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A Career in Power Engineering

For every large group of buildings, factories or industrial sites Power is critical to not only keeping lights on but is the heart beat of all mechanical, electrical and electronic operations. Power Engineers or Stationary Engineers are the professionals that keep power plants running in hospitals, pulp mills, oil upgraders, refineries, manufacturing plants and countless other operations. Canada relies on Power Engineers as much as we do on Doctors, Nurses, Police or School teachers, just most people do not know it.
Power Engineers get their start one of two ways. Many start as entry level labourers or employees before getting their first Power Engineering job where they work under certified power engineers in a power house, while doing distance education. The second route is to attend a college which hopefully has a power boiler on site that will allow one to get their firing or hands on time. Both routes are very cost effective ways to an excellent profession, with two years of full time study giving students a leg up into the job market where they can reasonably expect to make $25-35 right away.
Power Engineers have 5 levels in Canada. With a first class power engineer being considered a Chief Engineer in charge of very large power plants and looking after the safety and efficient operation, while supervising dozens of Power Engineers. 1st Class Engineers can be considered equivalent to Mechanical or Electrical Engineers in theoretical knowledge but their hands on operating experience gives them the expertise to be in charge of very powerful boilers.
Entry level Power Engineers are often 4th Class Power Engineers, who perform a lot of field and monitoring work. 3rd class Power Engineers often perform a lot of maintenance and monitor the efficient operation of Coal, Natural Gas and Bio-energy boilers. 2nd class both relieve for the 1st class engineer and provide supervision for both engineers and contractors on site. 5th class power engineers are often in charge of refrigeration plants such as ice rinks.
Top first class engineers take years or even decades to get to their top positions and often make 150,000- 200,000 per year. The career path means that there is both room to grow and vacancies occurring at every level. With close to 30, 000 Power Engineers employed in Canada with the median age being over 45 years old, we expect to see over 11,000 job vacancies with only 8,000 expected new power engineers graduating from colleges such as BCIT, NAIT and Parkland College. Power Engineering or Stationary Engineering is a great field to get into.
To see a list of our current vacancies for Power Engineers, check out our job board.
For more information on Power Engineering click here.
 

Image courtesy of www.viu.ca

Image courtesy of www.viu.ca

 

This Post Has 32 Comments
  1. Hi I was interested in becoming an power engineer and was just hoping I could receive some more information on the type of work power engineers do. I am currently in grade 11 attending physics 11 chemistry 11 and pre-calculus 11 and striving for high marks in these classes. I was also wondering about any class selections that would help me to persue this career path

    1. Hi Treyton, physics 11 chemistry 11 and pre-calculus 11 are all great classes to help you heading into the Power Engineering field. I would also recommend taking shop classes, such as metal work and automotive if they are available. The hands-on experience and learning with metal and tools will be good experience for field work which is a big part of power engineering. Here are some videos on the Type of Work Power Engineers do:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOwXRxBrjB4
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pL7L4NLlGM
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OODDufwm6kA

  2. say for example, i finish my 2year diploma for power and process engineer. Will their be work for me? can i still find a job paying 35$ a hour or will i have to finish off my studies and get a degree?

    1. Hi Naz, Currently the number of job openings is small. If you aren’t able to find related work, which is often the key to getting a good job, then I would head back to school.

  3. hi, i am currently enrolled for this fall at a college for the power engineering technician program.
    i was just wondering if some power factories take on students right out of college, or aceept co op students.
    my program is for a 4th class engineer, how do you upgrade to a 3rd,2nd etc

    1. Hi Craig, Your instructor will be able to answer these questions but yes, good schools help with placements to get firing time or co-op experience. You need firing time on larger boilers and write the papers (exams) needed to progress through the classes.

  4. I am a red seal steamfitter looking to keep advancing in the mechanical aspect of industrial sites. Power engineer has taken a lot of my interest lately, was just wondering the best approach to being employable and not having to go to school full time. Does having my 307A in any way speed up the process? Is there any weekend courses that I can take to obtain employment or shall I just challenge 4th or 3rd class through TSSA

    1. Hi Bill, Depending on the province, your Steamfitter work time on plants can reduce the amount of operating time you will need. You can always do power engineering course part time and distance education, but you will likely need the course work to challenge the papers.

  5. Would someone with a Red Seal Industrial Mechanic (Millwright) have the appropriate skills to work as a Power Engineer, or would they require additional education?

    1. Millwrights would have a lot of the skills and knowledge but additional education would be necessary to gain any of the Power Engineering Certificates.

  6. Hi. I am a single Dad looking for a career change. Because I am the day to day provider for my kid I am looking for a regular schedule. Is that possible in this field

    1. Hi Travis, Many entry level power engineering roles are on rotating shifts but there is the odd boiler that operates during the day only. You may want to look into a career that has lots of 9-5 roles like a construction Electrician.

  7. I’ve been in the oilfield for almost 9 years. I’ve mainly been welding and supervising in mod yards. But i also have done some plant work that included cutting and welding on boiler manifolds, changing out all sizes of valves, bolt up of various spools and instruments, shooting cleaning and sizing pigs on pipelines. I would like to get into power engineering and I was mainly wondering if I have to take the courses or if there is a way to challenge the exam for 4th or 5th year. Just looking for some insight as to what would be my best plan. Ps-I have my red seal welding ticket already.

