How to Become a Stationary Engineer

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Most large buildings such as offices, warehouses, shopping centers, and other commercial facilities have extensive systems that provide ventilation, heat, and air-conditioning. Trained professionals are required to control and maintain these systems. This is the job of stationary engineers.

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What does a stationary engineer do?

Stationary engineers operate and maintain a variety of systems such as boilers, generators, air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment, turbines, diesel engines, compressors, condensers, and pumps. They install, turn on, maintain, repair, and shut down equipment and make sure that it is functioning properly and safely. They monitor computerized controls, meters, and gauges and perform the necessary adjustments. They often use computers to operate and monitor systems from a central location. Stationary engineers also perform routine maintenance. They replace filters, clean and lubricate parts, test water, check air quality, and add chemicals to prevent corrosion and deposits. They also keep detailed records of the operation and maintenance of systems and equipment.

What kind of training does a stationary engineer need?

Stationary engineers need at least a high school diploma. Many learn their skills through on the job training and other complete formal training or apprenticeship programs. The programs combine classroom instruction and practical experience. Students typically take courses in elementary physics, electricity, boiler design and operation, pneumatics, air-conditioning, refrigeration, and electronics. Many stationary engineers start their careers in entry-level positions such as helpers and move into engineer positions as they gain experience and skills. Many employers require stationary engineers to complete continuing education courses. Most states require stationary engineers to be licensed. Licensing requirements vary, but usually include minimum residency and experience requirements and passing an examination.

What are the prospects for a career as a stationary engineer?

Employment of stationary engineers is expected to grow more slowly than average for all professions, increasing 3% from 2006 to 2016 (1). The increase of automated systems will contribute to slow job growth.

Job prospects should be fair with strong competition. Some job openings will stem from the need to replace stationary engineers that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons. Stationary engineers with advanced training and experience with computerized systems will have the best job opportunities.

How much do stationary engineers make?

As of November 2009, the middle 50% of stationary engineers earn annual salaries between $42,366 and $56,335. The top 10% earn annual salaries of more than $63,470 (2).

A career as a stationary engineer is a great choice for individuals interested in operating and maintaining a variety of extensive commercial systems. Stationary engineers must be in good physical condition and have manual dexterity and mechanical aptitude. They must be able to handle hazardous equipment and follow all the safety precautions at all times. They must also be able to work in less desirable and sometimes uncomfortable conditions. Stationary engineers must have excellent communication skills and be able to work effectively independently as well as part of a team.

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