How to Become a Boiler Engineer

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Using a vast array of tools and equipment, boiler engineers (sometimes called station engineers or boiler operators) are charged with overseeing a building's heating and cooling systems. This may entail controlling and repairing boilers, pumps, compressors and other heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems. Many engineers began their careers as mechanics or helpers and worked their way up the ranks. Requirements vary from state-to-state, but they generally include at least a high school diploma coupled with a period of on-site training. Many states also require licensure to practice; you may contact your state's regulatory agency for more information.

  • Graduate from high school, or GED, and enroll at an accredited college or university. While the latter step is not a prerequisite for most jobs, earning an advanced degree will ultimately benefit you in the long run: it will open up new job opportunities and make you a more viable candidate in some employers' minds. Major in mechanical engineering, and take math, computer science and chemistry coursework. Another consideration may be vocational training in areas such as computerized controls and instrumentation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

  • Receive practical experience through an entry-level position or apprenticeship. You will learn many relevant skills on the job, working under the supervision of a licensed boiler engineer. Apprenticeships, particularly, are critical; without one, employers will look for years of significant on-the-job experience before considering you for a position. They are offered through unions (such as the International Union of Operating Engineers) and companies, and generally extend over four years or 6,000 hours. Apprenticeships are generally divided into classroom instruction and on-site training.

  • Find out what your state's requirements for certification are. Generally, you will have to meet the age, residence and experience requirements. Oftentimes, you will also be called on to pass a certification exam. There are four or five engineering license classes (there are no national standards, rather these designations vary from state-to-state), with the prerequisite for advancement to the next class being a number of years spent working at a lower designation. A class signifies what level of responsibility you are able to take on, and what kinds of systems you are qualified to handle.

  • Enroll in a continuing-education program, which can be offered through a vocation school or college. This way you will remain on top of any industry-wide changes in procedures, regulations or equipment. Most larger companies will pay for skill-improvement training.

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  • Photo Credit Boilers, ladders and pipes at a power plant, image by Andrei Merkulov from Fotolia.com
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