What Stationary Engineers and Boiler Operators Do
Stationary engineers and boiler operators control stationary engines, boilers, or other mechanical equipment.
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.
The median annual wage for stationary engineers and boiler operators was $62,150 in May 2019.
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.
Stationary engineers and boiler operators control stationary engines, boilers, or other mechanical equipment to provide utilities for buildings or for industrial purposes.
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.
Stationary engineers and boiler operators held about 34,400 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of stationary engineers and boiler operators were as follows:
|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.
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.
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||Median Annual Pay, May 2019|
General Maintenance and Repair Workers
General maintenance and repair workers fix and maintain machines, mechanical equipment, and buildings.
|High school diploma or equivalent||$39,080|
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||$48,730|
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||$52,860|
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||$85,950|
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||$47,760|
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||$63,100|
Water transportation workers operate and maintain vessels that take cargo and people over water.
|See How to Become One||$57,330|
For information about apprenticeships, vocational training, and job opportunities, visit
- State employment service offices
- Local chapters of the International Union of Operating Engineers
- Vocational schools
- State and local licensing agencies
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
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 ).