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Stationary Engineers

At a Glance

  • Run machines like steam engines and generators
  • Keep detailed records
  • Work alone most of the time
  • May work rotating shifts
  • Usually train on the job
  • Usually need a license

Career summary

Stationary engineers operate and maintain large heating and ventilation systems such as steam engines and boilers.

Engineers operate engines, boilers, and generators. They check meters, gauges, and computerized controls. They monitor water, chemical, and fuel levels and make adjustments as necessary.

Stationary engineers also maintain and repair equipment. They inspect equipment to make sure it is running efficiently. They lubricate parts and replace filters. They test boiler water and add chemicals to stop harmful deposits. They use hand and power tools when making repairs.

Engineers regularly check safety devices and monitor air quality.

Stationary engineers keep records of breakdowns, repairs, fuel used, and other information about the equipment.

In large buildings, stationary engineers may be in charge of all mechanical systems. They sometimes use computers or manual controls to monitor some of these systems. They may also supervise workers, such as assistant boiler engineers and boiler tenders. Some engineers do carpentry, plumbing, and electrical repairs.

Related careers

This career is part of the Architecture and Construction cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Military careers

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to stationary engineers.

Common work activities

Stationary engineers perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, stationary engineers:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Stationary engineers frequently:

It is important for stationary engineers to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for stationary engineers to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Stationary engineers need to:


Reason and problem solve

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with things

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a stationary engineer, you typically need to:

Education after high school

No formal education is required beyond high school.

On-the-job training

Many stationary engineers learn their skills informally on the job. You learn skills from an experienced worker. Training usually takes several years.

Military training

Some branches of the military train people to be powerhouse mechanics. Training lasts 12 to 24 weeks, depending on your specialty. Additional training occurs on the job.

Washington apprenticeships

For further information on apprenticeships in Washington, contact:

Washington State Department of Labor and Industries
Apprenticeship Program (external link)

PO Box 44530
Olympia, WA 98504-4530

#ok 4/23/08 lh & 4/9/09, cj. Info ok 5/6/13, 1/31/17, 3/12/19 cj.

Helpful high school courses

You should take a general high school curriculum that meets the state's graduation requirements. You will be required to take both math and science classes to graduate.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Employers usually require stationary engineers to have a high school diploma or equivalent. They may also require a license and previous experience operating and maintaining equipment.

Employers look for applicants who are in good physical condition and have good mechanical skills. They also look for applicants who like keeping track of details and can follow a maintenance schedule. In addition, employers look for people who can work without much supervision.

Many employers prefer applicants who have completed a formal apprenticeship or received training at a community or technical college. Some employers prefer workers with some college education.


Take courses in chemistry, physics, blueprint reading, electricity, plumbing, welding, mechanics, and engineering.

Costs to workers

Some stationary engineers are required to join a union and pay an initiation fee and monthly dues.


The cities of Seattle and Spokane have laws requiring the licensing of stationary engineers. There are three main types of licenses: steam, refrigeration, and CFC. (CFC stands for chlorofluorocarbons, chemicals used in heating and cooling systems. The CFC license is a federal requirement.) Licensing requirements vary depending on job duties and the geographical location of the job. Stationary engineers working in the Seattle or Spokane area should contact the appropriate city government for licensing requirements.

#Deleted reference to Tacoma since Leo noted not applicable to that jurisdiction, 3/12/19 cj. 2/13/20 see:  https://www.jurisdictions.steamforum.com/ipa/Washington.asp

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Stationary engineers and boiler operators (SOC 51-8021)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $26.21 $28.75 $33.01 $38.42 $45.24
Monthly $4,542 $4,982 $5,721 $6,658 $7,840
Yearly $54,510 $59,800 $68,670 $79,910 $94,100
    Bellingham Hourly $27.02 $28.77 $31.68 $35.68 $39.72
Monthly $4,683 $4,986 $5,490 $6,183 $6,883
Yearly $56,217 $59,846 $65,895 $74,201 $82,612
    Clarkston-Lewiston Hourly $19.56 $22.00 $25.74 $30.05 $34.88
Monthly $3,390 $3,813 $4,461 $5,208 $6,045
Yearly $40,667 $45,752 $53,543 $62,512 $72,547
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $29.64 $33.87 $37.34 $40.82 $46.49
Monthly $5,137 $5,870 $6,471 $7,074 $8,057
Yearly $61,656 $70,439 $77,674 $84,908 $96,686
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $28.17 $30.64 $35.79 $45.50 $49.80
Monthly $4,882 $5,310 $6,202 $7,885 $8,630
Yearly $58,586 $63,741 $74,434 $94,630 $103,593
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $22.05 $27.72 $30.18 $35.05 $41.01
Monthly $3,821 $4,804 $5,230 $6,074 $7,107
Yearly $45,874 $57,660 $62,784 $72,914 $85,288
    Vancouver Hourly $24.38 $28.84 $34.00 $37.76 $40.04
Monthly $4,225 $4,998 $5,892 $6,544 $6,939
Yearly $50,709 $59,990 $70,726 $78,540 $83,298
    Walla Walla Hourly $27.34 $27.91 $29.78 $30.63 $34.58
Monthly $4,738 $4,837 $5,161 $5,308 $5,993
Yearly $56,864 $58,055 $61,944 $63,727 $71,933
United States Hourly $17.57 $22.97 $29.06 $36.80 $46.47
Monthly $3,045 $3,981 $5,036 $6,377 $8,053
Yearly $36,550 $47,780 $60,440 $76,550 $96,660

Wages vary by employer and area of the country. The type of equipment operated and the engineer's experience also affect wages.

Stationary engineers who work full time usually receive benefits. Typical benefits include health insurance, paid vacation, and sick leave. Some employers also provide a retirement plan. Some pay for job-related classes.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Stationary Engineers and Boiler Operators (SOC 51-8021)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 552 4.2% 16.1% 62
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 10 0.0% 13.4% 1
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 28 7.1% 8.6% 3
    Benton and Franklin Counties 92 -2.2% 15.0% 8
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 42 -9.5% 11.9% 3
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 76 -2.6% 15.2% 7
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 12 0.0% 14.1% 1
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 20 -5.0% 14.6% 2
    King County 124 9.7% 19.6% 16
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 14 0.0% 13.8% 1
    Pierce County 81 4.9% 15.2% 9
    Snohomish County 14 0.0% 12.4% 1
    Spokane County 63 7.9% 13.9% 7
United States 33,700 2.7% 5.2% 3,700

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation is growing slower than average. Workers will be needed for routine maintenance and to ensure that the equipment is working properly. Construction of large buildings, especially health care facilities, will spur demand.

Job prospects are best for those who have apprenticeship training or who are licensed before they look for a job.

Other resources

National Association of Power Engineers (external link)
1 Springfield Street, Suite 1
Chicopee, MA 01013
North America's Building Trades Unions (NABTU) (external link)
815 16th ST, NW, Suite 600
Washington, D.C. 20006


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Holland occupational cluster