How to Become a Boiler Technician in 5 Steps

Find out the technical skills you'd need for a job in boiler maintenance and repair. Learn about education and training options, apprenticeships, licensure and salary potential for boiler technicians. Schools offering Welding degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Boiler Technician?

A boiler technician, also called a boiler operator, is a specialist who monitors and maintains boilers and their supporting pumps, motors and controls. You may also repair water treatment equipment and storage tanks or install parts upgrades, including boiler tubes and heating elements. Your specific duties include observing and recording readings from gauges and meters and adjusting fuel and fluid levels. You may also test water quality and add corrosion inhibitors, as well as inspect boilers, pipes and valves for leaks or malfunctions. Other duties may include replacing defective components and keeping maintenance logs.

Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma

A high school diploma or G.E.D. is the minimum level of education you need to become a boiler technician. Admission to an apprenticeship or college training program also requires a diploma. Algebra, physics, English and electronics courses are helpful in preparing you for the work of a technician.

Step 2: Consider an Apprenticeship Program

Apprenticeships are sponsored by local affiliates of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) and typically last four years. Although you might be able to find programs for boiler technicians, most are for the larger category of stationary engineers. They consist of 6,000-8,000 hours of on-the-job training and 600-792 hours of classroom instruction. Dedicated boiler-technician programs may be shorter, requiring 4,000 training hours and a minimum of 576 hours of classroom instruction. Courses cover boiler types, operation, maintenance and safety. Automatic controls and plant management are other possible courses topics.

Step 3: Earn a Technical Diploma or Associate's Degree

Because openings in apprenticeship programs are limited, you could study independently and then gain experience working as an assistant or helper until you qualify for promotion to technician. Technical diploma programs in power engineering and stationary engineer associate's degree programs both provide you with classroom education in boiler operation. Course content includes technical math, blueprint reading, power controls, metering and hydraulics. Diplomas may be earned in 1-2 years and associate's degrees may be earned in two years.

Step 4: Obtain a License

States or municipalities within a state may require you to have a boiler technician license. Separate licenses are often established for low-pressure and high-pressure boilers. Typically you must be a state or area resident, 18 years old or older and have boiler operator experience to be eligible for the licensing exam. A passing score is usually at least 70%. Licenses are valid for 1-3 years.

Step 5: Obtain a Job

According to the IUOE, your potential employers include hospitals, schools, utilities, government agencies and residential, commercial and industrial buildings (www.iuoe.org). Figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that approximately 41,600 stationary engineers and boiler technicians were employed in 2008, which was projected to rise by five percent to 43,800 by 2018 (www.bls.gov). As of May 2010 employment had declined to 35,800.

Demand for your services will arise from growth in the quantity of installed boiler equipment, offset by improvements in automation that make boiler equipment more reliable and less in need of maintenance. The median annual salary of boiler technicians in May 2010 was $52,140, the BLS reported.

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