Boiler Mechanic Training and Career Information
Boiler mechanics repair and maintain boilers and other pressure vessel systems. Technical knowledge is required to work on these potentially dangerous, pressurized heating systems. A 4-year formal apprenticeship often serves as entry-level training in the field.
Training Information for Boiler Mechanics
Working with boilermaker tools and equipment requires physical strength and manual dexterity, and mechanics often are exposed to safety and health hazards while performing repairs. Boiler mechanics must uphold state laws regarding safe operations. Federal regulations, such as the Clean Air Act, require companies to ensure healthy emissions levels, and government policies continue to support the development of more environmentally friendly systems to reduce pollution.
Some engineering and trade schools offer week-long courses in boiler operation and maintenance. Additionally, semester-long courses in stationary steam engineering may be available to individuals preparing for state boilermakers' license exams.
The National Board of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors also offers certificate courses, such as a boiler repair seminar and a welding workshop (www.nationalboard.org). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) maintains that more apprenticeship opportunities may be available to those who have completed a welding training program (www.bls.gov).
Trade unions and employers offer formal apprenticeships that usually last four years. Apprentices receive comprehensive training that includes both field and classwork. According to the BLS, apprenticeships allow boiler mechanics to earn income while they train for a period of 6,000 hours or more. Apprentices receive hands-on training supervised by experienced boiler mechanics. They learn the physical aspects of the job while working on repairs and applying knowledge gained in the classroom.
In class, apprentices might learn to read blueprints, set up assemblies and weld plates under pressure. The BLS states that students typically spend a minimum of 144 hours in class during every year of an apprenticeship.
Career Information for Boiler Mechanics
The BLS predicted that boilermakers would see significant job growth between 2010 and 2020. Job positions are expected to grow by 21%. The organization maintained that the dangerous and physically demanding nature of the job would cause some to pursue other trades or retire, thus making more positions available. Additionally, the job market for boiler mechanics was expected to be fueled by the need to maintain aging systems and to replace heating elements, boiler tubes and air ducts to meet changing emissions standards.
Boiler mechanics often work in the commercial construction, manufacturing or energy industries. The BLS reported that boilermakers earned a mean salary of $55,830 as of May 2012. Those who hold professional certification may find more opportunities for advancement to supervisor or managerial positions.
Certification and Licensure
Voluntary national certification for boiler operators is awarded by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) upon successful completion of an exam (www.asme.org). The ASME boiler operator certification program is relevant for aspiring boiler mechanics because it reviews design and fabrication codes for boilers, as well as equipment maintenance and emissions monitoring protocols.
Individual state laws may require mechanics to be licensed before they're able to perform welding to install or repair boilers. Some states issue different license classes for apprentices, installers, service mechanics, boilermakers, steamfitters and welders, of which only the last three are allowed to weld. A certain level of supervised experience may be required before sitting for a state licensing exam.
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