Stationary Engineers and Boiler Operators
2020 Median Pay $64,680 per year
$31.09 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Long-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2019 34,400
Job Outlook, 2019-29 2% (Slower than average)
Employment Change, 2019-29 800

Summary

What Stationary Engineers and Boiler Operators Do

Stationary engineers and boiler operators control stationary engines, boilers, or other mechanical equipment.

Work Environment

The majority of stationary engineers and boiler operators work in manufacturing, government, educational services, and hospitals. Those who work in facilities that operate around the clock often work evenings and weekends. Shift work also is common.

How to Become a Stationary Engineer or Boiler Operator

Stationary engineers and boiler operators need at least a high school diploma or equivalent and are trained either on the job or through an apprenticeship program. Many employers require stationary engineers and boiler operators to demonstrate competency through licenses or company-specific exams before they are allowed to operate equipment without supervision.

Pay

The median annual wage for stationary engineers and boiler operators was $64,680 in May 2020.

Job Outlook

Employment of stationary engineers and boiler operators is projected to grow 2 percent from 2019 to 2029, slower than the average for all occupations. Those with apprenticeship training should have the best job opportunities.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for stationary engineers and boiler operators.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of stationary engineers and boiler operators with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about stationary engineers and boiler operators by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Stationary Engineers and Boiler Operators Do

Stationary engineers and boiler operators
Stationary engineers and boiler operators repair malfunctioning equipment.

Stationary engineers and boiler operators control stationary engines, boilers, or other mechanical equipment to provide utilities for buildings or for industrial purposes.

Duties

Stationary engineers and boiler operators typically do the following:

  • Operate engines, boilers, and auxiliary equipment
  • Read gauges, meters, and charts to track boiler operations
  • Monitor boiler water, chemical, and fuel levels
  • Activate valves to change the amount of water, air, and fuel in boilers
  • Fire coal furnaces or feed boilers, using gas feeds or oil pumps
  • Inspect equipment to ensure that it is operating efficiently
  • Check safety devices routinely
  • Record data and keep logs of operation, maintenance, and safety activity

Most large commercial facilities have extensive heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems that maintain comfortable temperatures all year long. Industrial plants often have additional facilities to provide electrical power, steam, or other services. Stationary engineers and boiler operators control and maintain boilers, air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment, turbines, generators, pumps, and compressors.

Stationary engineers and boiler operators start up, regulate, repair, and shut down equipment. They monitor meters, gauges, and computerized controls to ensure that equipment operates safely and within established limits. They use sophisticated electrical and electronic test equipment to service, troubleshoot, repair, and monitor heating, cooling, and ventilation systems.

Stationary engineers and boiler operators also perform routine maintenance. They may completely overhaul or replace defective valves, gaskets, or bearings. In addition, they lubricate moving parts, replace filters, and remove soot and corrosion that can make a boiler less efficient.

Work Environment

Stationary engineers and boiler operators
Stationary engineers and boiler operators typically work in boiler rooms and mechanical rooms.

Stationary engineers and boiler operators held about 34,400 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of stationary engineers and boiler operators were as follows:

Manufacturing 19%
Educational services; state, local, and private 17
Hospitals; state, local, and private 16
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 10
State government, excluding education and hospitals 7

In a large building or industrial plant, a senior stationary engineer or boiler operator may be in charge of all mechanical systems in the building and may supervise a team of assistant stationary engineers, assistant boiler tenders, and other operators or mechanics.

In small buildings, there may be only one stationary engineer or boiler operator who operates and maintains all of the systems.

Some stationary engineers and boiler operators are exposed to high temperatures, dust, dirt, and loud noise from the equipment. Maintenance duties may require contact with oil, grease, and smoke.

Workers spend much of their time on their feet. They also may have to crawl inside boilers and work while crouched, or kneel to inspect, clean, or repair equipment.

Injuries and Illnesses

Stationary engineers and boiler operators risk injury on the job. They must follow procedures to guard against burns, electric shock, noise, dangerous moving parts, and exposure to hazardous materials.

Work Schedules

Most stationary engineers and boiler operators work full time during regular business hours. In facilities that operate around the clock, engineers and operators may work either one of three 8-hour shifts or one of two 12-hour shifts on a rotating basis. Because buildings such as hospitals are open 365 days a year and depend on the steam generated by boilers and other machines, many of these workers must work weekends and holidays.

How to Become a Stationary Engineer or Boiler Operator

Stationary engineers and boiler operators
Stationary engineers and boiler operators continue training throughout their career.

Stationary engineers and boiler operators typically need a high school diploma or equivalent and are trained either on the job or through an apprenticeship program. Many employers require stationary engineers and boiler operators to demonstrate competency through licenses or company-specific exams before they are allowed to operate equipment without supervision.

Education

Stationary engineers and boiler operators need at least a high school diploma. Students should take courses in math, science, and mechanical and technical subjects.

With the growing complexity of the work, vocational school or college courses may benefit workers trying to advance in the occupation.

Training

Stationary engineers and boiler operators typically learn their work through long-term on-the-job training under the supervision of an experienced engineer or operator. Trainees are assigned basic tasks, such as monitoring the temperatures and pressures in the heating and cooling systems and low-pressure boilers. After they demonstrate competence in basic tasks, trainees move on to more complicated tasks, such as the repair of cracks or ruptured tubes for high-pressure boilers.

Some stationary engineers and boiler operators complete apprenticeship programs sponsored by the International Union of Operating Engineers. Apprenticeships usually last 4 years, include 8,000 hours of on-the-job training, and require 600 hours of technical instruction. Apprentices learn about operating and maintaining equipment; using controls and balancing heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems; safety; electricity; and air quality. Employers may prefer to hire these workers because they usually require considerably less on-the-job training. However, because of the limited number of apprenticeship programs, employers often have difficulty finding workers who have completed one.