    1. Hi Logan, Depending on the province you want to challenge the course in you will like still need to take a course and have hands-on operating time to obtain a 4th. You might be able to do less “Firing-time” or operating if you have 12 months of maintenance/construction experience. With a 5th a course may be good enough to allow you to write the exam. The good thing is there are distance education/online courses and schools can also offer you firing time on their heating boilers. A welding ticket is a great asset and for a modern thinking plant you would be an asset.

  8. Hi,
    I am a mechanical engineer interested in the field of power engineering. Can I take the exams right away. What are the prerequisites I need to clear to be eligible to write the exam.

  9. Are most of the lucrative jobs in Power Engineering in Oil & Gas? I’m looking to enter the 2 year program at NAIT. I’m deciding between Construction Engineering and Power Engineering at the moment and am worried about the job prospects for entry level power engineering positions once I graduate. Everything I’ve read makes it sound like a very saturated job market.

    1. Hi Jesse, Power Engineering is a tighter job market in 2016 than in past years. The nice thing is that there will always be Power Plants and boilers in hospitals, manufacturing plants, Pulp Mills and even breweries that employ power engineer! Just like getting a Mechanical Engineering degree, a Power Engineering ticket does not guarantee you a job and you may have to start at an entry level position before moving into a Power Engineering role. Hopefully a mix of retirements and a rebound in Oil&Gas, Minerals and other commodities will help you in two years.

  10. I am currently in high school and I am considering becoming a power engineer. If I did two years at Nait becoming a power technician and then transferred to the U of A to get the degree for power engineering, would I start out as a first class engineer? Or would I start out as a fourth class and have to work my way up?

    1. Hi Aiden,
      I am not familiar with the University of Alberta Degree in Power Engineering. To progress as a power engineer you need steam/operating time on a 1st class plant. Many 1st Class Engineers take a decade or longer to do all their papers and get their steam time. So I believe you would have to work your way up.

  11. Hi, I was thinking of pursuing an Electrical Engineering: Power Engineering /Power Systems Msc. as my future. I am confused with opting between countries like US, UK, Netherlands, . could you provide me with where the scope for this career be ? And what sort of jobs would the student end up in ?

    1. Hi Nikitha, thanks for your comment! I’m not sure about the other countries, but in Canada, if you have a power engineering ticket you can become a shift engineer for hospitals, power plants, pulp mills, food manufacturing, and more. it can also be useful for those going into HVAC. Something to keep in mind with power engineering in Canada is that the certification only applies to the province you take it in. If you get your ticket in Alberta but want to go to BC, for example, you’ll need to apply for a BC ticket. Transferring tickets isn’t so hard, but it is an extra step and something you might want to keep in mind when choosing where to work.

  12. Hello, I’ve been a power engineer graduate from SAIT for a year now and i still havent had any luck landing a field related job. Do you guys have any advice on how to get started even as a labourer in an oil field or any power engineer operated facilities? any advice would be appreciated thanks!

    1. Hi Mitch, One of the best ways to get a Power Engineering job is to apply for operations in remote communities. If you look for Pulp Mills, Food Manufacturing plants in smaller towns this is a good way to get in the door, where cities and high paying oil patch jobs are often very competitive. I would also recommend buying a coffee for every power engineer you can find and asking them how they got their start, how they like working at their current company and more. People like talking about themselves and they just might refer you to someone who is hiring. Finally, get some related tickets, like First Aid or a commercial drivers license. The more related skills you have the more likely you will be hired as a labourer or full-time Power Engineer. Finally look at organizations like hospitals, breweries and school districts. Often they have Janitorial or Building Maintenance roles that require a ticket and sometimes it is just about getting experience. Best of luck!

  13. I’ve noticed some people chose to skip the 5th class power engineer training and go straight tho the 4th class. I was wondering what education/topics are being missed by doing so. Is it advisable to do so or is it recommended to start at the 5th class and work your way through in order.

    1. Hi Gregg! It depends on your existing knowledge and experience. If you click the link below, you’ll find the prerequisites for the 4th class program, which often involves experience as a 5th class: https://www.technicalsafetybc.ca/certification/boiler-pv-and-refrigeration/power-engineer-fourth-class. Not sure on the particular topics you might miss, but if you reach out to the school itself they should be able to point you in the right direction!

  14. hii…I have done power and process operation certificate course from SAIT,calgary. I already got my 4th class power engineering certificate from ABSA. Immediately after my 4th class I have pass my all 3rd class power engineering exam but i do not have steam time of 1 year to get certificate 3rd class power engineering form ABSA. so what should I do…how do I will get a steam time of 1 year.?

  15. Hi, I am a chief engineer of maritime transport (Shipping). I am a non Canadian. Can I get Power Engineering License without having Canadian citizenship or PR ?

    1. Hi Tanvir, I’m leaning towards no, but I can’t be sure. You should definitely check with the Provincial Safety Authority of the province you are looking to be licensed in. What province are you looking for? I may be able to find a link for you. 

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