Experienced stationary engineers and boiler operators update their skills regularly through training, especially when new equipment is introduced or when regulations change.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Some state and local governments require licensure for stationary engineers and boiler operators. These governments typically have several classes of stationary engineer and boiler operator licenses. Each class specifies the type and size of equipment the engineer is permitted to operate without supervision. Many employers require stationary engineers and boiler operators to demonstrate competency through licenses or company-specific exams before they are allowed to operate the equipment without supervision.

A top-level engineer or operator is qualified to run a large facility, supervise others, and operate equipment of all types and capacities. Engineers and operators with licenses below this level are limited in the types or capacities of equipment they may operate without supervision.

Applicants for licensure usually must meet experience requirements and pass a written exam. In some cases, employers may require that workers be licensed before starting the job. A stationary engineer or boiler operator who moves from one state or city to another may have to pass an examination for a new license because of regional differences in licensing requirements.

Advancement

Generally, stationary engineers and boiler operators can advance as they become qualified to operate larger, more powerful, and more varied equipment by obtaining higher class licenses. In jurisdictions where licenses are not required, workers usually advance by taking company-administered exams, ensuring a level of knowledge needed to operate different types of boilers safely.

Important Qualities 

Detail oriented. Stationary engineers and boiler operators monitor intricate machinery, gauges, and meters to ensure that everything is operating properly.

Dexterity. Stationary engineers and boiler operators must use precise motions to control or repair machines. They grasp tools and use their hands to perform many tasks.

Mechanical skills. Stationary engineers and boiler operators must know how to use tools and work with machines. They must be able to repair, maintain, and operate equipment.

Problem-solving skills. Stationary engineers and boiler operators must figure out how things work and quickly solve problems that arise with equipment or controls.

Pay

Stationary Engineers and Boiler Operators

Median annual wages, May 2020

Stationary engineers and boiler operators

$64,680

Plant and system operators

$62,540

Total, all occupations

$41,950

 

The median annual wage for stationary engineers and boiler operators was $64,680 in May 2020. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $40,680, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $103,580.

In May 2020, the median annual wages for stationary engineers and boiler operators in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Local government, excluding education and hospitals $89,330
State government, excluding education and hospitals 67,480
Hospitals; state, local, and private 66,830
Manufacturing 59,900
Educational services; state, local, and private 59,200

Most stationary engineers and boiler operators work full time. In facilities that operate around the clock, engineers and operators may work either one of three 8-hour shifts or one of two 12-hour shifts on a rotating basis. Because buildings such as hospitals are open 365 days a year and depend on the steam generated by boilers and other machines, many of these workers must work weekends and holidays.

Job Outlook

Stationary Engineers and Boiler Operators

Percent change in employment, projected 2019-29

Total, all occupations

4%

Stationary engineers and boiler operators

2%

Plant and system operators

-5%

 

Employment of stationary engineers and boiler operators is projected to grow 2 percent from 2019 to 2029, slower than the average for all occupations.

Steam is an important and cost-effective way to fuel machinery and to provide utilities in large facilities. Workers will be needed for routine maintenance and to ensure that the equipment is working properly.

Job Prospects

Some job openings for stationary engineers and boiler operators are expected to arise from the need to replace workers who leave the occupation or the labor force each year.

Job opportunities should be best for those with apprenticeship training.

Employment projections data for stationary engineers and boiler operators, 2019-29

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Occupational Title

Stationary engineers and boiler operators

SOC Code51-8021
Employment, 201934,400
Projected Employment, 202935,100
Percent Change, 2019-292
Numeric Change, 2019-29800
Employment by IndustryGet data

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OEWS data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of stationary engineers and boiler operators.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2020 MEDIAN PAY
General maintenance and repair workers

General Maintenance and Repair Workers

General maintenance and repair workers fix and maintain machines, mechanical equipment, and buildings.

High school diploma or equivalent $40,850
Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration and mechanics and installers

Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers

Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers work on heating, ventilation, cooling, and refrigeration systems.

Postsecondary nondegree award $50,590
Industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance workers

Industrial Machinery Mechanics, Machinery Maintenance Workers, and Millwrights

Industrial machinery mechanics, machinery maintenance workers, and millwrights install, maintain, and repair factory equipment and other industrial machinery.

High school diploma or equivalent $54,920
Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers

Power Plant Operators, Distributors, and Dispatchers

Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers control the systems that generate and distribute electric power.

High school diploma or equivalent $89,090
Water and liquid waste treatment plant and system operators

Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant and System Operators

Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators manage a system of machines to transfer or treat water or wastewater.

High school diploma or equivalent $49,090
Boilermakers

Boilermakers

Boilermakers assemble, install, maintain, and repair boilers, closed vats, and other large vessels or containers that hold liquids and gases.

High school diploma or equivalent $65,360
Water transportation occupations

Water Transportation Workers

Water transportation workers operate and maintain vessels that take cargo and people over water.

See How to Become One $59,250

Contacts for More Info

For information about apprenticeships, vocational training, and job opportunities, visit

Information about apprenticeships is also available from the U.S. Department of Labor’s toll-free help line, (877) 872-5627; or the Employment and Training Administration.

For more information about training or becoming a stationary engineer or boiler operator, visit

National Association of Power Engineers, Inc.

O*NET

Stationary Engineers and Boiler Operators

Last Modified Date: Friday, April 9, 2021

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Stationary Engineers and Boiler Operators,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/stationary-engineers-and-boiler-operators.htm (visited May 18, 2021).

Telephone: 1-202-691-5700 www.bls.gov/ooh Contact OOH

View this page on regular www.bls.gov

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